Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mark Hamill's Star Wars Audition

One of the theories I promised to explore when I started this blog was that the reason Mark Hamill's career didn't take off like Harrison Ford's did post-Star Wars was simply that he wasn't a very good actor.  To be honest, I'm having a tough time assessing that. 

Corvette Summer, as I mentioned earlier, isn't exactly an optimal showcase for anyone's acting skills. And I'm sure many of my generation will understand that I simply can't evaluate Luke Skywalker objectively.  Even if I were able to shake off the associations from the 70s, I've simply seen the first block of Star Wars movies too often to see them with any kind of objectivity at this point.

Hamill does seem to have garnered respect as a voice actor, something I'll delve into further in another post.  And there's an element of irony in that, given that his Star Wars "big break" was almost certainly attributable (at least in part) to his boyish good looks.  That's always been my assumption, and it was reinforced for me when I watched this video of Hamill's Star Wars audition.

I'm very curious to hear others' reactions to this audition tape.  My own response was a resounding, "eh."  It wasn't bad, but literally nothing about it stood out to me.  Though the idea of anyone other than Mark Hamill portraying Luke Skywalker seems unthinkable today, I'd really love to get a look at some of the other audition tapes for that part.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Harrison Ford v. Han Solo

This is a little off-topic for this blog, but given that one of the mysteries surrounding Mark Hamill's lack of success post-Star Wars is the phenomenal trajectory of co-star Harrison Ford's acting career--and given that there's a lot of buzz at the moment surrounding the possibility that both Hamill and Ford will be reprising their Star Wars characters in 2015--I thought it was worth sharing.

Back in November, before things really started to heat up, The Huffington Post took a look at Ford's treatment of and response to Han Solo and the Star Wars franchise as it unfolded over the years...complete with video clips spanning more than thirty years. 

Here's the first, but if you're at all interested in Star Wars, it's well worth visiting  the original post and checking out the evolution.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Did Corvette Summmer Derail Mark Hamill's Acting Career?

I mentioned in my first post here that there are several possible explanations for the disparity between the post-Star Wars career paths of Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.  Though I'm far from the point of drawing any conclusions, I've long suspected that Corvette Summer played a role in Hamill's disappearance from the on-screen world.

I saw Corvette Summer at the drive-in shortly after its release, and I liked it.  I'd just turned 12.  It was the second-billed movie of a double-feature, and my parents really wanted to leave ten or fifteen minutes into the movie.  That's saying something given that my dad is something of a collector of antique automobiles and my mom had recently traded in her 1968 Firebird convertible for a 1974 Camaro.

I ran across the movie on late night television several years ago and I was very surprised. I was kind of excited to see it, but once I didn't make it very far.  Whatever appeal Corvette Summer had once held for me was either a product of the story line being well suited to a 12-year-old or of Mark Hamill's presence at a time when I was firmly in the Luke Skywalker camp.

In fairness, the  movie didn't bomb--its box office was about $15 million at a time when the top grossing films weren't even approaching $100 million.  And it maintains a faithful following to this day: 50% of its Amazon ratings are 5 stars and it has a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

It's worth noting, though, that virtually all of the strong positive reviews mention having first seen this movie in adolescence.  It's impossible for me to discern how I'd see this movie (or how any of those reviewers would) had we not been Star Wars-struck adolescents in the day.

And that, I think, was ultimately the problem with Corvette Summer.  Annie Potts was an unknown at the time. The film had two big draws: the car and Mark Hamill. But Hamill's fan base at that time was largely comprised of the very young--with two male leads in Star Wars, there were definite camps, and Hamill's camp seemed to skew toward those in my middle-school age bracket.

However, not every 12-year-old girl had parents as liberal as mine. The film was a shade on the risque side for middle-schoolers in the 70s--the female lead was an aspiring prostitute.  So, the movie wasn't necessarily available to the bulk of the audience it would naturally have garnered by putting Hamill in the lead.  And the grown-ups...well, I have only the reactions of my own parents to judge by, but I also noted that none of those nostalgic reviews I read started out, "I first saw this movie the summer I turned thirty..."

Though starring in a very different film that broke the Luke Skywalker association early on was a smart move for Hamill, this might not have been the film to make it work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Mark Hamill is Saying about His Return to Star Wars

Slashfilm has assembled a bunch of fresh, detailed quotes from Hamill himself that seem to indicate that we're all jumping the gun just a little bit. Though Hamill says that he expects to be in the film and seems to want to be, he says no contracts have been signed and he hasn't talked to writers--he apparently has no more idea than the rest of us about where he'd fit into the storyline. He did assure us that Lucas had indicated there would NOT be new actors playing Luke, Han or Leia--either they were in or the characters would be written out. But, like some of the assurances we talked about yesterday, that seems to have come from an era in which Lucas expected to have more influence over the direction of the films than we should expect him to now. The upshot of this new information seems to be...there is no new information. Continue holding your breath.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Star Wars 7 Rumors

The Internet is abuzz with--as usual--a bunch of conflicting information about Star Wars VII and how/whether Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will be reprising their roles as Luke and Leia. 

Conjecture at ScreenRant is that the new episode will draw on Expanded Universe (EU) material.  Specifically, Timothy Zahn's books from the 90s apparently include a storyline that picks up with Luke's and Leia's children approximately 40 years after we last saw them.  That would fit well with the real-life timeline. 

EOnline reports that a representative of LucasFilms has said unequivocally that the next chapter will not be based on the books, and will be "an original story."  But wait--was that back when Lucas was planning to do the next trilogy himself, as Mark Hamill claims he discussed a year or more ago?  Will it still hold true, if it was ever true?

The author of an unauthorized Lucas biography claims to have seen outlines for twelve movies, and that the episodes focused on the Skywalker and Solo children take place when Luke and Leia are in their late thirties or early forties.  Hamill and Fisher aren't exactly looking their ages (61 and 56), but 30s would be a stretch for either of them.

Still, I've been dismayed by the popularity of the idea of simply casting new, age-appropriate actors to play Han, Luke and Leia at that stage of their lives.  When I saw the suggestion on Comicbook.com, it struck me as so outrageous that I read it out loud to my teenage daughter for humor's sake. 

She looked at me for a moment and then said, "Wait...what?"  Since she's thirty years younger than I am and untainted by having seen the original Star Wars in the theater at age 11, I felt like my sentiment must be universal...until I read the comments on Comicbook.com.  Apparently, there's a pretty large faction that thinks if the script calls for Luke and Leia, we should just bring in some fresh blood.

Let me be the 759,308th to say, "Hell, no."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Accident

If you were a Star Wars fan in the early days, you undoubtedly heard that Mark Hamill was in a car accident around the time that the first movie wrapped filming.  You may also have heard a wide variety of stories about the damage done (or not done) to his face, when the accident occurred and what impact it had on the filming of the second movie. 

Authoritative answers to those questions don't seem to be forthcoming, in large part because Hamill himself seems to have told conflicting stories. At the time, he reportedly told Dynomite magazine that the accident had "made hamburger" out of his face; years later, he seemed dismayed at the stories surrounding the accident and said that he'd only broken his nose.

Whatever the details, the truth is that Mark Hamill returned to film the second and third movies looking pretty good; there's nothing about him at all that says "guy who smashed his face in a bad car accident".  Though there was a lot of talk at the time about how different he looked in the second movie (I'll admit that I didn't think he was as attractive in the latter films), I showed before and after pictures to my teenage daughter who knew nothing about the accident yesterday, and she didn't see any difference.  Or rather, she attributed the slight difference she saw to something intentional that fit the story.

These are the pictures I showed her: Mark Hamill Before and After

Looking at these two pictures next to one another, it's clear that Hamill's hair is darker in the later films--something I'm not sure I noticed at the time.  He also has an older, harder look--but my kid not only suggested that this fit the movies and might have been intentional, but pointed out that we see the same kind of change in Anakin between Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars.  In other words, it might very well have nothing to do with any damage or reconstruction Hamill may or may not have undergone.

I'd have to say that if there is a change, it's not significant enough to have harmed his career based on his looks--but based on the rumors and perception?  I'm not sure.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Remember that Other Movie Mark Hamill Was In?

Unless you're a total geek or a die-hard Mark Hamill fan, one of two things just happened:  either you thought, "Mark Hamill was in another movie?" or you tried to dredge up some distant memory of something else you'd seen once long ago--probably Corvette Summer.

In fact...tell the truth.  When you hear "Mark Hamill," you picture this, don't you?

It's okay.  You're in good company.
It's a mixed blessing, landing an iconic role so early in your career that no one has ever seen you before.  By "mixed blessing," I mean nice in the moment and generally lucrative, but probably hell on the rest of your career.
It's not that Hamill hasn't been working, either.  In fact, his IMDB filmography lists 244 titles, while Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford's page lists only 69.  Granted, many of those were voice roles, but not all.  So what happened?  Why is Ford still a highly-regarded and well-paid actor at 70, while Hamill is "that guy who played Luke Skywalker?"
I can think of a few possibilities:
  • Mark Hamill is a crappy actor.  I have no idea whether or not this is true at this point, but it's one possible explanation.
  • A couple of bad choices right out of Star Wars set him on the wrong path, and he was never able to regain momentum.
  • It had something to do with the accident he had near the end of filming the original Star Wars movie.  Lore surrounding this accident is dramatic and varied, but at the time it seemed generally accepted that Hamill's appearance had been affected.
  • He's perfectly happy doing voice work and stage acting and hasn't tried to follow up his Star Wars success with other big movies.
At this point, I have no opinion as to which (if any) of these explanations is accurate, or whether it might be some combination.  But I'm about to start looking around, check out some of those other appearances and see what kind of information I can find.  In the meantime, feel free to share your opinions (or conjecture).

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