411 Mania Interview: Actor Mark Hamill
Posted by Tony Farinella on 03.06.2013
411's Tony Farinella sits down with actor Mark Hamill (Star Wars) for an interview about his new film, Sushi Girl!
Mark Hamill has been acting in Hollywood for over forty three years and has put together quite an impressive resume of projects. However, he is best known for his iconic role as Luke Skywalker in the mega franchise Star Wars. You might be surprised to see his performance in Sushi Girl, but it is one that is entertaining and outside the box, that's for sure. I recently caught up with the actor to talk about Sushi Girl, which is currently out on DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as his future plans and his approach to the business. Sadly, his P.R. people informed me before the interview that I was not to ask any Star Wars questions, so that is why there are no questions relating to that in this interview. You can also listen to the audio of the interview with the You Tube clip I have provided.
TONY: You've mentioned in previous interviews how this role was breaking you out of your comfort zone. Even though that's scary, in a way, is it kind of exciting for you?
Mark Hamill: Very much so. It sort of reminded me of one of the reasons why I went to Broadway: to be able to do character parts where you look at yourself in the mirror and Mark disappears and only the character is there. It's a wonderful hiding place, whether I played Mozart in Amadeus or in the Elephant Man, Room Service. Some of the most fun I had was playing characters that were very different from who I was.
TONY: Were there any parts of him that you could humanize or relate to it at all?
Mark Hamill: I think you have to sort of find ways, no matter how heinous your character is, to relate to him because they don't think of themselves as bad people. They just do what they do. As we objectively observe them, we judge them to be pretty awful people. I tried to find ways to humanize him and obviously actors work with back stories that most of the audience, and sometimes even the director and writers, aren't aware of just so you can figure out who you are so you put together who this person was and what his background is to try and fill in all the blanks.
TONY: What was the most challenging part about playing this character for you?
Mark Hamill: It was pretty hard to get past his sadism, I mean, the pleasure that he derives inflicting pain on other people. I thought it was kind of funny, in contrast, he's able to dish it out, but he's unable to take it himself. He gets a little nick or a bruise and he's screaming about going to the hospital. There was very dark humor in this guy and I enjoyed doing that as well.
TONY: What has it been like to watch this film with people that are close to you, friends and family, how have they reacted to seeing you in this film?
Mark Hamill: (laughs) Well, I think a lot of people, if they know me at all, they know I have a capacity to play extremes. So I didn't think they were really surprised. It's not a film for everybody. I mean, it's fairly intense. There is graphic violence in it. I don't know, there's something compelling about it. I loved the script because I couldn't tell where it was going. I loved the mystery. I loved the twist ending. I loved the fact that it didn't glamorize crime, but it made it look just as sorted as it is.
It's funny you should mention my family, I was leaning against not doing it at all because I thought, ‘Well, I'd like to see this, but I don't know if I want to get involved.' My daughter read the script and said, ‘You complain about not getting offered character parts and if you turn this down, it doesn't give you much room to complain in the future.' I thought, ‘Well, she's right about that.' I decided to take her advice and go ahead and do it.
TONY: What kind of roles do you find that you are being offered nowadays?
Mark Hamill: Well, I'm mostly a character actor in voice over now. People probably don't even recognize me when they hear me. I'm doing a character called Alvin the Treacherous on the television version of How to Train Your Dragon over at Dreamworks and I'm really enjoying that. Really, right now, what I'm focusing on is trying to get the financing for a film that would be the second film I direct rather than performing in and that would be the movie version of The Black Pearl, which has been optioned by two really sharp executives who used to be with New Line, so I have my fingers crossed.
That's really my focus right now. I enjoyed performing, but I've reached a point in my life where I figure if that part of my life was over, I wouldn't object that strenuously. If I see something I like, I'll go ahead and do it, but I don't have the drive that I had when I was younger to go out and do things. I love doing things that I've never done before, which is why Black Pearl is so motivating for me. That's why I did Sushi Girl. It was motivating for me. Who knows? If nothing else, I hope people might see this and think outside the box in terms of anything quirky or eccentric they may have that I might be able to do.
TONY: It's interesting you mention the drive at the beginning of your career. At this stage of your career, what do you get out of the experience of acting? What does it do for you now compared to when you first began?
Mark Hamill: When I was first starting out, I didn't know what was to be, where it was all heading. At this point in my life, I've done so many things that I never thought I would have the opportunity to do, doing on Broadway, off Broadway, National tours. I love doing theater, doing so much in the animated world. Again, playing the Joker was a thrill for me. I was a big fan of Batman and never thought I would be cast in such an iconic, villainous role, and last year I won a British Academy Award for doing that. That was completely unexpected. I don't want to sound too much like an old fuddy duddy, looking back and saying my career is over. I love challenges, things I've never done before. You try not to repeat yourself, but I love the broad range of parts I've been able to play. Hopefully, I'll continue doing that in the future.
TONY: You mentioned earlier about challenges and how you want to direct a project. Who are some directors that you've worked with previously that their experiences you will use when you direct your next project?
Mark Hamill: Sam Fuller was a great influence on me. I love his style and technique and his work ethic. Obviously, George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, John Carpenter. I hate to start naming them, because I'll leave people out. I've worked with some incredible directors. Dick Donner, Lindsay Anderson, on and on, but one thing that Sum Fuller I think was good at was figuring out just how to tell a story in a straightforward way without really drawing attention to the directing. As much as I like the embellishments that directors make, the three hundred and sixty degree spins around people dancing or whatever, I think I admire directors that are able to submerge themselves into the story and draw you in as well without drawing your attention to the technique.
TONY: Because you're an actor, does that bring you a new sensitivity as a director when you're working with actors on set?
Mark Hamill: Absolutely. I really love actors. I've been there. I understand the challenges that they have and I'm sympathetic to a broad range of techniques, whether they're actors that want to stay in character the whole time, that's fine with me too. People that are the opposite of method, that go in and out of it, that's fine. One of the things that has prepared me to be a director is understanding the process from all ends. Not only did I like being in front of the camera, I loved learning from the people behind the camera exactly what it was they were all doing. That's one of the reasons that made me want to direct Black Pearl. It's not that I'm trying to establish a second career as a director. Having told this story, having created the character, I felt like I really should follow it through at least once to create something, write it, and direct it so that you have that experience of seeing the process all the way through from start to finish.
Directing is a lot of hard work. I remember reading an interview with Spencer Tracy where they asked him what he looked for in a script and he said ‘days off.' I understood exactly what he meant because I've got a lazy streak in me as well. The only time I've directed before is on camera. I've directed animation and games and so forth, but Comic Book: The Movie was a great thrill because it's a great collaboration and I think I have a good shorthand with actors and I really value their contributions and understand the kind of atmosphere that they need to be able to feel that they're able to collaborate and just express themselves and get the most out of what it is they do. Knowing when to help and knowing when to just get out of the way. I'm really excited about the prospect and if things go the way we're hoping they will, I'll be directing Black Pearl later this year.