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Monday, 12 December 2011



Sometimes people posting on chat forums can be really quite funny, instead of just a bit psychotic. I was reading about Mark Hamill's still quite mysterious car accident just before the release of 1977's Star Wars (in which he plays the now iconic boyish hero Luke Skywalker) and before the shooting of its even better sequel, 1980's The Empire Strikes Back - an accident that may have resulted in real-life facial reconstruction and subsequent fiction-based changes to Empire's script, i.e. Luke gets his face whacked by a giant snow beast in the opening scenes.
And Luke certainly does endure lengthy face and limb reconstruction in The Empire Strikes Back, performed by a chirpy droid - perhaps to match the real-life Luke's fabled endurances at the hands of a slightly less droid-like (only slightly though) L.A plastic surgeon. Some of the more detailed shots of facial reconstruction didn't make it to the final cut . . Could fiction have been getting a little too close to the truth?



With both gossip columns and scripted movie lines detailing severe injuries to Hamill/ Luke's face post-Star Wars, it's maybe not surprising that truth or lie became the name of the game before long.

Hamill has supposedly even changed his own story about his "car accident" a number of times over the years - sometimes reported as saying that the accident was no big deal, or even that his face was mashed up and parts of his ear used to rebuild his nose. Some rumours offer the much bigger whopper (and far more damaging to the actor) that Hamill crashed his car deliberately to get out of a TV contract that he had signed up for - thereby ensuring he could appear in the more lucrative The Empire Strikes Back movie instead.

Fresh-faced Star Wars

Beaten-up in Empire

Bearing the scars in Jedi (not man on left!)

There are many online comparisons of Hamill's changing facial features between movies, but I think there's a lot of rumour and conspiracy theory going on here - and he's obviously still a handsome devil in both Empire and Jedi. OK, so his latest publicity stills for new film Sushi Girl, in which a group of male ex-diamond jobbers reunite to eat sushi off a naked girl before things get really nasty (yes - a high concept script for sure) show Hamill as an ageing, oddly hair-dyed man (ok - think that's  called being in character!) with craggy features and a slightly puffy face. But what's he supposed to look like? Star Wars was made in 1977. Even Bruce the shark from Jaws has seen his plastic peel a little these days. Actually, thinking about it - where is Bruce today? Is he kept in Spielberg's bathroom or what? We need to know.


I think, over the years, Hamill has just gotten on with things and taken all the rumours about facial reconstruction in his stride (a recent quote from the actor has him list all the rumours he's heard so far about his much gossiped about car crash, ending with the declaration that: "I only broke my nose, that's all!"). He probably should have broken more than his nose and lots of other parts many times over when acting in Star Wars, as he performed most of his own stunts for all three movies himself. Hamill - he's the man! (Or Jedi.) 

But whatever the truth is, we do at least know for sure that Hamill's voice box is still fully intact and functioning. This man has worked harder than it seems any human or droid ever should in supplying voices for the animated adventures of many much-loved characters over the years, and to huge acclaim from notoriously demanding comic book fans to boot. Not only is he the longest-serving and best-loved Joker facing off against animated Batman but has also voiced characters in: Adventure Time; Regular Show; Ultimate Spider-Man; Transformers: Retro Bots (*not a reality show about Kim Kardashian) Scooby-Doo and Woody Woodpecker, to name just a fabulous few!


In December this year, Hamill will also be waving around his  famous lightsaber once again (not easy for a man his age - joking!) for the heavily anticipated and prophesised Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (and subsequent sequels in the rebooted franchise to follow). But at the time of this update, there's yet another conspiracy theory regarding Hamill's face going around - it's nowhere to be seen on the latest official poster (despite his name being credited in the cast). Actually, he's barely even in the trailer, except as (perhaps) a hooded figure seen approaching R2-D2. Is this all some kind of major tease? Another facegate? I have a feeling this one will run and run . . .

ANOTHER QUICK UPDATE . . (December 2015)
Yep - according to The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, Luke's missing face in the trailer and poster is deliberate. Oh, the tease! Now watch this space. (I probably won't be updating it again, but you are welcome to keep watching, just in case!)


Anyway, back to the blog post that started this whole train of thought rolling -   the quiet genius of a comment made by a poster on a celebrity gossip forum, who  (in response to a thread about the many conspiracy theories regarding Luke Skywalker's facial changes from a possible car crash pre-Empire Strikes Back) comments: "I also heard the story as pre-Empire. In fact, it was supposedly not long before the much-loathed Star Wars Christmas Special. Legend has it Hamill's drugged-up appearance was due to painkillers prescribed after the accident. Carrie Fisher's drugged-up appearance, of course, was due to drugs." Now that's comedy!

I'm sure the dreadful gossip quoted above meant to add 'allegedly' to the end of his post. And if he didn't, I do. But the defiant Carrie Fisher is brutally honest about her  addictions over the years and is, today, a true Hollywood survivor.

UPDATE! (End of 2015)

The news that Fisher would definitely be returning for the latest Star Wars adventure as Princess Leia, was drop dead, scream-out-loud exciting when announced. And when the trailers screened, Fisher still looked as coquettish and feisty, if a little more battle-weary, as she always did back in the day - ready to kick some stormtrooper helmet! A few days ago, Fisher angrily shot down the exhaustive attention  her older looks had received by some Star Wars fans, who also commented on how her co-stars hadn't aged as much. One Fisher supporter smartly commented, in response: "Men don't age better than women. Men are allowed to age." See - I told you that not only can people posting on chat forums be really quite funny, instead of just a bit psychotic . . They can also be quite right.


As a boy watching Star Wars for the first time, I wanted to be Han Solo fighting for freedom across space alongside Princess Leia, a couple of droids and a hairy thingy with a crossbow. But alongside Princess Leia mainly!

I'm not sure I ever wanted to be Luke. He was far too good-looking with his blonde hair and blue eyes, and too much of a dreamer. I wanted to be a space ruffian, like Han Solo. Craggy, wisecracking and with cooler jacket, trousers and longer ammo belt. I wanted to be friends with Luke, and help him out - while also kissing Leia and smuggling stuff. But Luke Skywalker was Star Wars. Without Hamill, I don't think it would have been as good. And it still wouldn't be as good, if he wasn't there . .

Oh, and I'm still looking forward to watching Sushi Girl and I don't care who knows it. Go Luke!


UPDATE: That was then, and Sushi Girl excitement has died down (review to follow shortly - probably!). Now I'm only looking forward to 'STAR WARS: Episode VII' with Hamill, Ford and Fisher. And who, a few years ago, would have thought that anyone, in the name of the great Yoda himself, would ever, be saying - something like that!




So, I've seen STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. And yes, the returning cast has aged, but in a rather appropriate way, entirely consistent with their original characters. Here's the lowdown (some spoilers may be contained within) . .


Craggier, and more of a rough diamond than ever - this is the Han Solo we still know and love. His lips and steely eyes are still gritty, fierce, caring and chiselled. It's a face that has aged with an envious dose of heroic smuggler chic.
Han Solo doesn't age - he's an action hero and matures like a Mos Eisley 'fine' wine.

CARRIE FISHER (Princess Leia)

Leia's resolute and hardened jaw, furtive eyes and steely strength show how the actress has morphed with her character over the years. Both Leia and Fisher are survivors and have the same look of unstoppable freedom fighter and leader of men (women and droids) - protective, strong, waywardly charismatic.
Princess Leia doesn't age, she only gets more indefatigable over time.

PETER MAYHEW (Chewbacca)

Brave, but a touch less rigidly fierce than of old, he is less nimble on his feet with a slightly hangdog air at times but this  hairy beast is no less formidable and resolute in battle and as a loyal companion and friend to Han Solo than the Chewbacca  of 1977 was. Facially, he hasn't aged much - although clearly still needs a haircut.
Chewbacca doesn't age - he only gets longer hair.


Now has a red arm and a slightly deeper voice that's more dulcet than prissy - but equally bossy, quietly sentimental and pompous as he was back in 1977.
Getting a bit rusty around the elbow.

Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker)

As the credits rolled at the end of THE FORCE AWAKENS and the audience left Screen 4, I heard a  female fan say: "Luke has aged really well, he looks even better now he's older."  And that's a fair comment. The actor has lost all the weight he'd put on around the time of SUSHI GIRL - his newly long hair and dashing, old school hero's beard and wistful, acorn eyes proving that older Jedis never get old. They just get stronger.  Luke is all set to carry the next movie - and dominate the screen, just like he did in 1977.
Who needs plastic surgery when you've got The Force!

PS: Yes I do know the 'giant snow beast' in Empire Strikes Back is actually called a 'Wampa'. Google just told me. So there!

words: mark gordon palmer

Star Wars:
© Lucasfilm Ltd.

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