Mark Hamill happy to be back (even if they did give away his toys)
Star Wars star Mark Hamill on playing a different Luke Skywalker each time
Mark Hamill seemed fuelled by his ability as a raconteur.
Even though, as he has often said on this press tour, the weirdness of promoting the highly secretive sequel Star Wars: The Last Jedi was that he could not talk about the movie.
But that did not mean he had nothing to say. Despite looking tired after a full day of interviews, which had overrun by some time at The Ritz-Carlton, the 66-year-old US actor settled into regaling the media roundtable with anecdotes.
While he was returning to play Luke Skywalker for the fourth time (not counting the brief appearance at the end of 2015's The Force Awakens) in four decades in The Last Jedi, which opens here tomorrow, this is not a Luke we are familiar with.
"That's what I love about the character. We never meet him the same way twice. In (1977's) Star Wars, he's an average teenager. Then in The Empire Strikes Back, he progresses to training with Yoda before finding out that terrible revelation.
"If you think your parents are bad, how would you like 'Dad' Vader?" he told The New Paper in the roundtable interview.
By then, Hamill was sitting in his chair cross-legged. It was not certain if that was a side effect of Jedi-ism, but he adopted a guru pose as he went into how, under the writing and direction of US film-maker Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi's darker take on Luke took him by surprise.
"I read the script and said, 'Are you kidding me? It's time for the Jedi to end?' I asked Rian and he said he wanted to push the envelope."
While Hamill was all for doing something different, the idea of Luke giving up went against his idea of the character's determination.
"But at the end of the day, it's my job to realise the director's vision."
Hamill also saw The Last Jedi as a passing of the Star Wars torch to a new generation of creators.
"You have the George Lucas era and now you have J.J. Abrams and Rian, who were little boys when the original (trilogy) came out. The last thing they want to hear is, 'Well, in my day blah, blah, blah.'"
It made sense to Hamill that Luke would have evolved from an idealist to a pessimist.
After all, it was Luke who failed to prevent his nephew Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) from going to the dark side, and eventually killing his own father Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
Hamill is now the elder statesman of the sci-fi franchise, after Carrie Fisher died last December at the age of 60.
His ambassadorial role is one he clearly relishes, possibly more than the younger cast.
That said, a consequence of age is seeing elements of Luke given out to the new crew.
"I was the orphan with the mystical powers, now that's Rey (Daisy Ridley). I was the cocky pilot, now that's Poe (Oscar Isaac). I was in disguise as a baddie, now that's Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Finn (John Boyega)."
In mock outrage, he burst out: "It's like a bunch of kids going through my old toy box!"
Not that he really has an issue with it.
"That's the way it should be. I'm just happy to be back. It's so much fun."
For The Last Jedi, Hamill put all his trust in Johnson, admiring the latter for his storytelling abilities and delivering a Star Wars adventure unlike any seen before.
"He's a wonderful person. I never heard him raise his voice or curse. Never seen him humiliate anyone... He's too nice. Even I was tempted to take advantage of him."
In a five-decade career, Hamill appeared to treat niceness in Hollywood like a rare gem.
"I've worked for some terrors," he says, without naming names.
He ended our interview with some advice for work and any future Force users: "If you can't have fun doing your job, you know you're in the wrong business. And if you can't have fun doing Star Wars, there's something seriously wrong with you."
FOR MORE, SEE: No limit to what 'good guy' Kylo Ren will do
Mark Hamill asked for my 'autograph'
Meeting Mark Hamill made me think of the line from the original 1977 film Star Wars, when Darth Vader meets Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"The circle is now complete."
I was just four when I saw Star Wars. It was the first film I saw, my first cinema experience, and it affected the rest of my life.
Hamill's Luke Skywalker was the relatable character for boys like myself. The older boys could be Han Solo, I wanted to be Luke (well, lightsabers are cool).
Like millions of boys around the globe, every birthday and Christmas became a festival of Star Wars. More than that, it made me want to draw. A lot.
Recreating Luke and Co's adventures on paper got me drawing so much that illustration became my career.
It also got me a job at The New Paper. My first assignment way back in December 2000? Local stars as Star Wars characters.
So while waiting for the interview with Hamill, I did a quick sketch of him to pass the time.
As the interview ended, one journalist asked for a picture, which led to a flurry of selfies.
Never coming out well in selfies, I asked for a picture of him holding my sketch. And that was when the four-year-old me probably combusted with awe.
Hamill looked impressed with my drawing. Really impressed.
"Can I keep it?" he asked.
Stunned, I managed a "sure". Then he asked me to sign it. My younger self would have been atomised.
This was the guy who ostensibly set the direction for my life in general, giving me the skills to make this moment possible.
I am pretty sure that was not how the star/fan/autograph experience was meant to go, but it made my century.
I put my name on it and in a moment of clarity, figured it needed a bit more. It wasn't much of a message, but it summed up my feelings: "Thanks for the inspiration."
At that point, how could I not get a selfie? A 40-year journey just came full circle. Sometimes, you should meet your heroes.