11:56am PT by Graeme McMillan
From 'Star Wars' to 'Robot Chicken': The Long, Strange Career of Mark Hamill
Happy 63rd Birthday, Mark Hamill!
The actor, writer and director (born Sept. 25, 1951 in Oakland, Calif.) is best known for bringing balance to the Force as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, but his career stretches far beyond that, encompassing appearances alongside Bill Cosby, Roy Schneider and Kevin Smith amongst many, many others. There’s a lot more to this man than waving a lightsaber about, as you can see below — but he’s very good at doing that, as well.
The Bill Cosby Show (1970)
Hamill’s television debut came in Cosby’s first sitcom for NBC, playing Henry in the episode “The Poet.” Even though he was getting pushed around by jocks, it was still clear that the Force was strong in this one — or, at least, it would be when George Lucas got around to creating the Force.
After a series of guest-shots in series including General Hospital, Night Gallery and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law, Hamill got his first series role in 1973’s Jeannie, an animated remake of I Dream of Jeannie, playing lead Corey Anders. This intro sequence tells you all you need to know about the show, really.
Star Wars (1977-1983)
It was, of course, Star Wars that made Hamill a household name — and almost killed his career, as well; in the years following the release of Return of the Jedi, Hamill made few appearances other than on TV shows like Amazing Stories and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and little-known movies including Fall of the Eagles and Midnight Ride. Because you all know what Hamill was like playing Luke Skywalker, here’s some audition footage from before the first movie, with Harrison Ford. Star Wars obsessives, dig the dialogue differences between this and the finished movie.
One of Hamill’s rare post-Star Wars movie roles plunged him back into a not-unfamiliar world of science fiction bounty hunters and soaring, John Williams-inspired music. For those wondering: Yes, that is Bill Paxton being shot by a poisoned dart.
The Flash (1991)
Outside of Star Wars, Hamill’s not been shy about embracing his geek side. In addition to playing the Trickster on two episodes of the short-lived 1991 Flash series, he also held down a recurring role on SeaQuest DSV and even moved into the realm of comic books, co-writing the 1996 series The Black Pearl with Eric Johnson.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
Arguably the role Hamill is most associated with outside Star Wars, the actor has played the Crown Prince of Crime across multiple Batman projects, beginning with the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series before moving on to Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Justice League, Static Shock, the live-action Birds of Prey series and Batman: Arkham Asylum amongst many others (He retired from the character with 2010’s Batman: Arkham City video game). All this from a role that he only got in the first place because original choice Tim Curry dropped out.
Wing Commander (1994-1997)
In addition to providing voices for video games including Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and X-Men 2: Wolverine’s Revenge, Hamill also appeared in the Wing Commander series as Colonel Christopher Blair, starting with 1994’s Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger. He reprised the role in the animated spin-off, Wing Commander Academy.
Comic Book: The Movie (2004)
In addition to starring in this mockumentary about comic book culture — years before it took over pop culture at large — Hamill also directed the movie, remaining in character as fanboy Donald Swan as he spoke to San Diego Comic-Con attendees including his Star Wars co-stars Peter Mayhew and Jeremy Bulloch. These days, of course, he finds it harder to get around at the show.
Robot Chicken (2005-2014)
As Comic Book: The Movie made clear, Hamill has never had any trouble making fun of himself or earlier roles — which makes him perfect for Seth Green and Matthew Senreich’s Adult Swim series Robot Chicken. He’s been making vocal appearances on the show for years.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2014)
Ahead of his return as Luke Skywalker in next year’s Star Wars: Episode VII, Hamill actually made it back to Star Wars earlier this year, voicing Darth Bane in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode “Sacrifice.” Fans, start building your canonical connections between Bane and the Skywalker clan now!