There are still a lot of untold stories to be discovered about director George Lucas' original 1977 Star Wars. And today, we get to hear one of the cooler ones. Apparently we can thank Freddy Krueger for finding the perfect Luke Skywalker, as it was actor Robert Englund who helped set up Mark Hamill with his Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope audition. It's a small piece of the puzzle that is amazing to hear, and equally important to the universe as it has been laid out over the past forty years. Especially as we head into Star Wars: Episode VIII, which features Mark Hamill's Jedi Master as the secondary lead.
Back in the 70s, Mark Hamill and Robert Englund were friends, though not the cultural icons they are now. As it turns out, Englund played an important role in getting Mark Hamill in to audition for George Lucas. ForceMaterial.com attended the Oz Comic-Con in Brisbane recently, where this nugget of info was uncovered.
While Englund has become a horror genre icon for his iconic performance in A Nightmare on Elm Street as Freddy Krueger, we could be looking at a whole different pop culture landscape had he actually won a few other auctions he was desperate to lock down. He explains how he got Mark Hamill in to audition for Star Wars after failing to secure a role in another huge production that was shooting at the same time.
"Well, here's what happened. I auditioned for the surfer in Apocalypse Now, and I was too old. I really thought I was going to nail it. I was 170 pounds of solid muscle, I had long, blond hair down my back, and when I went into the audition I was wearing thrift clothes - a pair of tight green Levi jeans, a pair of work boots, and a military green shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and I had dog tags on, too. So I looked a little military, but I looked like a surfer, too. I didn't get the part, and as I started to leave, they said, 'Wait, Robert, they're doing something across the hall with George Lucas'. And I perked right up when I heard 'George Lucas', because I love American Graffiti. It's a perfect movie. The perfect film about my generation. I love it. So my eyes lit up and I went across the hall. They wanted an older Han Solo at that point. They wanted him to be like that cool uncle who just comes around once a year, you know? Luke Skywalker's cool uncle who smokes a joint with him or something. At least that's what they were talking about in the office with me. They just took Polaroids of me and that was it. I could tell I was too young. I don't think Harrison was on their radar at that point; they were all friends but I don't think he was on their radar for that part yet. So anyway, I picked up the sides [the parts of a script used for actors to audition with], went across the street, had a drink at the old Formosa and sat next to Elvis Presley's sound mixer and shot the s**t for an hour. I drove home in my battered old sports car, up into the Hills."
So, Robert Englund auditioned for Han Solo in Star Wars and the surfer in Apocalypse Now, two huge films that resonant to this day. Interesting enough. But it's what happened next that changed the film world forever, and gave Mark Hamill one of the greatest roles of his career. Englund went onto say this about his part in getting Hamill the Luke Skywalker role.
"At that time, Mark Hamill was always on my couch. He was a TV star. He was filming a TV series across the street; I think it was called The Texas Wheelers, with Gary Busey. So he was always at my place, and I knew he was home because his cowboy boots were out front. He always left his boots outside. So there he was, halfway through a six-pack, watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I went in and I said to him, 'Look at these sides, I think you're right for this, man. This character is like a space prince, and it's George Lucas!' Mark loved science fiction and horror. I'd been a fanboy, too, but Mark was in arrested development as a fanboy. He'd been an army brat, and he just idolised everything in American popular culture. But he was hip, too! He was into The Kinks, he was into Lenny Bruce, he was into Monty Python before anybody. He turned me on to some of that. So I said to him, 'Mark, you've got to do this, it's George Lucas!' I wasn't even really pushing the space bit, I was just saying, 'Wow, what if you got to be in a George Lucas movie, Mark? You're the kind of actor he loves!' So he got on the phone to his agent and the rest is history. That's the true story. But the internet wants to make it like, you know, I turned down the part of Luke Skywalker for Mark Hamill. I would never have turned it down! F***ing Mark never even paid rent!"
Robert Englund doesn't have any ill will towards Mark Hamill, going onto proclaim his love for his old friend. And says that he was a very generous kind of actor, who was always willing to pick up the check and leave a six-pack in the fridge. The actor then went onto say that the whiney Luke Skywalker that fans meet at the beginning of Star Wars is pretty close to Mark's personality at the time, and amongst his acting peers he had garnered the nickname 'Baby Mark', because he would often thrown little fits whenever something wasn't going his way. Now, all we can do is imagine how things would have been different if Hamill hadn't taken up space on Robert Englund's couch.