Mark Hamill Talks ‘The Machine,’ His ‘Star Wars’ Future and Joining Mike Flanagan’s Repertory Company
Mark Hamill knows full well that he’s perceived as one of pop culture’s most heroic figures, so he welcomes any opportunity he can get to go against type. In the case of his latest film, The Machine, Hamill and stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer play father and son, and to put it mildly, they get caught up in quite a bit of mayhem and debauchery, allowing Hamill to show a rather new side to himself. Written by Kevin Biegel and Scotty Landes, the Peter Atencio-directed action comedy sequelizes a true story that Kreischer has been telling for over two decades, most notably in his 2016 stand-up special, The Machine.
To make a long story short, in the mid-‘90s, Kreischer went on a Florida St. class trip to Russia, and the hard partier was forced to rob a train full of passengers by the Russian mob. So, the film, set 20 years later, is about a newly emerged crime family that has long sought revenge against the fictional Bert for stealing a family heirloom on that train, resulting in the abduction of him and his father Albert (Hamill), and subsequent return to the scene of the crime in Russia.
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Prior to The Machine, Kreischer had never really acted before, and Hamill, who’s long been attracted to unhinged comedies like this, admits that he was a bit worried at first about the idea of working with a first-time actor.
“Well, that does give you pause, but the reason why I was concerned was disproven right away. Bert is nothing if not authentic,” Hamill tells The Hollywood Reporter. “What you see with Bert is what you get. He’s got this exuberance, this larger-than-life quality, and he just has fun every moment. So that’s all real, and he was just being himself on camera. So I thought he did a great job.”
While filming Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), Hamill operated as if that go-round was his goodbye to Luke Skywalker and a galaxy far, far away. Yes, he likely knew he’d be appearing as a Force ghost in what would become J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but given that Luke met a peaceful end in The Last Jedi, that experience served as Hamill’s farewell to the beloved hero as we all knew him.
“When I read [Episode] VIII, I knew it was over. So I was relishing every moment, but also saying goodbye to all those people that I had associated with over the years. So I still miss them,” Hamill says.
But unexpectedly, Hamill ended up saying hello to young Luke again in 2020 and 2022, courtesy of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni’s Disney+ series, The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Hamill, along with a double and deep fake technology, helped create Luke, post-Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, in order to aid Grogu’s way forward.
However, despite recent news that his sequel trilogy co-star Daisy Ridley would be returning to the role of Rey in Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s untitled Star Wars film that’s set 15 years after the events of Rise of Skywalker, Hamill, at this moment in time, does not expect to resume Force ghost duties.
“No, I don’t have any expectations of that happening,” Hamill bluntly states.
Below, during a recent conversation with THR, Hamill also discusses his excitement about re-teaming with his The Fall of the House of Usher creator Mike Flanagan on the Stephen King short story drama, The Life of Chuck, alongside Tom Hiddleston.
Well, it’s quite a time to play a Florida man.
(Laughs.) I’m sort of jealous that Florida’s stolen away our most crazy state status, but what are you gonna do?
Your Machine character, Albert, is very skeptical of Bert’s (Bert Kreischer) Russian mob story at first. Did you also assume that the real Bert’s story was a piece of fiction, initially?
Well, it’s pretty hard to believe. I went and watched that routine he did, “The Machine,” which has been seen by something like 80 million people, and it is riveting. Yeah, he’s a stand-up comedian, but it’s not really filled with jokes. He’s telling a real-life story in a really compelling way, and like his audience, I was riveted by the story itself. But to read the whole script, I have to admit that it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I’ve always wanted to be in one of these high-octane, crazy comedies that are desperation-fueled. Some of my favorite comedies are like that: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Zero Mostel’s The Producers (1967). So it was just a real treat to be a part of this.
You’ve obviously never experienced anything close to an armed robbery on a train to Moscow, but do you have your own eventful story from traveling abroad that you’re willing to share?
Gee, I’d really have to give that some thought. One of the aspects that can be unnerving, especially since 1977, is how people feel like they know you wherever you go, but it can also be nice. They’re very welcoming and they always relay to me how the films I’ve been in affected their lives, whether they met their future spouse at a screening or it helped them get through a parent’s illness. So it’s always highly personal, and it’s nothing I’ve taken for granted. I mean, it’s an honor that they would feel comfortable opening up to me like that.
There are certainly some differences between your Albert Kreischer and the real Albert Kreischer, but how much detail did you ask Bert to give you about his father?
Well, Bert said that his father said, “When am I gonna meet Mark so I can inform him how to play the part?” But I didn’t know that until the movie was completely finished. So I would’ve loved to have met his father and I guess I will at the screening, but it’s obviously not a documentary. I read the script and figured out what was required of my character to make the movie the best it can be. But I was predisposed to be in character as Albert anyway, because I do wanna know things like why Bert takes his shirt off to do comedy. In my first Zoom meeting with Bert, I was saying things like, “Nipsey Russell was funny with his shirt on. Norm Crosby was funny with his shirt on.” (Laughs.) So I was already channeling his father, but the relationship is what really grabbed me. Within all the madness and this high-energy, almost-fever dream spy movie craziness, it was the relationship between these two that really drew me to the project. My character is trying to make Bert more responsible and more even-keeled and, well, less Bert. But he winds up making Albert become more like him than Albert makes him become like him, so there’s irony in that as well.
To borrow a term from The Machine, you’re obviously most known for being the “Eagle Scout” of a galaxy far, far away, so do you welcome these opportunities to go against type in live action?
Oh, sure! That’s what you look for really, because you don’t want to repeat yourself and do the same old same old every time. So that was part of the appeal of doing it. First of all, I asked myself, “Would I see this movie myself if I wasn’t in it?” and the answer was yes. The second I asked was, “Is there something I can bring to this that broadens my horizon?” and I felt that it did.
So Bert has never really acted before and he’s certainly never led a studio movie. So did you accept this job knowing that you might have to show him the ropes a little bit?
Well, that does give you pause, but the reason why I was concerned was disproven right away. Bert is nothing if not authentic. He’s not like Paul Reubens who created Pee-wee Herman as a character. What you see with Bert is what you get. He’s got this exuberance, this larger-than-life quality, and he just has fun every moment. So that’s all real, and he was just being himself on camera. So I thought he did a great job. I played another comedian’s father when I did Brigsby Bear with Kyle Mooney.
That’s one of those things where you go, “Well, I’ve seen Kyle on Saturday Night live in sketches, but can he pull off a real-life character that really carries the movie?” And so it was the same thing with Bert, but in both cases, I had nothing to worry about. They both did great, and Bert is just himself on camera. That’s him. It’s not a character.
You touched on this earlier in regard to perfect strangers, but when people ask you for a meeting in order to pitch you a role like this, do you prefer that they ignore the Luke Skywalker in the room? Or are you okay with their sentimentality?
Well, I don’t know that I look at it quite that way. Obviously, that’s a part of me and it’ll always be a part of me, but sometimes, other people think about it more than I do. And in this case, it didn’t come up at all, unless it was unspoken by them. But sometimes, that’s a good thing, because people might have preconceived notions that are fun to blow up if you can. (Laughs.)
So I really appreciated your speech at Carrie Fisher’s Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony recently, but just out of curiosity, why did it take this long for her to get a star? It obviously should’ve happened ages ago.
Yeah. Well, I don’t know their rules and how they judge that, but it sure would’ve been nice to have had it happen when she was still with us, obviously. But I’m glad they at least came around, even though, like you say, it was very long in coming.
To me, the two best live-action performances of your career are from the aforementioned Brigsby Bear (2017) and The Last Jedi (2017). Do those performances rank pretty high in your book as well?
Well, I have fondness for both those films, but sometimes, I like things that are just totally unexpected, like playing Crow in Sushi Girl (2012). That’s a low-budget gangster movie that very few people saw, but there’s always something you value in the things that you do. I try to start with a clean slate and not acknowledge anything I’ve done before. I approach each project like it’s the first job I’ve ever had.
I’m still struck by how emotional you were after they called cut on the scene where Luke and R2 watched his Jedi temple burn in The Last Jedi. Do you remember your thought process at that time?
Well, the whole thing was emotional, because when I read [Episode] VIII, I knew it was over. So I was relishing every moment, but also saying goodbye to all those people that I had associated with over the years. So I still miss them.
Based on recent news, do you expect to do some more Force-ghosting at some point?
No, I don’t have any expectations of that happening.
Lastly, you had your own exciting news recently involving Mike Flanagan, Tom Hiddleston and Stephen King’s short story The Life of Chuck. Was that one of the easiest yeses of your career?
Yes, absolutely. Mike sort of has a repertory group of actors that he uses over and over again. I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly [following the upcoming The Fall of the House of Usher] , but I adore the man and he’s so gifted. The minute he wanted me back, I was like, “Just tell me where and when and I’ll be there.”
The Machine is now playing in movie theaters. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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