Born in California in 1951, Mark Hamill was propelled into instant stardom when he was cast as Luke Skywalker in the epic film Star Wars, as well as in the sequels The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He went on to star in a number of other movies in the 1980s and 1990s, doing voiceover work for animated series as well. It was officially announced in 2014 that Hamill will reprise his Skywalker role in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, set for a 2015 release date.
Growing Up and Early Career
Mark Hamill was born in Oakland, California, on September 25, 1951, the fourth of seven children. His father was in the U.S. Navy, so the family relocated often, and Hamill grew up across the world, from California to New York to Japan. After Hamill graduated from high school overseas, his family moved back to the U.S. He enrolled at Los Angeles City College, where he studied drama and theater arts.
It wasn’t long before the young actor was making his professional debut, first appearing on The Bill Cosby Show (1970) and then popping up on such shows as The Partridge Family (1971), Cannon (1971) and Night Gallery (1972). Also in 1972, Hamill landed a recurring role as Kent Murray on General Hospital, which carried him into 1973. After making a living though a respectable string of smaller roles in TV movies and series, in 1976 Hamill landed one of the lead roles in a new family drama called Eight Is Enough. The show represented a big break for the actor, but another role would end up being the break of a lifetime.
Luke Skywalker in Epic Trilogy
Before the Eight Is Enough pilot ever aired, Hamill landed the part of Luke Skywalker in George Lucas’ sci-fi epic Star Wars. The actor dropped out of the TV show after its first episode to hit the big screen. Star Wars was released in 1977 and immediately grabbed the world’s attention, making instant stars of all the lead actors. Luke Skywalker was the linchpin of the entire story, and Hamill was thrust front and center into stardom. What’s more, the film and its two sequels—The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983)—reached a level of popular appeal rarely seen in any medium, attaining an iconic status that has been sustained for decades.
Post-'Star Wars' Life
While the 1980s and 1990s were not hugely successful times for Hamill as an actor beyond the Star Wars trilogy, a recurring theme would begin to emerge in his filmography and put him soundly back on the map: voiceover work. Through Hamill’s work in animated series, films and video games, he made a strong comeback, and series such as Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1994), Superman (1997) and The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest (1996-1997) showcased a new side of his talent. Playing villains became his specialty, and he regularly inhabited characters such as Hobgoblin, the Joker and Gargoyle with abandon.
"One of the things that I love about voiceover is that it's a situation where, because you're not encumbered by being seen, it's liberating. You're able to make broad choices that you would never make if you were on camera."
With more than 250 roles to his credit, 2014 brought Hamill back into the Star Wars universe with the official announcement that he’ll take to the screen once more as Skywalker in Episode VII of a new trilogy. The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams, opened in the U.S. on December 18, 2015 and broke an array of box office records, earning more than $247 million domestically in its opening weekend.
Mark Hamill has been married to Marilou York since 1978. They have three adult children: Nathan, Griffin and Chelsea.
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