Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher never imagined they’d step foot on a Star Wars set again after Return of the Jedi wrapped in 1982 but returning for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was like going home again…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
When Return of the Jedi opened in 1983, it served at the time as the final chapter in the Star Wars saga first launched in 1977 by creator George Lucas that told the story of the Skywalker family and the Rebel Alliance attempting to defeat the evil Galactic Empire.
It was the end of the story that Lucas intended on telling at the time and when filming wrapped in 1982, none of the cast members or stars from the movies thought there would be another Star Wars sequel to come back to one day.
Eventually, Lucas decided to make more Star Wars movies but this time focusing on prequels — stories that took place prior to the first film titled A New Hope while explaining the origin of Anakin Skywalker and his eventual turn into Darth Vader. Once again, the key legacy actors from the original Star Wars series had no real part in the prequels considering their characters weren’t even actually introduced (for the most part) until the original movie from 1977.
But once Lucas sold off Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars saga, Disney wasted no time rebooting the entire universe while plotting a return to theaters with a whole new series of films set to take place. J.J. Abrams was hired as a director and eventually Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, came on board to assist with the script.
At that point the calls started going out to some of the key actors and actresses needed to create a true sequel to the last Star Wars movie made more than two decades ago. To truly connect this new film to the previous series, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill would all have to return or there was no way this new series of movies was going to feel authentic when placed up against the original trilogy.
It didn’t take long for all three legacy actors to come on board for the sequel now titled Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but stepping on set for the first time as part of a Star Wars movie was surreal for everybody involved who had been around for the first movie that filmed back in the mid 1970’s.
“It should have felt ridiculous. It was 30 some years ago and I sort of grew up. Here I was doing something that I did so long ago. I will tell you that it felt great,” Harrison Ford said when speaking about filming the new movie. “I wasn’t so sure it would but the company was great company, the director was the right director, Larry (Kasdan) wrote us a wonderful story and I was proud and grateful to once again be involved.
“The original Star Wars that I was a part of really was the beginning of my working life. I was very, very grateful for the opportunity that I had in that film and for the success of that film. So it was great to be back.”
Fisher admits it was a strange experience going back to Star Wars after being gone for so long but the impact was undeniable especially when she stood next to Ford and her on screen brother Mark Hamill.
The three of them had been like family through the first three movies that shot in less than 10 years between 1975 and wrapping on the last film in 1982. Now here they were 33 years later back together on a Star Wars set and there was no way any of them thought this would happen after Return of the Jedi was supposedly the end of their respective stories.
“Sort of like we left off but we left off a while ago,” Fisher said. “So it was a long leave off and we’re back. There was certain times where the three of us were standing together and it was sort of hard to be there and to observe an observer. We’re the legacy players. We’re the legacy people. It was great. It was great having the new people do it faster.”
“We were more grown up this time.”
A large part of Hamill’s life has revolved around Star Wars because his character Luke Skywalker was really the central part of the story in all three films. Even in the 1970’s, long before the days of social media, Hamill had a hard time escaping the fame that came along with Star Wars.
He even encountered a fan wearing a Darth Vader mask when he went on his honeymoon to the Bahamas after the first film opened. While Hamill has gone onto several other projects since Star Wars wrapped, most notably a very successful career as a voiceover actor, he’s never forgotten the most famous role he’s ever filmed and there’s never been a day where he regretted doing it.
“I’ve never taken it for granted,” Hamill said. “I’m moved by the connection to the world. Suddenly, you’re a friend to everyone.”
Considering how much has changed about filmmaking and the movie industry as a whole since the original Star Wars trilogy ended in 1983, there was no telling when the legacy actors came back to the new sequel what kind of story would be told.
Ford admits he was blown away when he read the script because it not only picked up in a way where fans of the original movies would be enthralled but it truly honored the work that had previously been done while still pushing forward for a new generation of Star Wars fans.
“I was gratified when I read the script because I read something that was really remarkable, really well written and it was some very intriguing developments and I was delighted to be involved,” Ford said. “Very happy to be part of the cast again.”
For Hamill one of the most difficult tasks he had to tackle was trying to wrap his head around where his character had gone in the last 30 years. Luke Skywalker started out as a farm hand living on the edge of the galaxy but by the end of the original saga he was the lone Jedi knight — an order of warriors long since forgotten — while still coming to grips with a difficult family history that included a new sister and the death of his father.
Hamill was concerned on some level what it was going to be like to continue that story because the tale of Luke Skywalker really did have a true beginning, middle and end and if they were going to pick up with him again 30-some years later, it had to make sense and it had to happen organically without being jammed into the new film just for the sake of having him show up on screen.
“Probably trying to figure out what he’s been doing all of these years. Because we last saw him in Return of the Jedi and of course I wanted to make sure that — the whole idea of trying to recapture the past, that’s a big mistake,” Hamill said. “You have to blend these characters in as they are now rather than trying to be 25-years old again.”
Abrams promised when taking on the project that he would continue the story in a way that not only honored the past but also looked to the future. Star Wars was always bigger than one actor or one era, but from the look of things this new movie and trilogy will introduce new fans and reintroduce old ones alike.
And at the end of the day, through all the interstellar space travel, big explosions and exhilarating battles, Star Wars always goes back to the same concept the George Lucas gave the series when he first started writing the movie in the early 1970’s.
“It’s a film about families and about generations,” Lucas said about the Star Wars saga. “About what one generation leaves behind that the next generation has to deal with.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters on Friday, December 18 nationwide.