Forty years ago, Luke Skywalker boarded a ship, and his whole life changed. Mark Hamill's did, too. The first Star Wars film rocketed him to international stardom, and a legacy that he can't ever escape.
Forty years later, returning to that legacy, in the form of the literal cockpit set of the Millennium Falcon, was more emotional than he expected.
"I was there with my family, with [my children] Nathan and Griffin and Chelsea and my wife Marilou, and [Lucasfilm] asked if the documentary crew could be there when I came back on the Millennium Falcon," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I mean, this was not on the shooting day. I was just street clothes and going to visit that set. And I said, 'Sure.'"
We've already seen the results of the shoot that followed, in a scene from recent TV spots, featuring a wisened old Skywalker hesitantly entering the ship's cockpit and turning on the lights. Apparently, it hit the actor playing the character just as hard.
"It was sort of like visiting an old house that you lived in when you were a kid," he said. "I mean, I just welled up with emotion and said, 'I need to be by myself.'"
He recalled, "They had recreated it down to ever last detail that I remember. The oil drips, the hanging pipes, just everything. The dice in the cockpit."
For Hamill, that experience has been an opportunity to reckon with his own past, and the profound intersection it has with a pop cultural artifact that's meant so much to so many people.
"People have these stories they tell you, you know, about how [Star Wars] helped them through hard times. Or they met their life in line for this [movie], and were married by that one, and had a child by that one," he said.
"All of this happening to me again was... it's hard to put into words," Hamill said. "I figured when the prequels came out, plus a few years, people would forget about us. But it never really went away."