You can't have a Comic-Con without countless stormtroopers, slave Leias and jedis lurking around every corner. Star Wars icon Mark Hamill attended the Con this year to promote his twisted new role in the upcoming film Sushi Girl, and nostalgically revealed to me that he thought Star Wars would end up as "a cult movie at midnight [movie theaters]."
I talked with Hamill, now 60 years old, first about how much of a departure his role in Sushi Girl is for him: "You know, it reminded me of Reservoir Dogs, or one of those really gritty crime pictures, but at first I just couldn't conceive of myself doing it," he said. "And it's funny, because it's so grim, and I imagined [the set] being grim – and we couldn't have had more fun."
Towards the end of the interview, I baited the star a bit and said, "I'd be remiss if I didn't ask about at least one '70s movie you might've been in -- and that's Corvette Summer." Hamill laughed and said, "Thank you! I did that yesterday at the panel. I got this great ovation when I was introduced and I said, 'Obviously there are a lot of Corvette Summer fans in the audience.' A lot of them just didn't get it."
Corvette Summer, now eclipsed by movie history, was the first movie that featured Hamill as the lead after Star Wars came out in 1977. The then-twentysomething actor played Kenny Dantley, a California high school senior who builds a customized Corvette Stingray, only to have it stolen. He gives chase to reclaim his dream car, and his adventure pairs him with "prostitute-in-training" Vanessa (Annie Potts) on the way to Sin City.
"You know, when we made it, it was called Dantley and Vanessa. There was a subtitle: A Fiberglass Romance," revealed Hamill. "It didn't get renamed Corvette Summer until after we had finished it, and we were all appalled. I said, 'It sounds cheesy, you know? It doesn't sound like the movie we made.' … At least I remember it being a really charming script that said something about young people. His whole life was that car, and by the time he got it back, his life had so changed he didn't want it anymore -- he wanted the girl. And so I think that's a really good message, you know? Aside from being a fun road picture, it really had something to say."
Of course, I couldn't end the interview without asking at least one Star Wars question, and Hamill was happy to oblige: What was his most indelible memory of the whole experience, whether it was a personal moment on the set, or the first time he'd seen his Luke Skywalker action figure?
"I would say moments of reflection in North Africa with Sir Alec Guinness," he replied. "Between shots it was surreal, in a way, because the terrain was so alien, you know? And sitting with Sir Alec Guinness over there -- pinch me -- as a robot with his head off was smoking… I mean, it was just odd."
"[Star Wars] was disparate parts of cowboy movies, pirate movies, World War II movies, and swashbuckling and all that -- everything old is new again, and [George Lucas] put so many elements into it that were recognizable to film fans," he continued. "You know, certainly for someone who grew up on Famous Monsters magazine and Ray Harryhausen, I just couldn't believe how much fun we were having doing it."
Hamill recalls the experience of making the sci-fi classic as simply one in which he and his co-stars would just laugh non-stop. "I mean, how could you not? With a Wookiee sitting next to a knighted actor, you know?" he said with a chuckle. "It was just too much. And I thought, 'This thing, even if it bombs big time, it'll be a cult movie at midnight [movie theaters],' you know? So I didn't count on us making two sequels. But that first one was just too much fun to describe."