From Jedi Knight To Clown Prince Of Crime
To most fans of my generation Mark Hamill was and still is Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight and custodian of the Skywalker legacy, but the Star Wars legend’s influence exceeds far beyond the galaxy far, far away. In fact, the Star Wars icon made a name for himself utilising his incredible voice talent well before his casting in A New Hope in 1977.
It was his role in Star Wars that made Hamill a household name but, the typecasting side effects of such a high-profile character restricted his career in many ways. His co-star, Harrison Ford found life much easier and earned several acclaimed roles in movies like Indiana Jones and Blade Runner but Hamill was unable to move past his Luke Skywalker alter ego. That was until 1992 when the landscape of the DC Universe changed forever. In the aftermath of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie, Warner Bros animation studios commissioned a brand-new series based on the adventures of the legendary Dark Knight. Designed to pay homage to the original source material whilst capitalising upon Burton’s darker and stylised tone, Batman the Animated Series arrived upon our screens boasting many of the greatest super villains in the DC universe.
Renowned actor Tim Curry had initially been hired for the role as The Joker, Gotham City’s notorious clown prince of crime until by some incredible hand of fate, the studio heads at Warner Bros decided upon a drastic change of direction. Hamill had already lent his vocals to the corrupt businessman Ferris Boyle in the episode titled “Heart of Ice” but out of curiosity, the legendary Star Wars actor was brought in to audition for the role and the rest as they say is history. Mark Hamill entered the series in the second episode named “Christmas with The Joker” and single handedly redefined the clown prince of crime as we know him.
Despite his initial trepidation of accepting such a high-profile role that came with a level of preconceived notions, his darker and more ominous take on the traditionally light hearted character was rewarded with significant acclaim. The most prominent feature of his portrayal was his dynamic use of laughter to express the Joker’s mood which Hamill compared to a musical instrument. To get into character, the Star Wars legend would practice his maniacal laugh on the drive to the studio so that upon his arrival, The Joker was at the height of his vocal abilities.
The sinister Joker, played a predominant role throughout the series until the end of its run before Superman: The Animated Series was commissioned. Hamill reprised his role for several episodes including the feature length crossover movie, Batman & Superman: World’s Finest until a grander scaled series, The Justice League was requested. The Joker was reduced to a guest starring role, but Hamill would remain faithful to the character and lent his vocals to many a spin off series, movie and computer game.
His performance has been heralded as THE quintessential Joker, the bench mark that other Joker’s would be measured by and his proposed retirement was met with anguish amongst the fan base. But his love of the character never faded and despite him returning to the character of Luke Skywalker for the long-awaited sequel The Force Awakens, Hamill was approached to reprise the role for the critically acclaimed story “The Killing Joke”. It was no secret that Hamill had longed for the story to made into a feature film and at the Star Wars Celebration Europe event in the summer of 2016, the Star Wars legend confirmed that he had accepted the studios overtures and that he would be returning as The Joker.
“The Killing Joke” was released as a limited theatrical run in the United States before being released to a worldwide audience on DVD and Blu Ray and in true fandom fashion, his performance as The Joker received the accolade of a career best. A defining moment that would adorn him to the devoted fans and solidify his legacy as the clown prince of crime.
His return as Luke Skywalker amongst the annals of the Star Wars franchise has been well received despite his lack of involvement in The Force Awakens that saw him restricted to a few short seconds at the movie’s finale. And yet, his return in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one of the most hotly anticipated cinematic events of the decade, but in the eyes of many, his return as The Joker would be just as enthralling. A subsequent animated feature has been rumoured for some time, but it would take a story of considerable brilliance to coax the Star Wars legend out of retirement once again. The involvement of his Batman: The Animated Series co-star, Kevin Conroy (whom I regard as the finest Batman to ever wear the cowl) would be a prerequisite if Warner Bros were to tempt him to return to the franchise, but such things are attainable with Conroy’s well documented love of his DC alter ego.
As much as I adore his performance as Luke Skywalker and his incredible and long overdue return to the Star Wars saga, I would dearly love to see Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy return for another adventure in the DC Universe. The Joker has proven to be more than a match for Luke Skywalker and has allowed the actor to break free of the shackles of typecasting in similar fashion to Harrison Ford. As much as both actors are renowned for their adored Star Wars characters, they have earned their transcendence beyond the galaxy far, far away which is a reward well deserved.
Luke Skywalker will return in The Last Jedi this December, but will he be able to give us one good laugh…?
Surely only The Joker can do that.
May the jokes be with you