Sunday 20 January 2019

'People here are so warm and friendly' - Mark Hamill speaks fondly of his love for Ireland

The Star Wars actor was speaking at the US Ambassador's Residence ahead of his appearance as the international guest of honour at tomorrow's St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin

Mark Hamill.
Mark Hamill.
Sean O'Grady

Sean O'Grady

Star Wars' Mark Hamill drew a crowd of hundreds to the US Ambassador's Residence in Dublin's Phoenix Park where he spoke of his love for Ireland, a love that has been on going for "40 years".

The actor (66) has become an icon of film for his performance as Luke Skywalker in the franchise and famously filmed on Skellig Michael for The Last Jedi.

But it was in the 1970s when Hamill first came to Ireland to shoot action film, The Big Red One.

"Anyone who comes here is struck by the abject beauty of the country side. The follow up is that the people here are so warm and friendly  and treat you like family.

"I fell in love with this country 40 years ago," he said.

He was made aware of his Irish heritage early on by his father who would "lecture" him about the potato famine whenever he wouldn't finish his meals as a child.

Hamill, who is the international guest of honour at tomorrow's St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin, told of his shock that the Star Wars franchise was ever brought back for more films.

"There were some critics that were really harsh and, 'why mess with a good thing?'

"I knew they were going to do the prequels but I thought it would be so far into the future that they wouldn't involve us," he said.

"(I thought) Harrison is not going to do it because he's too accomplished and is sick of Star Wars.

"It was all settled when I saw the paper, 'Harrison Ford signs on' and thought, well that's me drafted."

Hamill joked he would have been "the most hated man in nerdom" had he refused to return to the franchise.

Having portrayed Luke Skywalker for the first time in the '70s, Hamill said he appreciates the impact the films have had more now.

"I'm appreciating it now in a way I couldn't have in my 20s because I have life experience and I know what it means to people," he said.

Recalling his time in Dingle while the cast filmed on Skellig Michel, Hamill jokingly issued an apology to Ireland for the Star Wars fans who will be flooding here for years to come.

"I know we helped the Irish economy but just be prepared," he said.

Hamill will be joined at tomorrow's parade by his friend, Game of Thrones actor Liam Cunningham, who serves as this year's Grand Marshall.

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