Luke Skywalker himself on Sushi Girl, the Joker, and a possible role in the new Star Wars movies.
Your new movie, Sushi Girl, is very dark. What’s it like to torture a guy onscreen?
Oh God, that was a hard thing to get over! Initially I had this knee-jerk reaction and said, “Well, I just can’t do this.” But the more I thought about it, it’s totally in character for the piece itself and I didn’t think of it as gratuitous - it didn’t glamorize violence in any way, and the character was just too interesting to pass up, for me, because I rarely get offered that kind of radical character.
“Knee-jerk” is an interesting term, considering what your character does to the guy.
Haha, I didn’t even think of that! And again, that didn’t bother me because the dental mayhem [my character inflicts] was much more troubling. I’ve been married to a dental hygienist for a long time, so it’s very disconcerting. Anyway, I initially said no thank you [to the movie], but my daughter read it and she said, “You’re always complaining that the only way you got character parts was by going to Broadway - if you turn this down, don’t complain about Philip Seymour Hoffman and Steve Buscemi getting roles you like, because you’re not going to get offered something like this again.” I thought, wow, that’s very true, so I read it again, and this time I read it in character, which was a revelation.
A major plot point of Sushi Girl is the naked woman covered with sushi that lies on the table between all of you. How distracting is it to have a naked woman in front of you for an entire shoot?
Well, Courtney Palm is just exquisite, and she’s incredibly fit and incredible disciplined to lie like that. I came up with that idea of doing the Three Stooges poke-in-the-eye gesture just because I wanted to see if I could shake her from her calm, as it were. I think she did a terrific job.
You seem to really enjoy playing bad guys - does that have anything to do with your most famous role being such an unswerving hero?
I do know that when I read the screenplay for Star Wars I thought, “Wow, that Darth Vader is a great part.” I think it probably goes back to children’s pantomime, you know? The Big Bad Wolf gets a much bigger response than any of the three little pigs. Certainly the villains can be a lot more colorful, as is most ably demonstrated by [my Sushi Girl character] Crow. I realized, too, that just by default I’m sort of the comic relief, as dark and disturbing as that is. I’ve seen it a couple of times with audiences and was really happy with how much laughter there is. A lot of it, I think, is to relieve the tension, but people have a really good time. I mean, those that don’t walk out, of course.
You’re generally regarded as having the definitive Joker voice, having played him all the way through Batman: The Animated Series right through the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games. Will you ever be able to completely give up that character?
Well, spoiler alert, but it doesn’t go well for me in Arkham City, so that was sort of the fond farewell. I love doing that part. I started in 1992, so we celebrated 20 years. I think it’s like Hamlet - there will never be a definitive Joker, although I’m flattered when people say that when they read the comics now, they hear my voice. That’s quite the honor. It was really important to me that I not blow it, because I’m a fan - I’ve always loved Batman, I read the comics when I was a kid. When I got the part I was like, “Oh man, what did I get myself into?” Because there’s no way you’re going to satisfy people, because they’ve heard it in their heads for years.
What is the one question about Star Wars that you never want to be asked again?
You know, it’s funny - I have this game with myself where it’s called “intake control.” Over the years, it’s developed where, if something comes up about Star Wars, I just gloss over it, because I really don’t have anything to do with it anymore. It was a way to get through the prequels for me, because I was able to distance myself. I’ve seen nearly every Family Guy, and then the episode came on that was all Star Wars, and I said, “I’m going to go over to Turner Classic Movies.” I’m just able to edit it out. It’s not that I dislike it and it’s not because I have anything against it, nothing like that. I think the most often asked question is, “Did you ever think it was going to be this successful?” I thought it was going to be successful enough that we’d make parts two and three. But obviously, let’s face it, who knew in terms of cultural phenomenon? I had no idea it would be so pervasive in our culture all these years later.
What do you think about JJ Abrams handling the new movies?
I hear that he’s very capable. Abrams asked to meet me back when he was doing Alias - I went to his office and we chatted for a while and found out we had a mutual love of The Twilight Zone. The producers have been making a lot of smart moves, like getting writer Michael Arndt who wrote Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine, which shows that he really writes character, heart, and humor - that’s really a smart move.
But having said all of that, I really don’t know what’s going on in terms of how we’re going forward. They want me to meet the writer and I’m open to it, but there’s a lot of ifs that need to be settled, because I don’t want to be the only one that’s going to do it. I want everybody to come back - it’s all or nothing, I think. It should be Carrie, Harrison, and me, and Billy D and Anthony, and Kenny, and everybody that’s still capable of doing it. That’s important to me.
Do you know anything about the plot?
I would imagine that the stories would probably be about young people with us in roles that are appropriate to the original. In other words, me filling the same kind of function as the Obi Wan character. I would imagine the protagonists are all going to be the offspring of our characters - that is, supposing I have an offspring. I don’t know these things. Fans will tell me – my son Nathan knows all about this stuff. He said, “Oh no, Dad, Leia and Han Solo are married now.” These are from follow up novels, none of which I’ve read. He said, “You got married to a smoking-hot babe named Mara Jade.” And I said, “I get a girlfriend after I’m no longer associated with the picture..?” Someone told me that George Lucas was upset that they married Luke off. I said, “How can he be upset after the fact? Don’t he control everything? How could you do something so monumental without getting his stamp of approval?” They said, “Oh, I don’t know, somehow it slipped by him.” But really, what I know, I know from reading. I’ll probably learn it from Maxim.com before I hear it directly from them! I mean, George told us he wanted to do 7, 8, and 9, but he didn’t tell us he was selling it to Disney. We’re sort of on a strictly need-to-know basis - I found out on the Internet, like everybody else…
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
It was trivial. I missed some crucial scripts on a regular show and I felt really bad and apologized to the cast. That’s a boring answer, but it’s the truth!
What’s your favorite curse word?
Dangnabbit! I’m terrible when it comes to curse words - when you hear the blooper reel on any of these animated series, I’m very unrepresented, because with three kids over the years I’ve trained myself to say, “Oh darn it! Oh shoot!” when I make mistakes. It’s really, really squaresville, but I hardly ever swear. Although for the best one, you’ll never top the F-bomb, I guess.
What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had?
You’re going back decades to when I still used to drink. It would have probably been New Year’s Eve somewhere in the early '80s, and is probably largely responsible for why I don’t drink anymore.
What was your first car?
My first car was a Mazda. Remember the rotary engine Mazda? I got it when I was on a soap. That would have been 1972. I had no reason to favor it other than that I loved gimmicks and it had an engine like no other engine. So just on a whim, I bought one of those.
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I have one on my leg. I was trying to make a television set out of this box like I saw on I Love Lucy when I was 10. I used this Exacto box cutter thing and I’m resting it on my leg like a moron. I pushed it and cut that flap off and I didn’t feel anything at first, and then all of a sudden my leg felt really wet, and of course, when I saw how badly I’d gashed my leg I nearly passed out. It was pretty horrific - stitches, the whole nine yards. I have a big slug-like scar on the top of my right thigh.
Do you have a party trick?
Yeah, I can clear a room with my bad impressions.
Who do you do?
[In a Richard Nixon voice] Oh, how about Richard Nixon. Let me just say this about that, “I am not a crook”. [Switching to a Rod Steiger voice] What about Rod Steiger? [Goes back to normal voice] I love doing bad impressions.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
Hahaha! The biggest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth was a 36 double D. Now it’s Maxim! That’s kind of a trick question - nothing comes to mind, obviously.
The weird thing is, Diamond Dallas Page genuinely gave us almost exactly that answer.
Oh my God, I was worried you were going to say it was somebody like Steven Segal or Ted Nugent or something. Probably the real answer was some sort of sandwich, but I can’t remember exactly.
What is the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
Hit the deck and scream like a woman! Whimper like a little girl. I’m not a brawler - I got mugged once on a subway at 2:30 a.m. They took my hat and took my wallet and I went to the ground, because I thought, I don’t want to confront these people in case they have weapons. It really sounds cowardly and craven, but self-preservation kicks in. I’ve never been angry enough at anybody to want to have a fist fight with anyone.
Who was the last person to see you naked?
My wife. I know that’s boring, but it’s true. This morning, when I was coming out of the shower.
It felt very weird to ask that question to Luke Skywalker.
Well, there’s a very famous story from Carrie Fisher’s first day on Star Wars, where she’s running around the Death Star. She disappeared for about 20 minutes. We said, “Where were you?” She said, “They took me to wardrobe and taped me down.” She wasn’t wearing a bra, and apparently that was distracting to the people watching! It brought up the whole question of underwear from a galaxy far, far away. People don’t realize how mundane it was - those pants that I was wearing as Luke in the very first film were Levis with the pockets cut off.
Finish this sentence: If I ruled the world for a day, I would…
Turn all Republicans democratic. I don’t know. I’m just so frustrated with the gridlock in this country and it seems to me that the opposition party is able to control the agenda in a way that we never envisioned when they made up the rules for this country. I should be benevolent and say that if I ruled the world for a day, I would raise the salary of every teacher in the world. There’s a lot of unfairness and it bugs me. But you know, I’m not a political pundit. That’s not really what I do or what I should do. It’s like, “Pipe down, Hamill! Nobody needs to know what you think.”
Sushi Girl is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.