Author Sean Munger goes to great, and successful lengths to deconstruct the myth that Mark Hamill suffered a particularly disfiguring car crash in the mid-1970s. This was interested for me to read–I’d heard of the rumours, but it had seemed to me that the damage wasn’t so severe as to be distinguishable from normal aging.
That, of course, is Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars movies, photographed in the late 1970s. (The image composite is by me; the photo on the left is by Allen Light, the photo on the right a publicity still from Star Wars). Almost every Star Wars geek, and a fair number of other people, have heard the legend of Mr. Hamill’s horrible car crash in the late 1970s. It was one of the first things I ever learned about the actor. Supposedly he had a terrible car wreck that somehow injured his face, but beyond that fact, exactly what happened–and how bad the accident was–seems to change depending on who and when you ask.
The legend repeated most often in my childhood was that Mr. Hamill’s wreck–invariably said to be a sports car, usually a Corvette–did such damage to his face that doctors had to rebuild his nose using cartilage from his ear. It is also often stated that Luke’s encounter with the ice monster at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back was intended, in part, to explain the facial scarring that he shows early in that film (or, alternately, to explain why he looks “different” in Empire than he did in Star Wars). I also read somewhere on the Internet that the accident occurred shortly before the filming of the Star Wars Holiday Special, and the injuries accounted for his strange appearance during that truly awful show (and/or the painkillers given to him account for his woozy, phoning-it-in performance).
I’ve had “Mark Hamill’s car crash” on my list of potential blog topics for months now. After doing some research on this, it appears that the actual truth of the episode is somewhat difficult to pin down. Let’s take it step by step.