Just a few months before the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, was released in cinemas in 1977, Luke Skywalker star Hamill was involved in a horrific car crash. The American star’s car flipped on a freeway on January 11 in a catastrophe that left him with some facial injuries that could have changed his life.
Thankfully, Hamill revealed he didn’t remember a thing about the accident.
After the crash, Hamill gave an interview where he explained: “I read in magazines, ‘Mark Hamill almost killed in auto crash.’ And what prose… ‘As he dragged himself from the wreckage… the flames were higher.’ You know?… ‘his nose slid off his face.’ And I’m going, ‘Wow, this is great! But I don’t remember it!'”
But things really hit home for him when he woke up surrounded by doctors without a clue as to why he was there. “I just woke up and I was in the hospital,” he said. “And I knew that I had hurt myself very, very, very badly. But I wasn’t really sure. And then someone held a mirror up to my face and I just felt that my career was over.”
The story goes that George Lucas, the Star Wars director, got to work on a storyboard for the second film in the trilogy that would explain Skywalker’s change of look.
The opening scenes of The Empire Strikes Back show Skywalker being attacked and knocked out by a Wampa – a large snow-dwelling creature.
After he was rescued by Han Solo, Skywalker was taken to space hospital with some cuts on his face where he recovered. There is a deleted scene of the character discussing “the scars” on his face with Princess Leia, subtly telling viewers that Hamill’s look had changed.
However, Lucas said this wasn’t the case. The director spoke about the scene in the Blu-ray commentary of The Empire Strikes Back. He said the scene was used to represent a change in the character.
He explained: “My feeling was some time had passed, [the Star Wars characters] had been in the Rebellion fighting, that kind of thing, so the change was justifiable.”
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Lucas went on to add: “There’s a scene in the film where Mark gets beat up by the [Wampa], which helps even more, but that wasn’t really the meaning of why we wrote the monster in the beginning. We needed something to keep the film suspenseful at the beginning while the Empire is looking for them.”
Hamill backed up this claim in 1999 when he revealed he asked Lucas if the Wampa scene was written in to cover up his injuries. He said Lucas confirmed the scene was written in for suspense – and no other reason.
But Carrie Fisher disagreed.
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The Princess Leia star also had a moment to chat on The Empire Strikes Back commentary, and she remembered how bad Hamill was injured just after his car crash.
She said: “It was a really bad accident. Miraculously [Hamill’s] teeth didn’t shatter. But his nose did. He had to have some of his ear put into his nose. So they adjusted the film with this snow monster to right away in the movie scratch his face to account for his looks being different.”
Either way, it didn’t ultimately make a difference to the film.
After some aftercare, Hamill’s injuries were minor and almost unrecognisable. Thankfully, the star has not been involved in any other accidents since.
His character, in the meantime, lost his hand in The Empire Strikes back, giving him a much more blatant disability.
The Star Wars franchise is available to watch on Disney Plus.
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