Now that he's hung up his lightsaber, Mark Hamill is glad to be just a Star Wars fan again.
The man with the newest star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame played Jedi rookie-turned-master Luke Skywalker in George Lucas' original trilogy, came back for a quick few minutes at the end of The Force Awakens, and had his swan song in director Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi (available Tuesday on digital HD platforms including Amazon and iTunes, arrives March 27 on Blu-ray/DVD).
Being involved with the newer films, "the pressure is unbearable," says Hamill, 66. "I said to George, 'These things are almost too high-profile for my comfort at this point.' That's why I look forward to (Solo: A Star Wars Story, in theaters May 25) and why I enjoyed Rogue One so much: Aah, see, I can relax and just be a member of the audience again, and that's very satisfying."
Hamill talks with USA TODAY about Han Solo's death, watching his last scene as Luke (beware, some spoilers ahead) and — as seen in this exclusive clip from The Last Jedi bonus features — meeting Yoda again.
Question: You look really choked up around Yoda and puppeteer Frank Oz in that video.
Hamill: The whole movie was really difficult for me emotionally. It was acknowledging your mortality (and) the fact that something that was so meaningful in your life was necessarily coming to an end, to pass the torch to the next generation. I started the process of disconnecting emotionally when I read (The Force Awakens) and knew I'd never work with Harrison (Ford) again, and of course the biggest trauma was losing Carrie (Fisher) in real life and only just having that brief scene with her in the movie. It took on new meaning because Luke was saying goodbye to his sister and I was saying goodbye to ever working with her again, knowing Luke's fate.
Q: There's a deleted scene included in The Last Jedi bonus features where Luke mourns Han's death. Walk us through that.
Hamill: I went back to my room and just thought back on not only my love and admiration for Han Solo but for Harrison Ford. When Rian said, "Cut," I felt my face was wet. I put my hands to my face and there were tears. And I didn't say, "I'm going to cry." I didn't even realize I had shed a tear.
Q: Do you regret that it didn't make the cut?
Hamill: Well, every actor wants something like that in the film. It shows an emotional depth that Luke rarely got a chance to show. But you have to think of the greater good and for whatever reason he cut it; you just have to accept it and move on. That's the thing I'm sorry I gave fodder to any people who were unhappy with the movie to say, "See, Mark Hamill hates it, too!" Well, no, I don't. I think it's a great film.
Q: Describe watching your death scene for the first time.
Hamill: The description of the robes falling to the rock was not (in the script). It just says, "Luke Skywalker dies." So I said to Rian, "Isn't this rather dramatically inert? I mean, if there's no one around to witness it. Who knows, maybe I just transported to some other place?" He didn't deny that. Now it's sort of a joke: I like to have fun with people on social media so I said, "My theory is he left his robes behind and transported to a nudist planet." Half-jokingly, of course.
It's fairly well-stated in the film: Forget the past, kill it if you have to. And they're doing a good job with Han and me. I said to Carrie at the time, "Hey, if this is a pattern, you're next." She just laughed and said, "Yeah, but at least I won't be glowing green."
How do you know I'm going to be a Force ghost?! Maybe I transported back to Tatooine and found an old Jawa robe to cover myself.