During a one on one with Chris Rock at the Tribeca Film Festival (via IGN), director JJ Abrams revealed that Mark Hamill was hesitant to reprise his role of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and much more.
On Episodes 8 and 9: “This movie [The Force Awakens] was a bridge and a kind of reminder; the audience needed to be reminded what Star Wars is, but it needed to be established with something familiar, with a sense of where we are going to new lands, which is very much what 8 and 9 do.”
On the criticism that The Force Awakens is similar to A New Hope: “The weird thing about that movie is that it had been so long since the last one. Obviously the prequels had existed in between and we wanted to, sort of, reclaim the story. So we very consciously – and I know it is derided for this – we very consciously tried to borrow familiar beats so the rest of the movie could hang on something that we knew was Star Wars. So all the characters – the Stormtrooper who turns, Finn played by John Boyega, and Rey, the character that Daisy plays, the Scavenger, Kylo Ren, the son of Han and Leia, and Poe the pilot – all these were characters and sort of their roles in the story needed to exist in something that predates them.”
On bringing back Mark Hamill for the film’s ending: “We knew that getting to Luke was the whole story, and I was desperate to do the next chunk that we knew would not fit into this one movie. But, we knew that we had that ending, but it was a frightening and tricky thing to do, but at first and in all honesty, Mark Hamill was a little resistant. Imagine reading Star Wars, imagine being Mark Hamill and you get the script for the new Star Wars. ‘Oh the opening is good, page two, oh, three and so on – what the f**k is the going on, I’m three pages before the end, the last page, what?’ He was so kind to do it, and at first he was like, ‘Will it seem silly, will it be a joke that he is standing there?’ I said to him, ‘I don’t think it will.’ I said because the whole movie is about that, it could be a great fun drum roll, up to seeing this guy. Hamill was the exact same age as Alec Guinness was when he played Obi-Wan. I’m looking at him in the robes, and with the John Williams music, I start to tear up, and I know that this ending could really work.”