Mark Hamill’s 1977 Car Accident Explained
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Mark Hamill’s 1977 Car Accident Explained


  • Mark Hamill’s 1977 car accident almost ended his career just as it took off.
  • The accident slightly changed Hamill’s facial features between
    Star Wars: A New Hope
    The Empire Strikes Back
  • Despite initial concerns, Hamill’s career continued successfully with his iconic role as Luke Skywalker and other high-profile acting projects.

Many people have heard rumors about Mark Hamill‘s accident in 1977, but the impact on the actor’s career was almost much more significant than people realize. Star Wars helped to make Hamill an icon in cinema thanks to his starring role as Luke Skywalker in the beloved movie franchise. However, astute fans notice the slight change in his facial features, especially between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, which turned out to be due to a car accident that nearly sidelined his career just as it took off.

Mark Hamill’s accident happened after A New Hope had wrapped but before its theatrical release. Since the world hadn’t been introduced to Star Wars yet, the news didn’t make much of a headline and didn’t reach that many people. More than 40 years later, Luke remains an integral part of the Star Wars universe, returning in the sequel trilogy with cameos in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. While it is hard to imagine someone other than Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, the accident nearly changed his career and movie history forever.


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Mark Hamill’s Car Accident Happened Early In His Career

No one else was injured in Hamill’s accident

Custom image of a Wampa and Mark Hamill's injured face in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Before Mark Hamill’s car accident and his breakthrough playing Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, the future sci-fi legend had an eclectic range of credits to his name. Throughout the ’70s, Hamill appeared in many episodes of the long-running soap opera General Hospital, did voice-over on The New Scooby-Doo Movies, and appeared in the pilot for Eight Is Enough.

In 1977, expectations for George Lucas’ space opera were low when it debuted, but it became both a gigantic smash hit and a cultural landmark. Hamill returned for two sequels in the years that followed. One thing often remarked on is how Mark Hamill’s looks changed between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, released three years later in 1980.

Hamill appeared more fresh-faced in the first entry, and while Luke doesn’t look drastically different in the sequel, he does appear more aged. This, of course, was due to Hamill’s car accident in January 1977, which resulted in a fractured nose and cheekbone. Hamill recalled what he could of the accident during a 1978 interview (viaGossip Magazine), stating:

“I was way out in the sticks somewhere and there were no cars and no traffic, thank God. I was going about 65-70 mph… I was speeding, going too fast… and what happened, I think, was that I tried to negotiate an off-ramp and lost control, tumbled over, and went off the road.”

Mark Hamill Thought He’d Have To Quit Acting

Hamill has since built a strong career outside of Star Wars

Though Hamill was lucky that his accident wasn’t fatal and no one else was injured, he recalled his initial concern about the impact the accident could have on his career:

“I just woke up and I was in the hospital 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.”

Of course, Star Wars was released following Mark Hamill’s car accident and his career continued just fine. Reportedly, Luke being attacked by a Wampa in the opening scenes of The Empire Strikes Back was meant to explain why Luke looked a little different in the sequel. There have been conflicting accounts, but Hamill has seemingly never commented.

Despite his concerns, Hamill was able to return to his acting career and complete the original Star Wars trilogy. Alongside his other Star Wars appearances, Hamill has gained further iconic status playing the villainous Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and several other DC animated projects. He continues to act regularly in high-profile projects, including the 2023 comedy The Machine and The Fall of the House of Usher.

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