“Mark Hamill is coming to Salt Lake Comic Con!” The day the organizers of the comic convention in Salt Lake City, Utah announced that Mark Hamill was going to be one of the guests, I knew I had to go. How often does the man who played Luke Skywalker come to your backyard? It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It took more than a little convincing to get my wife on board. Luke Skywalker was her least favorite character from Star Wars. The only image of Luke in her mind was that of a bratty little moisture farmer on Tatooine who wanted to go to Tasche Station to pick up power converters.
September 1, the date of Hamill’s appearance at the convention arrived and my wife, son, and I loaded into the family-mobile at 5:00 a.m. and headed to Salt Lake City.
Because of the awesomeness of the Salt Lake Comic Con organizers, they knew that demand to see Mark Hamill would be huge. Instead of holding his panel in the Grand Ballroom of the Salt Palace Convention Center that holds about 5,600, they moved the panel to the Vivint Smart Home Arena which can hold 20,000 people was about half-filled with people.
We arrived at the arena a little before 8:00 a.m. The panel was scheduled for 11:00 a.m. so there was a little before the panel started. After moving through the line to get into the arena and the line to get our lanyards and an autographed picture of Mark Hamill, we made our way to our seats. The arena was set up “in the square” with a raised platform in the middle of the arena. We got our seats on the floor in the third row from the platform. After a mock lightsaber fight and a light side/dark side dance off, Mark Hamill took the stage.
When Mark Hamill walked on stage, the arena erupted with cheering and applause. Then, a wave of emotion hit me. There he was, right in front of me, the man who played Luke Skywalker waving back at the crowd. Once the cheering died down, Hamill took the microphone and for the next 50 minutes, talked about Star Wars, voicing the Joker and growing up Hamill. Because Star Wars Episode 8 is not out yet, he couldn’t say anything about the movie, but he did let slip that one of the scenes he was involved was a night scene which involved a lot of CG work. But that is not a lot to go on. He also talked about the growth of a character. He said the Tosche Station line and explained that he had to take Luke Skywalker to a very young and immature place in order to show that the character has grown over the length of the movie.
Time few by. The 50 minutes Mark Hamill spoke was gone in a flash and he left the stage. The crowd erupted again as he was escorted away.
Actor William Shatner was scheduled to host a panel right after but our group decided to head across the street to the Salt Palace Convention Center to get in line for the con to open. Outside the arena, my wife told me that Luke Skywalker is now her favorite character.
We had a 3:00 photo opportunity with actor Billy Boyd from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a 3:15 photo op with Mark Hamill. Thankfully, the volunteers with Salt Lake Comic Con helped us make it to both. It didn’t take very long to get in for a picture with Billy. He was smiling and charming and has that awesome Scottish accent. Then we were put into the Mark Hamill photo op line. This is where time screeched to a halt. Since we were put into the tail end of the line, we had to wait for close to two hours which included two thirty minute breaks for Mr. Hamill. Then, the time came to meet Mark Hamill.
As we walked behind the black curtain, there he sat. If you have ever had your picture taken at a con, you know what a rush job it is, you walk up to the celebrity, a person snaps a picture (whether you are ready or not) and then you are ushered out. Total time: about 10 seconds. We were called up to stand next to Mr. Hamill and the ten second timer began. As my son handed Mark Hamill an Ultra Saber to hold for the picture, I said to Mr. Hamill, “Thank you for all you’ve done for the Star Wars community.” He was in the process of saying, “You are welcome” when the picture was taken. And then we were ushered out. As we walked out of the tent to pick up our photograph, my wife, my son, and I just stood around, looking at the picture, soaking it in.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around SLCC and meeting some of the voices behind Star Wars animation like James Arnold Taylor who voices Obi-Wan Kenobi from The Clone Wars and Steve Blum who voices Zeb from Star Wars Rebels.
Now that meeting Mark Hamill is behind us, bring on Star Wars Episode VIII and let’s see Luke Skywalker back on the big screen.