Although most noted for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker and the Joker, Mark Hamill has had a long running career delivering a wide range of characters, but his latest role in the film Sushi girl just might be the most out there yet. I had the privilege to get a chance to speak with him about this unusual character and film that is sure to throw fans in a tail spin when they see what he is up to.
Bobby: Before we get started I just wanted to thank you and tell you it’s an honor to get to speak with you.
Mark: Why thank you.
Bobby: How did you get involved with Sushi Girl?
Mark: Well they sent me the script, I read it and as much as I enjoyed it I just thought wow, how will I ever be able to pull this off. It’s so extreme and out there I got a bit cowardly and decided to pass. I would like to see it, but I don’t think I want to do it. I thought it was too violent, too extreme and yet I came around to love those very qualities about it. Only because I love doing things I have never done before where you don’t repeat yourself. Two of my three kids read it and said you really should reconsider, but I said I’ve never done anything this outrageous before, then my daughter said what about the Joker? What I wound up doing was rereading it, but tried this time to read it in character, so instead of as Mark Hamill, reading it as if I were Crow. In that case it didn’t seem all that extreme at all, as a matter of fact it seemed pretty mild to someone that enjoys violence, so it was a revelation to read it that way. So I changed my mind and I’m glad I did.
Bobby: Your character Crow is easily the most standout of the bunch. Was that the way the character was written or did you just create it from scratch?
Mark: It’s always collaboration between the writers and the performer that’s going to embody the role. It wasn’t described physically, oddly enough. At first I said what if I shaved my head completely, and then we realized Tony Todd was in the cast so that is a bit redundant. You don’t want two of the main cast to look the same. You see the thing I wanted to do was to be able to have a look that was as extreme as the character so that when you show up people say, there’s something not right with this guy, something just wrong about him. So that’s why the extreme hair that was like twenty extensions, that might be appropriate on a surfer in his twenties or a guy in a rock and roll band, but certainly wrong for someone like Crow. There’s just something not right there, the glasses, his constant gum chewing. I was channeling a lot of nervous energy. Just the bitchy nature of him, the cynical streak just kind of came out. Someone said it was very Truman Capote-esque, which wasn’t something I did consciously but I did know I wanted to be snippy and have sort of a feminine streak because it would contrast so nicely with his actions. He is a mass of contradictions this guy. You make up a lot of back story for this guy that the audience will never know. Even the writer probably doesn’t know. I sort of imagined for instance that Crow could go from torturing or shooting someone in a robbery and then go to the theater. He is probably a big Andrew Lloyd Webber fan. I just thought that would be a nice paradoxical thing for him to be a romantic at heart as extreme as he is. Even the choice of the tennis shoes, when I change out of the wing tips and into the tennis shoes, four out of the five producers liked that. I don’t think Destin was too happy with that, but I really wanted to do that and we wrote that in because I started the film in these wing tips, but in between shots I would slip into these tennis shoes and I realized that was the missing piece of the puzzle. From top to boy, he is wrong at the top with his hair, his suit is nothing unusual, but if I could put on those child-like tennis shoes, then I would be wrong at the bottom as well. Everyone liked that idea and I found the opportunity. It was written into the script that Tony Todd would bring out this tool box, my work kit so to speak and I was able to convince everyone to let me put the tennis shoes in there. Destin has since come to like it, but one of the reasons I like it is that it’s so idiosyncratic, people will look at it and think that’s just odd and think it’s really clever that they wrote in such and eccentric character element for someone. They were more than accommodating when it came to letting us use our own ideas and I really appreciate them and would love to work with them again.
Bobby: You’re right that part stands out and adds a “Huh?” type moment to the character and really takes it in another direction.
Mark: Yeah, and I call them my work shoes, which is creepy in what he considers work. I’m glad you liked that, I thought that would happen. You give me great confidence in we accomplished what we were trying to do there. I am really glad that you are showing so much interest, because giving interviews like this is a chance to direct people in to seeing the movie. I want to get it more attention than it’s got and hopefully people think of me outside the box because I love doing these kinds of oddball roles.
Bobby: The cover art to this film has a very grindhouse look, so going into it you never know if it’s going to be one of those that’s just slapped together. But this film plays out clever with a very Reservoir Dogs style to it and the banter with you and Andy is what makes it work even better. How hard was it for you to not only play such a strange character, but to play off of each other without falling out of there?
Mark: One of the things that was really good about this film is that we shot a lot of it in continuity. Usually you shoot out of sequence, but because it was largely one set, we were able to do it as an ensemble working on a play so we were able to get a feeling for the terrain and a feeling for other peoples characters. I know in the script Andy Mackenzie’s character hated Crow’s guts, but he brought so much more than what was on the page and he is so fierce in that part, that I really sparked to that. I enjoyed pushing his buttons and making him even angrier and we got this sort of anti-chemistry going on and the fact that Crow and Max really go at it in a way that it’s much more fiery and intense than it was on the page. He did such a spectacular job, as did everyone in the move. One thing that was a revelation for me was I knew Tony Todd’s work, but I wasn’t that familiar with everybody else. Down to the smallest role, I mean David Dastmalchian gave that speech about taking a laxative on a robbery. For me it was so entertaining, I was just able to listen to this story and he probably has the longest sustaining speech in the whole movie and it goes on for two and a half pages or something. He did like two or three takes, maybe four and every time he did it a little bit differently and I just thought the world of the way he did it and right on down the line. I had never seen, but went back and watched Donnie Darko, Neverending Story and so forth. I even saw Andy on an episode of Big Bang Theory playing a tattoo artist. I have such respect for them and have made a lot of friends. You never know how these things are going to turn out, whether or not it’s going to be a struggle or you’re going to get along, but we just became an instant family. And not just the cast, the crew as well it was really one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had in recent memory.
Bobby: As I mentioned before, the banter between Andy and yourself was the highlight of the film for me and took it to another level and your character was one of the coolest things I have seen you do in some time, because it was so different. Do you have any other moments besides the shoe moment that really stands out?
Mark: Like I said one of the things I thought was so exciting about this film was that everyone seemed to have a spirit of being on the set of a little film that was really special in its own way. I think we all from the very first day we meshed very well together. I was really sorry to see the experience end because every day was an adventure, I enjoyed going to work and everyday found new things with the actors. It was very much like doing a stage play in a way, I’m so used to doing things out of continuity and all over the place, but in this one we largely went through from start to finish and I just couldn’t wait to get to the set in the morning. It was a really great group of people, very supportive, highly collaborative, and like I said everyone brought something special to the table which is why there was no friction cause no one was stepping on anyone else’s toes. The added delight to have people like Sonny Chiba, Jeff Fahey, Danny Trejo, and Michael Biehn, we were all excited to have these people add their little spice to the stew. It was really a great joy and I’m just sorry, spoiler alert, that there’s no chance of a sequel.
Bobby: I want to thank you again for taking the time to do this; it was a real honor to get to speak with you.
Mark: It was my pleasure and I hope you are able to guide some eyeballs to a project that deserves it.
Bobby: I will do my best to get the word out.
Mark: Thanks so much.
Be sure to get out and pick up your copy of Sushi Girl on Blu-ray and DVD today.