Solved: The Three Decade Old Mystery About Mark Hamill’s Messed Up Face In The Empire Strikes Back!


You are unlikely to know this. However, Mark Hamill’s face has been the topic of a long-term debate. He had been injured in a car crash between the filming of A New Hope, and The Empire Strikes Back, and a lot of fans have believed that the Wampa attack scene (the Hoth Yeti) was incorporated into the film as a consequence of that car accident. Late Carrie Fisher believed that as well, however, others related to Star Wars didn’t agree. What’s even more frustrating is that there are several behind the scenes photos which substantiate both theories.

You might be wondering what exactly had happened to Hamill’s face? Did he always look like that or did his face get distorted to the extent that the movie makers redid a section of Empire’s script? Let’s go back in time and unravel the mystery about the car accident involving Mark Hamill and to see whether it disfigured his face or not.

This is About The Time When Mark Hamill Wasn’t The Star

Four months before the debut of Star Wars, Mark Hamill had a car accident in January 1977. Since it was months before the Star Wars arrived and Mark hadn’t done anything of note till then, he was an unknown commodity. He appeared on a Gossip magazine interview in 1978 and confessed to being afraid that his career was finished when he saw his injured face. Fortune favored him, and the film that had an apt title according to his circumstances (A New Hope) was a blockbuster.

George Lucas Says That There Was No Connection Between The Wampa Scene And The Accident

In the Blu-ray commentary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas spoke about Hamill’s car accident and the transition in looks that he underwent in the Wampa scene:

My feeling was some time had passed, they’ve been in the Rebellion fighting, that kind of thing, so the change was justifiable. There’s a scene in the film where Mark gets beat up by the [Wampa], which helps even more, but that wasn’t really the meaning of why we wrote the monster in the beginning. We needed something to keep the film suspenseful at the beginning while the Empire is looking for them.”

He Personally Told Hamill The Same

During a 1999 interview with Starlog, Hamill revealed that he had questioned Lucas about the rumor related to the Wampa scene being a cover-up for his facial injury, and Lucas had told him that it was not true. Though that is not conclusive as evidence, it has some weight because there wasn’t a reason for Lucas to lie about it. At the same time, the fact that even Hamill had doubts about this gives strength to the fact that even those closest to the action had this feeling.

Carrie Fisher Was Sure That The Wampa Scene Was Connected To The Accident

On the contrary, we hear Fisher emphasize on the opposite in the same Blu-ray commentary.

“It was a really bad accident. Miraculously his teeth didn’t shatter. But his nose did. He had to have some of his ear put into his nose. So they adjusted the film with this snow monster to right away in the movie scratch his face to account for his looks being different.”

Check Out The Wampa Scene Here

Video Here

If There Is No Connection Then Why Did Lucas Film A Scene Showing Luke Having His Face Fixed?

Irrespective of what Lucas claimed, it is the Carrie Fisher narrative which is more logical. There was a scene revealed by the makers in The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which showed Luke getting treatment on his face by a droid, but, that scene was later removed from the movie. Lucas also confessed that he was aware of the fact that Hamill “was going to look a little different than he was in the first film” in that Blu-ray commentary of The Empire Strikes Back. There is little doubt that the accident played on Lucas’ mind.

The Car Accident Itself Was Mysterious

Despite the questions posed by accident, Mark Hamill is fuzzy about the memory. During that interview on Gossip magazine, Hamill talked about the moments before the accident when he was zipping across a deserted highway in a sports car. However, he was unsure about what was the cause of the crash. He said that he was probably speeding a bit too much and the car went off-ramp and then rolling into a field.

Hamill Used To Drive A Corvette At The Time

While Mark Hamill stated that he was driving a BMW, but, rumors are galore about his driving a Corvette. It is not known as to what model it was, but a lot of people say that it could also be a marketing trick inserted into the narrative later on as Hamill had shot another film later that year which was called Corvette Summer.

Wait A Minute, If His Face Was Distorted In ‘Empire’ Then What About Corvette Summer?

Assuming that Corvette Summer was shot after the accident in the same year, but, before the filming of The Empire Strikes Back, then any major facial injury suffered by Hamill would be visible in Corvette too. But, nothing was. This means his face might not have suffered any serious injury, to begin with. What made people think that he had suffered severe damage?

Hamill’s Severity of Injuries Depends on Who You Talk To

Since Carrie Fisher stated it on Blu-ray commentary that means that the late actress had believed Hamill’s injuries to be gruesome and even Lucas admitted that he thought Hamill’s face had a noticeable difference. However, according to Hamill, he only needed a minor reconstructive cheekbone surgery and some work on the nose. He later revealed how cartilage from his ear was used to remodel his nose, which means that the after-effects would have been noticeable.

The Star Wars Holiday Special Substantiated The Anecdotal Evidence For Hamill’s ‘Significant Damage’

The Star Wars Holiday Special is an infamous musical that was terribly made for TV and released in the winter of 1978. A lot of people said that Hamill put on a lot of makeup due to the injuries which took place nearly two years back. Some others criticized Hamill’s work and hinted that he was all drugged up due to painkillers.

The interesting add-on fact is that Boba Fett debuted in this trash can movie).

The Script Was Written One Year Before The ‘Empire’ Underwent Filming

Leigh Brackett had written Empire one year before the shooting started, but, it was written a year after the accident. What it sums up to? Not Sure. We can say that Lucas and team noticed the alteration to Hamill’s face and had to build-in the Wampa scene. We can also argue that his injuries should have been healed by the time the script was done. Therefore, there was no doubt that a change of on-screen appearance was not needed.

Does Hamill Look Really Different In The Two Films?

Not at all. If there is any variation, then it is very slight and could be age-related. There is no way that Hamill’s face was changed enough to warrant a sequence showing his face getting clawed by a monster.

The Answer Lies In The Timing Of The Theory’s Origin

The validity of the theory about Mark Hamill’s face can be tested by checking when the car accident related news came out. Say, someone saw Empire Strikes Back and asked, “Why is Luke’s face screwed up like that?” and has no idea about the accident, then we can say that the theory is nothing but an explanation added in retrospect. The more credible theory would be that people would know about the accident and then strain their brain figuring out the variation in his looks in Empire, and that would make them all believe that the Wampa scene was indeed staged to cover up the injury.

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