Face/Off? The squirrely legend of Mark Hamill’s car crash.

hamill composite

That, of course, is Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars movies, photographed in the late 1970s. (The image composite is by me; the photo on the left is by Allen Light, the photo on the right a publicity still from Star Wars). Almost every Star Wars geek, and a fair number of other people, have heard the legend of Mr. Hamill’s horrible car crash in the late 1970s. It was one of the first things I ever learned about the actor. Supposedly he had a terrible car wreck that somehow injured his face, but beyond that fact, exactly what happened–and how bad the accident was–seems to change depending on who and when you ask.

The legend repeated most often in my childhood was that Mr. Hamill’s wreck–invariably said to be a sports car, usually a Corvette–did such damage to his face that doctors had to rebuild his nose using cartilage from his ear. It is also often stated that Luke’s encounter with the ice monster at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back was intended, in part, to explain the facial scarring that he shows early in that film (or, alternately, to explain why he looks “different” in Empire than he did in Star Wars). I also read somewhere on the Internet that the accident occurred shortly before the filming of the Star Wars Holiday Special, and the injuries accounted for his strange appearance during that truly awful show (and/or the painkillers given to him account for his woozy, phoning-it-in performance).

I’ve had “Mark Hamill’s car crash” on my list of potential blog topics for months now. After doing some research on this, it appears that the actual truth of the episode is somewhat difficult to pin down. Let’s take it step by step.

Mark Hamill’s screen test for “Star Wars,” videotaped no later than early 1976. 

What does Mark Hamill say happened?

I could find only one specific quote from Mark Hamill about the accident, and it’s here, from an interview conducted in the late 70s. Here are his words, abridged:

What happened was that I was on the wrong freeway. 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. I fractured my nose and my cheek…. I read in magazines, “Mark Hamill almost killed in auto crash.” And what prose… “As he dragged himself from the wreckage… the flames were higher”… you know?… “his nose slid off his face.” And I’m going, “Wow, this is great! But I don’t remember it!”…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.

Beyond this, I found some quotes that purport to be Hamill talking, but you never know. The discussion of this subject at the Snopes.com message board attributes–without linking the actual proof–the following quotes to him. Important words in bold:

I had the accident way before Star Wars came out, but what really happened has been terribly distorted. I broke my nose, that’s it! But I’ve read accounts about how my face has been reconstructed with plastic surgery and how I was pulling myself along the highway with one arm looking for help. I even heard that I drove off a cliff! That’s the best one of all. (Attributed to an unidentified “fan magazine”)

The accident made hamburger out of my face. It took a lot of special effects at the hospital to put it back together again. Part of one ear was used to rebuild my nose. (Attributed to Dynamite magazine from 1978)

I certainly read the Dynamite interview–my sister subscribed to that magazine, and I suspect it’s one of the major sources of the legend.

Of course, it’s possible that these quotes could all be genuine, but that Mr. Hamill’s story has changed at different times. All we know is (a) that an accident took place, and (b) that there was some sort of injury to his face.

When did the accident occur?

There seems to be some dispute about when the accident happened. The interview I quoted first has this tidbit:

[T]he next day I was supposed to go do pick-up shots of the land scenes in Death Valley, for STAR WARS. They had a whole crew out there. The real professional in me felt that I had let down all of those people.

This would place the accident probably sometime in 1976. Star Wars came out in May 1977, so they would have been doing pick-up shots (basically, “do-overs” of shots that didn’t go well the first time) at the end of the previous year.

This jives with Hamill’s Internet Movie Database bio, which records the accident as having occurred in December 1976.

Yet Hamill’s own website seems at first glance to suggest that it happened later, because he says this:

He was in a car accident; specific parts of the wampa scene in The Empire Strikes Back, 1980, were written to explain the facial changes.

Note, however, that that isn’t inconsistent with the accident happening years earlier. (The Empire Strikes Back was filmed in early 1979). It does suggest that the damage was permanent enough to cause a noticeable difference between his appearance in the first and second movies.

I believe the accident happened in December 1976 or January 1977. That makes it extremely unlikely, therefore, that Mr. Hamill was still woozy on painkillers while making The Star Wars Holiday Special, which was broadcast in November 1978 and must have been filmed a few months before that. To the extent we can put any rumors to rest here, it seems we can dismiss that one.

Was he driving a Corvette?

I was unable to get any reliable information on what kind of car Mr. Hamill crashed in 1976. [Note: in the Update below, written after this article originally went live, I link a video in which Mr. Hamill identifies the car he was driving as a BMW). I think the part of the legend specifying that it was a Corvette stems from conflation. The next movie Mark Hamill made after Star Wars was a comedy called Corvette Summer, which featured (naturally) a Corvette sports car as a major plot point. I think people have put these things together. As per the update, it seems he was driving a BMW.

How bad was the accident?

This is the real question and the only answer I can give is, “I’m not sure.” Having doctors reconstruct your nose with cartilage from your ear–obviously that sounds really bad. But it might not be as bad as it sounds. Think about it, your ears aren’t really that big. A doctor can’t slice a very big chunk out of your ear without making it look like you’re missing part of it, right? How come Mark Hamill’s ears aren’t all screwed up? That suggests that if it is true, whatever they took from his ear must have been pretty small.

This video interview was obviously given after the release of Star Wars–so there is no question that it occurred after the accident. Contrast it with the “screen test” video above; there’s not very much difference in his face.

Personally I don’t notice any appreciable difference between his appearance in Star Wars (filmed prior to December 1976) and The Empire Strikes Back (filmed in 1979). Look at this photo from the original film, taken when Mr. Hamill was about 25. Then look at this one, taken about three years later from the second movie. If there’s a huge difference there, other than normal aging, I must be blind because I can’t see it.

Reading between the lines of Mr. Hamill’s interviews on the subject, it sounds like the crash was serious and the damage certainly noticeable and traumatic the time, but given how he looked in 1979 compared to pre-1977, I would tend to believe that it wasn’t the disfiguring catastrophe that the rumors suggest.

Why is this such a big deal?

It isn’t. Mr. Hamill certainly has had a long and interesting career since December 1976, and he will always be remembered for his part in the Star Wars movies. What did or did not happen to his face isn’t very consequential, but I find it really interesting that people still debate this topic, now nearly 40 years after it happened.

May the face–er, I mean, Force–be with you!


Readers of this blog continue to argue with me as if I’m utterly blind not to see any significant difference between Hamill’s appearance in 1976 (when Star Wars was filmed) and post-1977. The composite photo that appears at the top of this article compares two views of his face–but if you will read closely, what I said was that I don’t see any significant difference other than would be accounted for by aging and other normal changes. If there is a difference between how Mr. Hamill looked in 1978 and how he did in 1976, I would say that his eyes look “rounder” and his face looks fuller in the later period than he did previously. But so do I–and the change occurred in my mid-to-late 20s, the exact same age at which a similar change occurred in Mr. Hamill’s appearance, and I did not have a “disfiguring” car crash. Also you’ll notice that at times in the screen test video his eyes also have that “rounder” appearance. I really don’t think the facial changes attributable to the crash are very significant. If the YouTube videos I posted don’t demonstrate that, I don’t know what will.

In the unlikely case that you still can’t get enough to satisfy you on this issue, here is Mr. Hamill giving an interview circa 1980 (when The Empire Strikes Back came out) describing the crash in his own words. As you will hear, it was not a Corvette, but a BMW; the accident occurred in January 1977; and he makes no reference to being disfigured. He says his cheek bones were broken and the doctor “used the existing scars to build upon.” There is no reference to ear cartilage being used or anything else. Thanks to Treena (in the comments) for bringing this video to my attention.

Nevertheless, I continue to be amused by how passionate people are about this fairly trivial issue, and especially by the fact that there seems to be no conceivable way to put it to rest. People who think he looks tremendously different won’t be dissuaded from believing so; those who think otherwise (like me) are unpersuaded.

The photo composite at the top of this article includes a photo taken by Allen Light in 1978 and is used under Creative Commons 2.0 (Attribution) license. The other photo is, I believe, copyrighted (probably 1976) by Lucasfilm Ltd. As I searched but could not find a free-use image of Mr. Hamill known to be pre-1977, and his appearance is a subject of public interest, I believe my inclusion falls within fair use.

85 Comments on Face/Off? The squirrely legend of Mark Hamill’s car crash.

  1. Maybe it’s not Mark Hamill in The Empire Strikes Back ? Remember the ‘Paul is Dead’ conspiracy with all those crazy Beatles fans. It just might be Mark Hamill’s lookalike. Lol. Sean, definitely my favourite post for the week from you. Nice one !

  2. As if I needed a reminder of the Stars War Holiday Special. Sorry if I offend those who actually like it, but once really was enough.

    As far as actors and horrible car accidents that they survived, Montgomery Clift was involved in one while on location for Raintree County. Unfortunately in his case, it did have permanent consequences on his facial appearance, health and career.

  3. his nose looks a little different, that’s about all I can see

  4. The accident happened Jan. 11th 1977. He was driving a BMW. He broke his nose and left cheek bone. The wampa scars were built upon the real scars from the accident . Which he described as “eerie.” He did have surgery. I recently heard an interview he did back in 1980. He talks quite candidly about it.

    • Thanks. Do you have specifics on the interview, who it was with, what show, etc.? I’d love to find a transcript and pin down his exact words. Of course his own account of the accident as he told it in subsequent years may differ from how he told it in 1980 (which itself would be fascinating, if that’s the case).

    • I met Mark on February 14th 1978 and he had no scars on his face. I think the accident happened later than that.

      • No, it happened on the date stated. That information came from Rinzlers “Making of The Empire Strikes Back.” Mark was due to do pick up shots for ANH and was found by Gary Kurtz in hospital. I have heard audio of an interview Mark gave for ESB in which he states that the accident was January 1977.

  5. It was during interviews with journalist and it’s an audio recording. No idea who recorded it, but it’s during the publicity for The Empire Strikes Back. I have the audio file and listened to it only recently. The book “The Making of the Empire Strikes Back” briefly mentions the crash as does the biography channel’s biography on Mark – it can be found on Youtube. But the audiofile is the most candid discussion about it I have ever come across.

  6. He looks way different. His face change was so obvious for me (I watched the premier of the movie back in 1979 so I was not influenced by any comments or rumors) that I haven’t been able to watch the movies all together. I am happy that there are some people that don’t notice any change (my friends didn’t) so they can enjoy the movies.

  7. Brianakin // October 9, 2013 at 3:47 pm //

    Another interesting tidbit is how he looked in the various series of Star Wars trading cards released in 1977-78. There was the Blue, Red and Yellow series which to my knowledge featured only stills from the actual film. But starting with the Green series (I think), they added shots of the actors in various poses against a plain backdrop, and it was these pictures of Mark that first got me thinking, as a youngster back in ’77, “why does he look so different than he did in the movie?”.

    • That’s because the did some more publicity shots with the actors in costume after his accident.

  8. Nice piece. The most comprehensive article on the subject I’ve seen.

    I wonder if for the new SW movies, he’ll let his beard grow out. It would be in keeping with the other older Jedi characters in the SW films, mask a little of the injuries (as he has aged, I think the effects of the injuries have become more, rather than less noticable), and he actually looks pretty badass with a beard (see Slipstream, and some more recent bearded photos).

    Now, if only they could find some way to stop Carrie Fisher sounding like she’s had a stroke.

    And Harrison Ford too, for that matter.

  9. The ” I broke my nose, that’s it ” comment is from the star wars insider magazine interview of mark hamill from the early 2000s. It was the only I heard attributed to him about the accident.

  10. Kim Houtmeyers // November 25, 2013 at 1:42 pm //

    I think you see a huge difference in his nose and upper lip. It is because I noticed the difference in his face that I wanted to figure it out if something different happen or that I just saw ghosts. So thanks for this item, now I know I am not completely insane :-)

  11. whitelion(Drew) // November 26, 2013 at 6:52 pm //

    Thanks man bottom line is that facts dont lie and you have what you need to prove that you have your facts so thanks btw this was my first time seeing your website good stuff dont stray away from facts bro…..could i send you some stuff i have researched and you could post them or something thanls man have a happy thanksgiving

  12. Jimmy Jackson // December 2, 2013 at 10:30 am //

    Great research; nice to see a clear analysis of this after there are so many other fragmented stories out there.

    One reason I do think this topic is still interesting is because it may or may not lend some meaning as to why Hamill never really pursued many films after the Star Wars series (yes, I know he was in a few), but rather has done a tremendous amount of voice acting for animation/games.

    The second photo you show certainly does make a case for him not looking a whole lot different, except maybe the nose… But other photos seem to suggest the scaring was really more analogous to how he looks at the beginning of TESB. It’s almost as epic as the Paul McCarthney myth, ha. I sure wish Hamill or Lucas would just lay it all out some day for the fans.

    • Jimmy Jackson // December 2, 2013 at 10:34 am //

      Also, I find your remark about painkillers interesting. Given his retraction from public sight, etc, I’ve always kind of wondered whether he has been a life-long painkiller addict; a pretty common thing these days, especially for those who have surgery and money/access to it.

  13. It’s such a tragic story, – his career would skyrocket and he would be 80’s Brad Pit, and tought guys roles would work for him just ok. There was some talking about his facial expresion/mimic problems and painkillers what affected him. I could agree on facial close ups in movies, they don’t work, in Corvette Summer it’s is perfectly noticable – in Star Wars 5 and 6 light and shade game, angles from witch he is filmed all is to mask and make not so obvious changes. It is really dramatic and sad story. When I found answer question what bothered me what have hapened to this person, he’s different, i got so sad, espetially watchin Star Wars ontology how it all began, with what exaltation and adventurous feeling about living life what was dreamed. Tragic really tragic.
    Those who don’t agree that this is the reason why he went to drama theatre and then to voice acting, there is no other explanation, Fishers problem was drugs, so all this Lucas fame frame on their further acting carrier is such a bulshit. But if it is too sad and uncomfortable to accept this really unfortunate fate, thats ok – don’t. But this accident changed a lot. Personally when I’m looking on his later pictures and videos (after accident) that person is different – the crash changed him, gave that dramatic storyline underly, his atdittude was different in interviews. I really admire how he have pulled together his life accepting fate. His familly, his brother went emotional on this subject in M. Hamills biography, letting to face the inside drama what actually was going on under, how he find a solution for his career by going to New York to act in Brodway, and that speaking about different caracters he wanted to play.. It’s all just was icebergs smallest viewable part of true storry, how loosing his face changed him, scared him eventually leading to Joker, person who was scared too.
    And now possible return to Star Wars is so perfect, he has much wisdom from his own life how to deal with looses, staying on side of good, to reflect so truly why Luke Skywalker is not his father Dart Vader, he didn’t brake in movie and in life hodled his grip too. Maybe sounds lame, but Star Wars is Big deal in mant of involved in filming lives.

    Link to biography video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AyHZyf0tcM

  14. The story I heard was that he was in the pilot for Eight Is Enough, and it was ordered to series..but by then Mark saw that Star Wars was going to be a big smash and he saw a major movie career for himself. He attempted to get in a minor accident to get out of the series, which was about to begin shooting, but it went awry.

  15. I totally disagree that his face looks the same. In 1976 his nose looked straighter and his whole face had more symmetry (meaning that both sides of his face, if split down the middle, vertically, more more identical. Later, after the accident, his nose looks like it’s bending to the right and almost compressed looking compared to how it was before.


  16. Agree with you: it looks like normal aging and a different camera angle to me. Possibly a broken nose. Certainly not enough difference to justify all the overwrought mourning over his destroyed career that I’m reading in the comments here.

    • Thank you. I realize I’m in the minority, but I really don’t see an appreciable difference between his face in 1976 and in 1979. I think the folks who are insisting there’s a huge difference are seeing what they want to see–sort of a Rorschach test writ large in the living flesh of an actor’s face. As such it’s an interesting foray into crowd psychology, if nothing else.

      My own surmise is that the accident and the damage to Mr. Hamill’s face looked horrendous at the time, but faded into relative inobscurity as years went on. I certainly see no major difference in his appearance. As I state in the article, the key fact is not his face, but his ears. If the accident was really as bad as some of the commenters here claim it is, why is there no appreciable difference in Mr. Hamill’s ears, which are universally said to be the source of the cartilage with which they “rebuilt” his face?

      Tempest in a teapot, methinks. But again, the majority of commenters seem to think otherwise. I wasn’t there so I don’t know, but then again, who does know, aside from Mr. Hamill and his plastic surgeon?

      • I’m rather late here, but: I noticed, and in my country there were no stories whatsoever, none that I had noticed anyway, about him having had some accident between the two films. When I first saw Empire I remember feeling quite puzzled why Luke was now so different looking, and for years I tried to find some explanation. It took until Internet got well past its infancy before I did.

        So no projection because I had no idea. I assumed some sort of accident from the differences, not the other way around.

        But then I have always been visually oriented. I’m also a decent amateur artist, and have been doing art my whole life. And when learning to paint and draw from life and aiming for as photorealistic as possible one of the things you need to learn is how to really see it, first (and that can be much harder than it perhaps sounds like). So I suppose it’s that. Some of us see the details better than others.

  17. All I got to say is thanks for bringing up this discussion. I was 10yrs old in ’76 and he was one of my idols. I saw ReturnOfTheJedi 8x in a row. Thanx for the memories.

  18. I noticed a difference in ROTJ. It seemed like his jaw on one side of his face was off kilter, so to speak. It didn’t matter though. He was still idol material to me, or, at least his character was.

  19. Thanks so much I have been looking for this kind of thing for ever. :-D
    1 more thing, can u look and c if it has a effects how he looks today? Thanks :-)

  20. Karen Tj // March 18, 2014 at 6:18 pm //

    I met him in August 1977 at the Actors and Others for Animals Celebrity Fair and had a couple pictures taken with him. I don’t recall him looking any different from the original Star Wars at that time. I think the accident was after August 77. By the way, he was super nice, especially important because Star Wars had recently been released and he could have gotten a big head I recall saying something to him teen-girl like, “You’re awesome, but I bet everyone tells you that.” And he responded something along the lines of, “But it’s not the same, as it came from you” implying that even if many others are singing his praises, he appreciated hearing it.

    • Great story! Thanks for sharing. If you met him in August 1977 and you didn’t notice anything different, I think this should put to rest many of the rumors about the long-term severity of his injuries. Every account I’ve heard–as well as Mr. Hamill’s own accounts–place the accident as occurring before the release of Star Wars, which came out on May 25, 1977. Therefore, I think it’s probably extremely likely that the accident had happened before you met him.

      I’ve also heard he is an extremely nice man in real life.

  21. My take on this whole issue is that the car crash is a coverup of the real story. I think he was out partying and got beat up really bad, a car crash cover story is much more innocent and better for the press. Other than that, yes his appearance and face structure is UTTERLY DIFFERENT than it was in Star Wars. In Star Wars, Hamill had blue eyes and looked much more fresh faced and Californian like a young Peter Cetera or Ric Flair. In Empire it even looks like his eyes are darker in color, completely differrent cheeks, flattter wider nose, and more and more in Empire Stikes Back looking extemely like Mick Jagger form the Rolling Stones. I’ve heard that Mark Hamill was a huge Stones fan and maybe he wanted to look more like Mick Jagger for a potential biopic.

  22. I’m watching the Big Red One that came out in 1980. Can’t find when it was filmed but Mark Hamill is in it and looks like the Star Wars Mark Hamill and not the frog looking guy from Empire Strikes Back and Jedi.

  23. The crash in his own words. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=c_U4KLvScyQ from an ESB interview.

    • Well… that seems pretty conclusive. Certainly the timeline is set in stone, though the severity of the injuries might still be up for grabs. Talking about building on existing scars for the fake scars does tell a lot though. Thanks for taking the time to upload, it should really be linked to in the article above!

  24. Curious Cat // April 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm //

    I’m curious if the “facial rebuild” was on the same side of the face as the wound in Empire Strikes Back. Also, noting that when a person has a broken nose, the blackened eyes can be quite dramatic. Mark could have been in shock when he first saw his wounds, prompting him to think his career in film would be at an end. Hmmm…

  25. It’s sad especially for a young actor to have facial damage and scars. It seems to enhance some actors careers to have scars and a rough face. Mark couldn’t make that transition. He also looks a lot like retired boxer Bobby Czyz after the accident. Czyz is a member of Mensa by the way.

  26. In the before and after pictures, his nose is obviously bigger afterwards, and shaped differently. His lips are also bigger.

  27. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned his teeth in ESB. They’re huge,especially noticeable in the scene just after DV tells him he is his father. And perfect too. Never saw such huge teeth in ANH.
    As a lad back in 1980 I noticed immediately that Hamill looked different. However, I reckon a lot of this difference could , apart from the teeth/nose/scarring/accident thing , also be down to the hairstyle he sports in Empire. Take a look at how haircuts change people’s appearance – sometimes dramatically. In Mr Hamill’s case this enhances the differences we can immediately see in his appearance . Just look at his hairstyle in Jedi and how it changes his appearance again, even though facially he is almost identical to how he was in Empire. Same with Ford and Fisher.
    ALTHOUGH…………….the biggest transformation is with Yoda.Have you noticed how scrawny he is in Empire compared to how he looked in Revenge of the Sith ?
    He’s practically anorexic. But nobody mentions Yoda.AND I’ve not seen HIM in any other films other than the SW franchise, so it could be argued that Yoda’s career was the most affected by the Star wars films. LOL !!

  28. I grew up with Mark….knew him all through high school and Jr. College, LACC…The accident was horrific….he went off a cliff…and his face was never the same…For me he lost his unique handsome nose and face shape….he was such a beautiful young guy….really to die for….you can see the effects as he ages…

  29. This was the first job he ever got…both of these guys were friends of mine. John Savage especially during a certain time in LA….We were so proud of Mark for landing this job…..you can see clearly, his nose had a roman not a ski ramp shape to it….he almost died in that accident….it was a miracle he survived…

  30. Mark Hamills face look different after spring of 1978. don’t take my word for it. Just look at the academy awards in 1978 and then the Star Wars holiday special in fall of 1978. His face looks swollen and bruised also very plastic. His face deteriorated after 1980.

    • But the accident occurred in December 1976 or January 1977, so facial changes in 1978 must have been caused by something else (i.e., normal aging and weight gain).

  31. From a superficial point of view, I notice that something is different because in the first film he was such a beauty. A very pretty actor. And I remember watching the second one and thinking that was not possible that I had thought he was pretty. After I heard about the accident, all made sense. Now watching the films together, you can see his nose had a drastic change. But that’s not something that a men would notice.

  32. I wouldn’t say I see a big difference between how he looks in Star Wars (sorry I can’t call it A New Hope) and how he looks in Empire. But as a 13 year old I did notice a dramatic change for his appearance in Jedi. I remember thinking “Is THAT Luke??”. I guess by this time I’d seen Star Wars on HBO a few times so the difference was jarring.

  33. Randomreader // July 4, 2014 at 10:55 am //

    First to the blog poster, nice work. I always wondered why there was never a concrete answer about Mark Hamill’s accident and your post pretty much sums it up. Various conflicting accounts.

    General comment to everyone:

    There is an obvious difference between his face before The Empire Strikes Back, and after. Admitting that doesn’t make you a bad person or less of a Star Wars fan or anything like that. Look at any of your favorite actors/actresses a few years after you first saw them. If they didn’t have any major facial surgery, they look the same. Mark did, that’s why he looks noticeably different.

    If that accident never happened Mark’s career would have been very different. For one thing it would have sped up the production of the last two films because he wouldn’t have been recovering at certain periods. He also may have gotten cast in other films. I’m not trying to be disrespectful at all because Mark Hamill has been nothing but kind to people over the course of his career, but Hollywood is sadly very much about looks.

    Who was the surgeon who reconstructed his face? Has anyone ever talked to him or her? Obviously doctir patient privilege would limit what could be discussed, but you never know.

  34. Interesting that some of you can see changes and some not. As some humans actually have face blindness I’d imagine that this is just indicative of the spectrum of detail recognising skills. I think some people just see more than others – because of how their brains are wired.

    • Patrick // July 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm //

      I find it interesting how the people who do see a horrific difference assume that they’re the ones who are right.

      • I honestly see very little difference in his face between 1976 and 1980 other than the changes you’d expect from normal aging. The most different feature of his face appears to be his eyes, but none of the urban legends about the post-crash patch-up talk about his eyes or eye sockets being affected–therefore, that change probably has little to do with the crash. I’m continually amazed by folks who insist that he doesn’t even look like the same person. I think it’s a Rorschach test sort of thing–if you want to see a big difference, you’ll find it.

    • That’s very interesting. I didn’t know this condition existed. Curious, though, I read the article and I don’t have any of those symptoms.

      • I’d imagine there’s some kind of continuum we all exist on for visual skills. All seeing things a little differently but not quite the same, but we don’t know because we only have our own visual experience.

        There is a story about a meeting between Oliver Sachs who has face blindness and I think Salman Rushdie (might be wrong person/so someone well known) who also had face blindness, and they had to arrange to wear a carnation in the buttonhole sor something so they knew who the other one was…ha.

        Very odd to have it in an extreme way. To not recognise yourself!

  35. He is completely different: deep look before accident, duck face after accident; see here:

  36. There was a show in the UK called Bring back….Not much detail is given about the crash over than an interview with Peter Mayhew who says Mark Hamill he crashed his car into a telegraph pole.

  37. Mark was on the Michael Douglas show once (the video’s on YouTube) and it was aired on July, 1977, so after the supposedly date of the accident! but he looked pretty much the same as he did in ANH…. Just check the vid out :)

    • Thank you for showing this… IMO, this is post-accident (which is in line with an earlier comment from someone saying they heard Mark talking about how his accident was January 11, 1977). His face looks different to me.

      Just a general comment in line with what a lot of people are saying here: I’ve done a lot of research in visual perception and how it varies from person to person. NO ONE sees the same thing the exact same way. EVERYONE has their own perception of what something looks like, and that varies from what others see. Some times the differences are huge (in terms of some colors being more obvious to some people than others) but most of the time the differences are so miniscule you can’t perceive them. If you think about it, we all rely on some very sensitive equipment (rods and cones in our eyes) to determine what things look like. That’s literally hundreds of millions of components that work together in order bring us what we see. The smallest variance can make a big difference. Therefore, I don’t think anyone here is “wrong” when they say they don’t see any difference—- just like I don’t think I’m necessarily “right” when I say I do.

      That being said, the way my mind perceives it— post-accident there is a difference in his bone structure which makes his eyes and nose seem to be a bit more sunken into his face than they were before. Just my perception, though. I realize others might not see it the same way.

      • True, in the vid he doesn’t look exactly the same as he did in ANH, but if you look closely you can see that his nose still has that roman shape although it’s slightly smaller….but in ESB his nose is completely different…the vid seems like some sort of in-between stage to me…he looks like a mixture of his appearance in ANH and ESB :p

    • [Moderator Edit–photos in this comment were already posted in a previous comment, scroll up to see]

      See difference here

    • Here is original face… before accident.

  38. That is so interesting to hear he had that accident because, like pohjalainen above, back in the 80s we (in Europe) never got that much information from our movie stars like nowadays. I didn’t know that he had an accident until I read your interesting article and all the reader’s comments!!

    And also I always thought he looked way different in Empire. The best evidence is his nose. As his friend Lenore (above) wrote, he had a roman shaped nose before and later that ski-ramped shape. That is very obvious. Also he had a very symmetric face and it was definitely asymmetrical after the crash. The left side of his face changed dramatically, his eyes looked different and the upper lip changed also. His facial expression changed completely and was not the same anymore.

    Not that I adore him less because of that but I am of the same opinion of the people who noticed the change of his looks. However I am totally glad to hear that he will be in Episode VII and has grown a Jedi beard already. I saw that instagram foto of him and “Lava Bear” and he looks so cool and much like the old and wise Jedi version of Luke that it made me instantly wanting to see Ep VII very badly now. ;)


  39. We bought the set of Star Wars films. We have just watched them in order of story line. The children and I noticed STRAIGHT AWAY that Luke’s face was heaps different. I kept wondering how he got to look so different because it couldn’t be just age. He was good looking in the first movie (IV) and I remember at school all the girls were crazy about him. In the next two movies he looked so different it felt strange to watch the film and I felt that the acting was different too, and his hair looked like a wig. It’s made me get straight onto the internet to see why he looks so different. Glad I found this blog. Now I actually remember something being said at school about “the guy who plays Luke Skywalker has had an accident and smashed up his face and he’ll never work again”. I had completely forgotten all about it. It was a long time ago though. I can even picture the pal from school telling everyone like it was massive news. Well, it’s sad that he got hurt and the school girls didn’t fancy him anymore, but good news that he still was able to carry on with his career. Star Wars is great family entertainment, we love it.

  40. He looks completely different. Dude was hot in the first Star Wars movie and then looked like a frog or igor or the hunchback from Notre Dame in ESB and ROJ.
    His nose looks like it was punched into his face and his eyes are bug eyed in ESB and ROJ. People must be blind and in denial not to see any difference. All the girls certainly noticed that he went from hot to not hot in a period of 2 years.

    • I have never maintained that there isn’t any significant difference in his appearance; what is clearly questionable is whether such differences are attributable to the car crash. The first video I posted in the update clearly shows that what you term the “bug eyed” appearance was visible in 1976 before the crash, which means it could not have been caused by his injuries. The shape of his nose pre- to post-1976 is not significantly different. Harrison Ford also looks significantly different in 1979 (when TESB was filmed) from his 1976 appearance, and even more so in 1983 by the time ROTJ came out. I think there’s enough evidence here to make it at least arguable that the differences in Mr. Hamill’s appearance are more a result of normal aging than they are the mostly-mythical results of his car crash. Just my 2 cents, though; I have, as you’ll see from previous comments, already been accused of various psychological conditions by people insisting that in 1979 he looked nothing like he did in 1976. I maintain it’s a Rohrschach test in any event: people see what they want to see. Thanks for your comment, though.

      • He is completely different after accident. Because of you know he is the same person you have the illusion there are no evidences of changing but it’s only your mind which gives a false impression. he was a pretty boy before accident becoming ugly after accident, also if it’s not important appearance in acting. Firs time I saw Empire Strike Back I assumed Mark Hamill was replaced by another actor making it similarly but it was really him and I was disturbed. they made a bade job rebuilding his face.

      • I disagree completely, and in any event you’re not correctly characterizing what I’ve said about him. Is there a difference in his face? Sure. He was three years older when he made TESB. The changes in his face–which are fairly minor–are, I believe, mostly attributable to normal aging. I have yet to see any significant difference that can conclusively be attributed to the crash injuries. It’s just not there. “Becoming ugly after accident…” This is nonsense, and also pretty demeaning to Mark Hamill, in my view. The whole controversy, to the extent there is one, is a tempest in a teapot. Listen to the interview linked in the final YouTube video here, where Mr. Hamill himself sets the record straight. I don’t think enough of the people who’ve commented here have done that.

      • Hey this pic is just 1977 just after accident do you note dome differences on previous pics and original face? 1977 before and 1977 after!?

      • Surgeons made a disaster!
        this pic is before accident in 1977: his face appears totally different after; it’s not question of age… it’s question of surgery rebuilding face.

      • I think you should go back and re-read the comment I posted in response to you earlier, as my position is made very clear there. Thanks!

      • Definitely not aging. It is car crash and above all: PLASTIC SURGERY. He did a nose job that is 100% sure. Maybe the accident was not that bad after all.

  41. As Eily and Lenore mentioned, and others have also posted, it’s not just a broken nose but an entire spectrum of facial asymmetry, including bulging eyes, sunken cheeks, drooping facial muscles, even his chin looks different than in Star Wars and there is a loss of facial fat that usually occurs when someone is much older. Again, am a fan so don’t take this wrong, but could there have been facial or plastic surgery even before his car accident? Many good looking people have had bad advice and had surgery that made their appearance worse. Also, there could also be damaged nerves and paralysis explaining the strange change in appearance. So surgery with paralysis, a car crash, possible substance abuse, trauma from an altercation, could all be speculation as to what happened.

    • Goodness, Fantasy really has taken over. Never, outside of these types of forums has it ever been suggested that Mark abused substances. It is a horrible and careless suggestion/accusation. Seriously, folks… They guy had a bad car accident he broke his nose and left cheek bone and has a few facial scars. He had surgery to repair that damage. That’s it! There is an audio recording posted in a comment by myself of Mark himself describing what happened. There is his biography on YouTube describing what happened, the Rinzler books The Making of Star Wars and The Making of the Empire Strikes Back telling what happened. Is the truth not fanciful enough for you? That stuff needs made up? Surely this needs put to rest now….

      • Thank you, Treena. I think it’s clear that there is very little evidence to contradict Mr. Hamill’s own statements of what happened, which indicate that the damage to his face was not nearly as bad as various commenters here have suggested. And certainly there is zero evidence to suggest that he was a substance abuser, whether in connection with the accident (painkillers) or not.

  42. Thanks for the post. I was curious about this and glad to find someone did the research on it. I’m not surprised it’s much ado about nothing, as so many things that get overblow in the popular consciousness and the media. I agree that most of the differences in appearance seem to be do to aging. In some of the photos from different Star Wars movies, where people find the changes to be so obvious, they’re ignoring that there’s a six year period between Star Wars and The Return of the Jedi. You can age a lot in six years, the difference between being 25 or 26 and 32 can be considerable. Hamill’s face merely seems to have filled out and softened.

    That aside, you make a mistake with respect to the video you post in your update at the end, where Hamill discusses the crash in an interview. You mistakeningly state that in the interview Hamill is saying that the doctor after the crash used existing scars on Hamill’s face to repair it. You also misquote the precise words Hamill says in the recording.

    If you listen closely to the interviewer at the end of the YouTube, he is asking Hamill about a scene (in a movie I assume) in which he has been apparently tortured and has cuts on his face. Hamill responds that it was eerie to have the make up cuts on his face, because it was reminiscent of the crash and elaborates that the makeup artist used the existing scars from the crash to make the fake cuts for the scene. If you pay attention to the context of what’s being said, it’s pretty clear that’s the meaning of of Hamill’s “used a lot of the real scars” comment.

    Interviewer: “I thought of all the times when you’re sitting with your face cut, it must…”

    Hamill: “It was eerie, yeah it was really eerie. And he used a lot of the real scars to build upon.”

  43. His nose looks clearly flatter in the post accident images and his lips looks a bit different too, at least in the top lip.
    In the Christmas Special and other TV appearances and interviews after the accident it seems he’s been heavily makeup with greasepaint to cover the scars.
    That’s why he probably looks ok in certain post-car crash images and not so ok in others (when he’s without makeup), like in most recent times when you can see the scars especially on his nose.

  44. You also wrote is not possible he was still on pain-killers during the Holiday special of 1978 but I know some persons that have become dependent on pain killers for the rest of their lives especially after traumatic injuries.

  45. I found this blog today. Its almost Christmas 2014, my teenage son decided he wanted to watch Star Wars for the first time. I saw it as a teenager when it first came out…fantastic. So we watched the first Star Wars, then the next day the second Star Wars. one after the other. There is NO Doubt. Mark Hamil has had MAJOR Plastic Surgery between the two movies. I believe he saw himself on the big screen in 1977, and blew a gasket about how “Big” his Roman nose looked on screen, and the obvious craziness of surgery that followed. I should know, I also have a Roman nose (like Julius Caesar). When you watch the movies, back to back, Mr Hamil looks SO different you could be mistaken for thinking its a different guy, my son even queried the difference. His nose, Lips pumped, eyes widened etc etc…he has had major work. Whether he had an accident or not is open to urban legend now. Its convenient that he was on “Some” highway, “Somewhere”….it doesnt matter I almost died..etc etc. I would think the “Accident” was 1970s “Studio” spin on the Plastic surgery mistake.
    But, there is no doubt his face was chopped and changed, and the worst part is, poor old Micheal J probably saw this in 1979, and thought he would have a go, because Mark Hamil now had a cute nose…..Micheals surgery also started in 79-80….for a blocked sinus you know (not a car accident this time…that had already been used).
    Anyway, thanks Mark Hamil for the great memories.

  46. charlesamiller // December 20, 2014 at 12:10 pm //

    I followed the Star Wars films very closely in the 1970s and 80s (I was 17 when Episode IV premiered); and, long before I heard or read about the car crash, I realized that there was something VERY different about Mark’s face in Episode V. I remember wondering what the hell had happened to his upper lip, which seemed puffy and perhaps a little paralyzed…this is especially noticeable in the “No! That’s IMPOSSIBLE!” sequence between Luke and Darth — arguably the ugliest close-up of Mark Hamill EVER. You can SEE obvious damage to his upper lip in that sequence, if not a bit of paralysis. So, if anything, I think Mark’s facial damage was MORE EXTENSIVE than ever reported, played down by Lucasfilm and Mark’s public relations people

    • That’s an interesting theory (the facial damage being downplayed) but I don’t see the logic in it. What would either Lucasfilm or Mr. Hamill’s PR people have to gain by hiding or downplaying the injuries? “The Empire Strikes Back” was the sequel to the biggest film ever made. It did not depend on Hamill’s star power or his appearance to draw in audiences. It’s not like people were not going to go see it because they heard Hamill looked different. Indeed, that might actually increase buzz for the picture, not hurt it. Indeed, even if his injuries were extremely noticeable, what incentive would Mark Hamill have to hide it? He wasn’t disfigured or anything even remotely close. He went on to have a successful acting career, especially on Broadway, so the results of the crash have obviously had no significant effect on his bankability as a star (beyond his somewhat questionable ability to carry the lead in a blockbuster picture, which obviously has far more to do with his acting ability than the appearance of his face). It’s much more logical that the crash was what it was, his face healed and he got on with his life, than it is that he or anybody else was trying to hide anything about it. There’s simply nothing to hide here and no reason to do so.

  47. The most remarkable part of this conversation for me is that the folks who see a big difference assume the rest of us must have some kind of brain disorder, and reject out of hand the idea that they might be the ones giving unwarranted significance to small differences.

    Look: nobody is saying he looks the same after the accident. He definitely looks different. What I think Sean is saying (and I agree) is that the differences visible in most pictures is not much beyond what could be attributed to normal aging, different lighting, and different camera angles.

    Let’s play this game with Jon Hamm, shall we? Check out these two pics — I’ll call them Before and After.

    Before: http://hellogiggles.hellogiggles.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/28/Jon-Hamm.jpg
    After: http://images.askmen.com/photos/2008-afi-awards-luncheon-january-11-2008/37853.jpg

    It’s obvious that he has had major facial damage in between these two pictures. In the After picture, his nose is clearly wider and flatter; he has additional creases on the sides of his nose that weren’t there before; and his Adam’s apple has moved over at least an inch to the right. He is also clearly growing a beard to hide the fact that his jaw is wider than before the accident.

  48. Let’s do Steve Buscemi! (Here’s a guy who I guarantee you has had no cosmetic surgery, because his career is based on his look.)

    Before: http://www.moviestarspicture.com/photos/steve-buscemi/Steve-Buscemi-young.jpg
    After: http://iv1.lisimg.com/image/1532224/600full-steve-buscemi.jpg

    Obviously his brow ridge has been shaved back, and his eyes protrude more than they used to, but the most alarming change is that they have clearly moved his ears! They now extend clearly down past the tip of his nose, and they never did before!

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