'Star Wars' star back on Broadway

Hamill plays dance instructor in comedy

— Try as you might, you'll have a hard time finding Mark Hamill's most famous acting job in his Playbill biography.

It's there, to be sure. You just have to examine the booklet a little harder. There, past Hamill's theater and movie credits, is the line: "He has earned international acclaim for his tireless efforts to thwart the Dark Side."

That wink and a nod is as close as Hamill gets to listing the role that forever changed his life: Luke Skywalker. As for the "Star Wars" films, they aren't noted at all.

"It throws off the bell curve," Hamill says during an interview at the Belasco Theater, where he's starring in a new Broadway play. "It throws off the way that you're graded because it can be your only frame of reference."

Hamill is 52 now and wants other parts of his resume to shine: the non-Jedi movies, his hundreds of cartoon voice-overs, his comic book work, the CD-ROMs and his Broadway stints. He wants to be known for more than just the guy with a light saber.

"It seems to me that it's semi-fraudulent for me to be still playing on it," he says. "It seems to me that I just owe the public new product. If I wanted to be a nostalgia artist, boy, I could embrace it wholeheartedly."

Hamill's newest product is "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks," a two-actor comedy written by Richard Alfieri that co-stars Polly Bergen as a formidable Florida retiree who hires an acerbic dance instructor, played by Hamill, for six weeks of lessons.

Though the two have a rocky start, they soon establish a witty camaraderie, sharing their lives between the swing, tango, Viennese waltz, fox-trot and cha-cha.

"Rarely do you read something where the characters so jump off the page," says Hamill. "Within two pages, you've established that he has anger-management problems and has no business dealing with the public, and she's just as salty and intractable as he is. That makes for great drama."

There's been drama offstage, too, as Hamill struggles with his footwork. "It's so frustrating because your body's not doing what your mind wants it to do. It doesn't come naturally to me, so I have to work 10 times as hard as anybody else to make it look effortless," he says, laughing.

Hamill was offered the role when the show made a stop at Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse. Arthur Allan Seidelman, the show's director, had worked with Hamill on the film "Walking Across Egypt" and remembered his earlier work.

"His is a story of an actor whose career was captured by one, enormous success -- and success in a genre where the effect is more important than the subtlety of the work," says Seidelman. "So people forgot that this is really a gifted actor."


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