Back Pearl Comic Book Optioned

May 17, 2010 Luke Skywalker is crossing over to the directing side.

Mark Hamill, who played Skywalker in the original three “Star Wars” films, said Monday he plans to direct “Black Pearl,” a low-budget thriller adapted from his comic book about a mentally troubled masked vigilante.

“It’s kind of daunting,” said Hamill, 58, who previously directed a straight-to-video movie but is making his first try at the big screen. “The pendulum swings from great confidence to what did I get myself into? But I want to. This is going to be really a culmination of years and years of wish fulfillment on my part.”

“Black Pearl” is one of three movies on the inaugural slate of Berkeley Square Films, a production company for which Hamill is a board member. Hamill discussed the project at the Cannes Film Festival, sitting alongside his cousin and writing partner on the comic book, Eric Johnson, and Berkeley Square partner Paul Tamasy, both of whom co-wrote the screenplay with him.

Hamill and Johnson originally wrote “Black Pearl” as a script, but Dark Horse Comics took an interest and asked them to turn it into a graphic novel.

The comic book follows an ordinary man named Luther Drake, who saves a woman from abduction then finds himself at the center of a media frenzy as he steps into the role of costumed crusader for justice.

Johnson said the filmmakers have a short list of actors to play Luther, but the lead has not yet been cast for “Black Pearl,” which Hamill hopes to begin shooting late this year.

“The person who plays Luther is the movie,” Hamill said. “I have a feeling that we’re looking for kismet, for the right guy to understand what we’re trying to do and say, ‘I’ve got to play this part.’”

Hamill said he does not intend to appear in the movie himself.

“That would be distracting to me,” Hamill said. “I don’t want people to go, ‘Oh, look, there’s the gratuitous cameo thing by the egomaniac.’ I mean, I might work on it in voiceover, where you don’t know it’s me, but that would be as a producer, saving some money.”

A comics fan since boyhood, Hamill has done many voice roles for superhero TV cartoons.

While his “Star Wars” celebrity helped him land parts in such movies as the teen comedy “Corvette Summer” and the war saga “The Big Red One” in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Hamill generally found himself typecast as Luke, the science-fiction epic’s young hero destined to bring down an evil empire and restore his villainous father’s honor.

“What happened to me, happened to me. I remember reading about the Beatles. They asked George Harrison, ‘what was it like to be in the Beatles?’ He went, ‘What was it like not to be in the Beatles?’” Hamill said. “It happened so quickly, I don’t think I had a chance to sort of develop a sense of entitlement, like, I should now be an A-list action star. I wasn’t really that interested. I was kind of taking it as it comes. …

“I don’t think about that project unless it’s pushed in my face, because it’s done. It had a beginning, a middle and end, and I don’t even think of it in terms of prequels and cartoons and ‘Clone Wars.’ I’m not involved in it. It doesn’t feel like my family any more. It’s like asking a Mouseketeer, ‘What do you think about the Epcot Center?’”

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