When Mark Hamill accepted the role of Luke Skywalker in George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy, he had no idea that he was going to become a cultural icon of callow youth, raw courage, and true heroism. Hamill was born the son of a naval captain, one of nine brothers and sisters. Hamill spent much of his youth traveling to different bases in the U.S. and Japan. He was studying drama at Los Angeles City Drama when he landed his first professional acting role as a guest star on the television series The Bill Cosby Show. Between 1972 and 1973, Hamill played Kent Murray on the television soap General Hospital and also did guest appearances on other television shows and in TV movies. In 1974, Hamill co-starred in The Texas Wheelers, a down-home sitcom that only lasted a season. He made his screen debut in Star Wars (1977) and became such a big hit that he had trouble getting other types of roles.
Shortly before the release of Star Wars, Hamill was involved in a terrible car crash that resulted in surgeons having to reconstruct his face. Despite the enormity of Hamill's popularity in this film, he was unable to attain a lucrative film career like his co-star, Harrison Ford, perhaps because he too closely identified with Luke in viewers' minds to be seen as anyone else. Instead, Hamill appeared in films such as Corvette Summer (1978), The Big Red One (1980), and The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1980). Hamill tried his luck on and off-Broadway and won excellent reviews for his work, playing the leads in The Elephant Man and Amadeus.