Mark Hamill: From Williamsburg to Tatooine to the red carpet

Mike Holtzclaw
Contact Reportermholtzclaw@dailypress.com

It was nothing much — just two guys running into each other in Southern California who had both attended Walsingham Academy in Williamsburg.

Except, it was Monday's red-carpet premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," and one of the two guys was Mark Hamill, who was a first-grader at Walsingham in 1957-58 — about 20 years before he stepped into the Jedi robes of novice knight Luke Skywalker.

The other guy was Mark Ellis, a 1998 Walsingham grad who now works as a stand-up comic and podcast movie critic in Southern California.

"I had always heard rumors that he was (at Walsingham) in first or second grade," Ellis says. "I am a monster 'Star Wars' fan, and Luke Skywalker is still my hero of all heroes in the galaxy. Probably my parents should have used that to sell me on going to Walsingham, because when I was little I was not too high on wearing the uniform."

Hamill was born in Oakland, Calif., the son of a Navy officer (who, as far as we know, never turned to the Dark Side). After a transfer to Virginia, young Mark Hamill spent a partial school year at Walsingham before the family relocated to Northern Virginia. Robin Strup, marketing director for Walsingham, said Hamill arrived too late for first-grade photo day, so he does not appear in the school's yearbook. He ultimately ended up at Annandale High School in Fairfax.

Earlier this year, Hamill called in to Ellis' "Schmoes Know" movie podcast to talk about his small role in "Kingsman: Secret Service." Naturally enough, they also chatted a bit about the upcoming "Star Wars" sequel. Time was tight, and Ellis didn't take the opportunity to ask his guest about Walsingham.

Flash forward to Monday, to the world premiere of "The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. Ellis, representing his podcast on the red carpet, spotted Hamill and went over to introduce himself.

"The best part," Ellis says, "is that he saw me and immediately say, 'Oh, you're Mark from 'Schmoes Know.'' When Mark Hamill recognizes you on the red carpet, that's a surreal moment. That's a bucket list kind of moment for me."

A quick selfie was snapped and duly tweeted, but there wasn't much time to talk.

"But I promise everyone back in Williamsburg," Ellis says, "next time I will definitely ask him about his days at Walsingham. I'm sure he has fond memories. I promise I'll ask him next time."

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" opens Thursday night at theaters all around Hampton Roads.

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