As soon as the credits rolled, Star Wars fans began theorizing on just how Lucasfilm brought about the return of Luke's younger self and how much Mark Hamill was involved.
Hamill wasn't exactly pleased with how his iconic character was handled in Disney's Sequel Trilogy, but the actor was supportive of his character's return for The Mandalorian and said as much through his social media posts.
Now, several months separated from that now-iconic moment in the season finale, fans are learning more about Mark Hamill's role in returning young Luke Skywalker to that galaxy far, far away.
MARK HAMILL'S RETURN OF THE JEDI
In an interview with The Resistance Broadcast via ComicBook.com, VFX supervisor Hal Hickel pulled back the curtain on Mark Hamill's involvement. He said that it was "always important" to have Hamill "be involved with crafting the performance" and that the VFX team didn't just want to use "deep-fake" technology to replace a recast actor's face with Hamill's:
"That particular aspect of the effects of Season 2 is probably the thing I can talk about the least. But I will say this. One, it was always important for everyone involved to have Mark involved. So it’s not just like, ‘Well, we are recasting and we’ll deep-fake over him.’ Mark had to be involved with crafting the performance and he was. He was there on set when the scene was shot… he was totally involved all the way through."
Hickel also shared that the episode director Peyton Reed had experience with de-aging tech, which he used for Michael Douglas in Ant-Man:
"...so he [Peyton Reed] had worked with some folks in the process and everything for that, so that played a part into what we were doing and how we did that work. And it was part of the decision-making progress."
Now, de-aging technology is still new and improving. It can also be controversial at times. Therefore, using this tech for such a massive moment in Star Wars and for its fan base had to be done right. According to Hickel, he was "very much involved in giving feedback" on the de-aging process:
"Richard Bluff, who is the overall visual effects supervisor on The Mandalorian and myself, we were both very much involved in giving feedback on the work and presenting it to Jon [Favreau], and Peyton, and Dave [Filoni]. So those were the primary drivers on the work, Peyton’s experience with Ant-Man and Mark had to involved."
WHAT THE LUKE SKYWALKER CAMEO TELLS US
Hickel's statements are significant because Mark Hamill didn't have to be on set to pull off this important cameo. Lucasfilm has brought back younger versions of their characters through de-aging and the use of stand-in performers several times before.
Younger versions of Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia appeared in both Rogue One and The Rise of Skywalker (the latter due to a performance by her daughter Billie Lourd), and Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin also appeared in Rogue One despite the great actor having passed years prior.
The fact that Mark Hamill's presence and involvement was a high priority shows Lucasfilm was dedicated to bringing back young Luke as authentically as possible. It also sounds like they chose the final episode's director just for that reason
Since The Mandalorian is set just a few years after the events of Return of the Jedi, bringing back Luke Skywalker from the Original Trilogy era wasn't out of the realm of possibility. However, it seemed incredibly unlikely.
This is why Luke's appearance in the final episode was such a surprise and meant so much to the fan base, especially those who hoped for a little more of the Luke Skywalker they knew from the Original Trilogy films in this new era of Star Wars.
Hearing about Mark Hamill's involvement only makes the moment more powerful and meaningful, and it also shows Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni care just as much about the character as Mark and his fans do.