Compounding the frustrated resentment of fans who couldn’t get tickets to Jason Reitman’s sold-out live script reading for The Empire Strikes Back is the news that Mark Hamill was the evening’s surprise guest. As The Wrap reports, Reitman welcomed his previously announced cast to Los Angeles’ Ace Hotel Theater last night, which included Aaron Paul (Luke), Dennis Haysbert (Lando), Stephen Merchant (C-3PO), Kevin Pollak (Yoda), Ellen Page (Han), and Jessica Alba (Leia). Reading the part of Dark Lord of the Sith was J.K. Simmons, who was introduced with an escort of Stormtroopers, and somebody else dressed up as Darth Vader (probably because Simmons draws the line at cosplay when it comes to Star Wars).
Obeying appropriate fan service protocol, Reitman then stoked the audience’s enthusiasm by noting that the cast appeared incomplete, trotting out Rainn Wilson as the evening’s Chewbacca. Reitman then did something that no Sith Lord has been capable of doing (yet): pulling Mark Hamill over to the Dark Side. And if you felt a disturbance in the Force yesterday evening, it was likely caused by fans erupting in a frenzy as Luke Skywalker was transformed, for one night only, into both Emperor Palpatine and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
No stranger to voice work, Hamill reportedly did crowd-pleasing impressions of Alec Guinness and Clive Revill, the original Kenobi and Palpatine, respectively. Other highlights included Wilson providing lightsaber effects, Pollak’s uncanny Yoda impression, and Reitman himself contributing R2-D2’s signature bleeps, bloops, and snarky whistles. There was also the moment many—and in particular, one dude in the audience—was waiting for: Han and Leia’s goodbye kiss.
Unlike previous script reads, like his all-black Reservoir Dogs and all-female Glengarry Glen Ross, the casting wasn’t really meant to shake things up (although Darth Vader was once Han Solo’s father). Instead, this was about giving the audience a reading that was impressive—most impressive.