Most fans know actor Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in George Lucas’ epic masterpiece, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. But before he ever picked up a lightsaber, Hamill was tapped to take on the role of David Bradford in the ABC comedy-drama Eight Is Enough.
The show helped make several of the young actors into teen heartthrobs, but it wasn’t anywhere near the level of popularity of Star Wars. Fortunately enough for Hamill, fate stepped in and allowed him to quit his previous commitment for two big reasons.
‘Eight Is Enough’ had casting challenges from the beginning
The series Eight Is Enough was based on a book by the same name and a real-life syndicated newspaper columnist who had eight kids at home. Though the premise was hopeful and fun, casting for the new show was anything but.
Actor Diana Hyland signed on to play family matriarch Joan Braden alongside Dick Van Patten’s Tom Braden. But she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 just before production for the pilot season began. After undergoing a mastectomy, she joined the cast for filming, but sadly died in March of the same year.
Instead of replacing her, Eight Is Enough writers wrote her death into the series and made Tom a widower. He later remarried on the show and gave his eight offspring a stepmother.
Mark Hamill filmed the pilot before quitting for ‘Star Wars’
Hamill couldn’t have known that Star Wars would become an international phenomenon that’s still popular four decades later. But he did know he preferred focusing on a movie career, even after signing a five year contract to be on Eight Is Enough, EW reported.
The first episode of the show features Hamill as the eldest son, David, who’s thinking about leaving home after getting into a fight with his parents. However, after that first appearance, the Star Wars actor got replaced by Grant Goodeve, who remained on the cast for all 5 seasons.
Hamill was eager to leave when the opportunity to join the Star Wars cast arose. But he was going to stick it out and honor his commitment until fate intervened.
The ‘Star Wars’ alum was in a car crash before the ‘Eight Is Enough’ pilot
According to IMDb, Hamill wasn’t thrilled that the show seemed to be leaning more toward comedy instead of drama. That fact coupled with the opportunity for a huge movie role made it very difficult for him to stay on the cast. Then on the night the pilot aired, the actor was involved in a serious car accident that spurred him to leave the series for good.
Hamill suffered facial injuries including a broken nose and used that as the excuse to leave Eight Is Enough. After achieving fame and prestige as Luke Skywalker that same year in 1977, it’s a decision the actor most likely never regretted.
In the end, it all worked out for the best. Goodeve played an excellent David. And Star Wars fans are probably happy about the role change, too.
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