Star Wars’ Mark Hamill hails ‘Joe-B-Wan Kenobi’ after White House meeting

<span>Mark Hamill takes off a pair of aviator sunglasses given to him by Joe Biden. ‘Love the merch!’ he said.</span><span>Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP</span>
Mark Hamill takes off a pair of aviator sunglasses given to him by Joe Biden. ‘Love the merch!’ he said.Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” But enough about Washington. The Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who once saw off gangsters at a fictional spaceport, came to the US capital on Friday for a meeting with Joe Biden.

Quite why he was in the Oval Office, and what was talked about, remained something of a mystery. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Biden was riding high in the opinion polls but now, perhaps, he is in need of added star power.

The surprise appearance by the man who played Luke Skywalker thrilled Star Wars geeks among the White House press corps while leaving non-fans somewhat bemused or baffled.

Related: Mark Hamill calls for Carrie Fisher Walk of Fame star to replace Donald Trump’s

“How many of you had ‘Mark Hamill will lead the press briefing’ on your bingo card – hands?” the actor, wearing dark suit, blue tie and sunglasses, asked reporters at the start of a media briefing. “Yeah, me neither. I just got to meet the president and he gave me these aviator glasses.”

Hamill, 72, then put the glasses in his pocket, quipping: “I love the merch.”

Hamill, who has more than 5 million followers on X, where he is a trenchant critic of Biden’s election rival Donald Trump, said he was “honoured” to be invited to meet “the most legislatively successful president in my lifetime”, and reeled off a list of Biden’s accomplishments.

The actor told reporters that “it just shows you that just one person can be so influential and so positive in our lives” and said he would take questions, “although no Star Wars questions, please”.

Asked about the Oval Office meeting, Hamill said: “I only expected to be there for five minutes. He showed us all his photographs.

“It was really amazing to me because I was invited to the Carter White House and I came. And then I came to the Obama White House but I never was invited into the Oval Office, and it was a large gathering. So this one was really extra special.”

In the original blockbuster Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Hamill played farm boy Luke learning Jedi mind tricks from Obi-Wan Kenobi, an elderly Jedi master who has seen better days. On Friday, it seems, he again took the role of young apprentice to the 81-year-old Biden.

“I called him ‘Mr President’. He said, ‘You can call me Joe.’ I said, ‘Can I call you Joe-B-Wan Kenobi?’ He liked that.”

Hamill left the podium to whoops and applause from a few starstruck reporters. The first question to the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, began: “May the Force be with you.” She replied: “May the Force be with you or, tomorrow, the 4th be with you, however you want to look at it.”

A journalist said: “Let’s hope we’ve killed off the Star Wars jokes for the rest of the briefing.”

Jean-Pierre: “I doubt it. I feel like there’s more coming.”

And later she was challenged as to why Hamill, who has never held elected office, was in the Oval Office at all. Weijia Jiang of CBS News asked pointedly: “What was Mark Hamill doing here today?”

Laughing, Jean-Pierre replied: “Did you not like having him here? … Mark Hamill was in town. They met. I think it was important as someone – you all know Mark Hamill. He is someone who is very much invested in our country, very much invested in the direction of this country.”

As Jiang confessed a lack of familiarity with the films, Jean-Pierre wondered: “Do you not like Star Wars? You’ve not seen Star Wars?”

Jiang promised “I will now!” as some in the room groaned.

Hamill is one of numerous Hollywood stars that the Biden campaign may seek to deploy ahead of a presidential election now six months away. On Thursday, the actor and director Robert De Niro spoke out against Trump, urging Biden to “keep up the fight” against him and “go at him hard”.

Interviewed by Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC’s The 11th Hour, De Niro warned: “The guy’s a monster. He is beyond wrong. It’s almost like he wants to do the most horrible things that he can think of in order to get a rise out of us. I don’t know what it is but he’s been doing it and doing it, and it’s fucking scary.”