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Our favorite characters from the galaxy far, far away were all played by actors here on Earth, where things can change a lot in 40 years.
The characters from the galaxy far, far away, and the actors who gave them life, are as iconic as ever.
Harrison Ford plays sarcastic pilot and "very practical guy," Han Solo. After first appearing in A New Hope (1977), Han Solo popped up in the other two installments of the original film trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). To fans' delight, Ford reprised his role in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015). But what else has he been up to?
Since first joining the Rebel Alliance in 1977, Harrison Ford has been super busy. He's starred in more than 50 films and TV shows, never taking more than two years off in between projects. Best known for the Indiana Jones films, Blade Runner, and The Fugitive, Ford earned an Oscar nomination for his work in Witness.
Mark Hamill plays Luke Skywalker, a humble moisture farmer on Tatooine who is fatefully unaware of the fact that he is actually Darth Vader's long lost son. All that changes, however, when Luke buys C-3PO and R2-D2, meets Obi-Wan Kenobi, and learns that he is destined to become a great Jedi Master.
Mark Hamill has 277 acting credits to his name; most of them, however, are for videos, video games, and relatively low profile animated TV shows. Interestingly, though, Hamill has voiced the character of The Joker in a number of Batman and DC Comics video games. He reprised the role of Luke in The Force Awakens and will do so again in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).
Carrie Fisher plays Princess Leia of the planet Alderaan. Genetically linked to Luke and romantically linked to Han, Leia is perhaps best known for her distinctive cinnamon buns-esque hairstyle, and her gold metal bikini in Return of the Jedi.
In addition to Star Wars related cameos, Carrie Fisher acted in a few things you might've heard of: Family Guy, Hannah and Her Sisters, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and When Harry Met Sally.
Sadly, just after returning from a European book tour in late 2016, Carrie Fisher passed away.
Jake Lloyd plays young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Anakin is a nine-year-old slave who wins his freedom in a podrace. He's a talented pilot, engineer, and even builds C-3PO himself. No wonder Qui-Gon Jinn thinks he's the chosen one!
Before Star Wars, Jake Lloyd appeared in Jingle All the Way, Unhook the Stars and ER. After Star Wars, he starred in a movie called Madison, voiced Anakin in a bunch of Star Wars video games, then got arrested for reckless driving and resisting arrest. Ugh, that never would've happened in a podrace!
Alec Guinness plays Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi in the three installments of the original Star Wars trilogy. Prior to that, he appeared in a number of major mid-century films, including The Bridge on the River Kwai, Oliver Twist, Last Holiday, and Lawrence of Arabia (for which he won an Oscar). Already a huge star, Guinness brought a certain gravitas to Star Wars.
Though the deal he negotiated for his work in Star Wars (0.45% of all gross box office earnings) made him a very wealthy man later in life, Alec Guinness grew to resent the fact that a new generation of people seemed to associate him solely with the character of Obi-Wan. As such, he spoke out against Star Wars a lot in his later years, even telling one interviewer that he asked George Lucas to kill off his character because he couldn't go on delivering such banal dialogue. Alec Guinness died on August 5, 2000, at the age of 86.
Ewan McGregor stepped in to play Obi-Wan Kenobi for all three films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Prior to Star Wars: Episode I, Ewan McGregory was already fairly well known for his work in Trainspotting and Emma. Post-Phantom Menace, things only went up...
After redefining the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor landed a series of huge roles in Moulin Rouge!, Big Fish, I Love You Phillip Morris, Angels & Demons, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. He has since received two Golden Globes nominations for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
Liam Neeson plays Obi-Wan's mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn, in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Prior to that, Liam Neeson had, you know, been in a few things. There was that time he starred alongside Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons in The Mission, and that time he landed the title role in Stephen Spielberg's Schindler's List.
Since starring in The Phantom Menace, Liam Neeson has appeared in Gangs of New York, Love Actually, Batman Begins, The Chronicles of Narnia trilogy, Clash of the Titans, The Dark Knight Rises, and the Taken movies... just to name a few. He has been nominated for an Academy Award, three Golden Globes, and remains one of the Hollywood actors fictional villains would least want to mess with.
British actor Anthony Daniels plays persnickety robot C-3PO in all seven Star Wars films. In fact, he provides both the voice and body movements for the character, donning a blue spandex costume, so that his body can be turned into that of a golden robot in post-production.
Anthony Daniels is one of only two actors who have appeared in every installment of the popular Star Wars franchise. That puts him in a unique position on this list because he's been reprising his role, on and off, for over 38 years. And in between the films, he's played C-3PO in countless other Star Wars movies, TV shows and video games. Still, though, Daniels has found time to appear in several lesser known series in his human form: Dirigible Days, Doctors, and Square Deal, to name a few.
Billy Dee Williams plays Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Lando is the Administrator of Cloud City, and sells out his friend Han Solo to keep the Empire from taking it over. His conscience ultimately gets the better of him and he comes around, though.
After Return of the Jedi, Billy Dee Williams juggled work in a series of Star Wars spin-offs with work in a number of other movies and TV shows, including Dynasty, Glee, General Hospital and NCIS. He also played Harvey Dent in Tim Burton's Batman.
British actor Kenny Baker, who stands 3 feet 8 inches tall, plays lovable robot R2-D2 in all seven Star Wars films. Baker worked for the circus, in ice shows, and as part of a successful comedy duo, called the Minitones, before George Lucas approached him to be the man inside R2-D2.
In addition to Star Wars, Kenny Baker appeared in a number of other films and TV shows, including Amadeus, Time Bandits, Flash Gordon, the BBC production of The Chronicles of Narnia, and Jim Henson's Labyrinth. In Return of the Jedi, Baker played Paploo the Ewok, as well as Artoo. Sadly, Baker passed away in 2016.
In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them." Chewbacca may be a Wookiee, but he isn't played by one. In all five Star Wars films where Han Solo's loyal associate Chewie appears, he's been played by British-American actor Peter Mayhew, who stands more than 7 feet tall. In fact, Mayhew has famously said that all he had to do to be cast in A New Hope was stand up. Star Wars was Mayhew's first film credit, so topping it would have been a tall order.
In addition to the Star Wars films, Peter Mayhew went on to play Chewbacca on Glee, The Muppet Show, Donny and Marie, and a number of video shorts. Besides the role of Chewbacca, Mayhew played The Mechanic in the 1978 film, Terror; a giant in the 1979 TV series, Hazell; "The Tall Knight" in the 1981 TV series Dark Towers; a dead man in the 2008 film, Yesterday Was a Lie; and Uncle Clyde in the 2014 movie, Killer Ink.
In April 2019, Mayhew passed away at the age of 74.
Hayden Christensen plays Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. So, he portrays the young Darth Vader during his descent into the dark side.
Before appearing as Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Hayden Christensen was best known for his portrayal of Jake Hill Conley in the Sofia Coppola film, The Virgin Suicides. Since Star Wars, though, he's been featured as the protagonist in a number of big budget blockbusters, including Jumper and Awake.
Emperor Palpatine, also known as Senator Palpatine and Sith Lord Darth Sidious, is the face of evil. And his face is that of renowned Scottish character actor Ian McDiarmid. In addition to Star Wars, McDiarmid has starred in over 40 movies, but that's not what he's best known for...
Ian McDiarmid is a highly lauded figure in the theater. He has starred in a ton of Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet, King Lear, The Tempest and The Merchant of Venice, taking home a whole bunch of awards for his performances. He even won a Tony Award in 2006 for Best Featured Actor in the play, Faith Healer. Fun fact: His portrayal of a much older man in Sam Shepard's play, Seduced, is what convinced George Lucas he could play Emperor Palpatine.
In the original Star Wars trilogy, the franchise's lead villain, Darth Vader, was played by British bodybuilder and championship weightlifter, David Prowse. Thanks to his large stature, Prowse was cast as Frankenstein's monster in Casino Royale, the minotaur in Doctor Who, and Alex's bodyguard Julian in A Clockwork Orange. He then reportedly caught George Lucas' eye in that last film, and was offered his choice of Darth Vader or Chewbacca.
David Prowse plays Darth Vader's body, but James Earl Jones plays the villain's voice. Rumor has it, though, that Prowse was under the impression he would be seen and heard when Vader is stripped of his mask at the end of Return of the Jedi. He then butted heads with George Lucas a bit, when actor Sebastian Shaw was used instead. Prowse struggled with a number of health issues after Star Wars, including debilitating arthritis, the paralysis of limbs and prostate cancer. Before all that, though, he enjoyed a successful career as a personal trainer to the stars, even training Christopher Reeve for Superman.
Yoda, Frank Oz is. Or, at least he's the puppeteer who has operated and voiced the wise, green Grand Master of the Jedi Order in all the films of the original Star Wars trilogy and all the films of its prequel trilogy. If he's responsible for Yoda, Frank Oz is obviously wise enough to make some pretty wise career decisions.
In addition to being the puppeteer behind Yoda, Frank Oz puppeteered Bert, Cookie Monster and Grover in Sesame Street; and Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear in The Muppet Show. When you look at it that way, he's basically the Tom Hanks of the puppeting world.
Natalie Portman plays Padmé Amidala in the three Star Wars prequel films. That means she's Darth Vader's deceased wife, and Luke and Leia's mom. Despite her Star Wars character dying just after childbirth, Natalie Portman's career is healthy and well.
Since playing Star Wars royalty, Natalie Portman has essentially become Hollywood royalty, starring in a number of huge films, including V for Vendetta, Closer, Garden State, The Other Boleyn Girl, and Black Swan (for which she won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe).
Ahmed Best plays Jar Jar Binks, the foolish Gungan banished from his tribe for clumsiness. You might only remember him from Episode I, but Binks actually appears in all three Star Wars prequel films. His comic relief duties were simply scaled back in the latter two films, after the overwhelmingly negative reception to his character in the first. So, his cameo in Episode III is literally one line.
After the Star Wars films, Ahmed Best turned largely to TV; appearing in a variety of series from Cougar Town to Robot Chicken. So, "Yoosa should follow [him] now, okeeday?"
Much like Alec Guinness, Samuel L. Jackson was a huge star before he ever stepped foot on a Star Wars set. He was in Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, Patriot Games, and Die Hard with a Vengeance, just to name a few. So, he had quite a bit of experience playing a good guy in action thrillers, before he was cast as a Jedi Master of the High Council.
Since Star Wars, Samuel L. Jackson has starred in Avengers movies, Captain America movies, Coach Carter, The Incredibles, Django Unchained, Iron Man 2, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Don't worry, though. There are more... way more.
Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee played more memorable villains than perhaps any other actor in history. He was Saruman in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. He was Scaramanga in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun. And he was Dracula in countless films from the 1950s through the 1970s. So, when Lee was cast as Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the role of the Jedi Master gone bad was totally in his lane.
Christopher Lee died in June 2015 at the age of 93 after achieving 278 acting credits and being knighted by the Queen for his services to the arts.
David Prowse may play Darth Vader's body, but James Earl Jones is responsible for the villain's iconic voice. Prior to A New Hope, Jones starred in Dr. Strangelove, and won both a Tony and a Golden Globe for his work in The Great White Hope. After Star Wars, things only got better.
After voicing Darth Vader, James Earl Jones won a second Tony Award for his work in Fencesand three Emmys for his work in Heat Wave, Gabriel's Fire, and Summer's End. He starred in acclaimed movies like Field of Dreams, The Sandlot, and Patriot Games. And nearly two decades after being chosen as the voice of Darth Vader, he became the voice of Mufasa in The Lion King.
Jeremy Bulloch plays Boba Fett, a bounty hunter hired by Darth Vader, in Star Wars: V and VI.
In addition to playing Boba Fett in Star Wars, Jeremy Bulloch (pictured here on the right) was Q's assistant Smithers in two early '80s James Bond films, Octopussy and For Your Eyes Only. He also appeared in a number of notable British TV shows, including Robin of Sherwood and Doctor Who.
British actor Warwick Davis was born with a condition called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, which caused him to develop dwarfism. So, when he was 11 and Return of the Jedi put out a call for actors under four feet, Davis jumped at the chance to audition and was consequently cast as an Ewok extra. However, when the actor who cast to play the lead Ewok fell ill, Davis was selected to step in as Wicket.
Since getting his big break in Return of the Jedi, Warwick Davis has portrayed both Professor Filius Flitwick (the head of Ravenclaw) and Griphook (a goblin working at Gringotts) in the Harry Potter films. He also starred as the title characters in Willow and the Leprechaun films. And after playing three minor characters in The Phantom Menace, he returned for a cameo in The Force Awakens.
Peter Cushing played Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, the Commander of the Death Star in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. The guy destroys the planet of Alderaan, even after Princess Leia has given him the information he wants.
Besides playing Governor Tarkin, Peter Cushing is best known for portraying Victor Frankenstein and Professor Van Helsing in the many Hammer Films of the '50s, '60s and '70s. In doing so, he became very close friends with Christopher Lee, who played Count Dooku. Cushing also notably played The Doctor in Doctor Who and the Daleks and Daleks - Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. He died in August 1994, at the age of 81.
Pernilla August plays Shmi Skywalker, Anakin's mother, in both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. A slave who became pregnant with Anakin through a sort of immaculate conception of The Force, Shmi just wants a better life for her son.
Pernilla August is a Swedish actress, director and screenwriter, who has worked closely with acclaimed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman several times over the course of her career. Besides Star Wars, she is best known for her work in Daybreak, The Best Intentions, and I Am Dina.
Temuera Morrison plays bounty hunter Jango Fett in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. He is a father of sorts to fan favorite character Boba Fett and the genetic template for the Clone Army of the Galactic Republic.
Besides Star Wars, New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison is best known for roles in Once Were Warriors, Speed 2: Cruise Control, Green Lantern, and The Beautiful Country.