Back in the day, and even up until now to some extent, the Star Wars film franchise was very popular among fans and has become a pop culture phenomenon. The original film trilogy led to a prequel trilogy and a sequel trilogy, as well as numerous other spin-offs of TV shows and video games. It has undoubtedly had significant influences in the entertainment industry but while much praise should be given to the show’s creator, writer, and director George Lucas, some should also go to the actors who gave life to some of the most famous star wars characters.
Here is a look at the 10 most famous star wars characters and the actors who played them.
Famous Star Wars Characters and Actors Who Played Them
10. Chewbacca – Peter Mayhew
English actor Peter Mayhew plays the role of Chewbacca, a Wookie from the planet Kashyyyk who was known for his versatility and exceptionality in almost everything, from driving to performing mechanical works, down to combat. He served as a loyal friend and sidekick to Han Solo.
Peter Mayhew famously revealed that all he had to do to get the role was to stand up, thanks to his 7 feet 3 inches height. Creator George Lucas needed a tall actor to fit into the role. He had hoped to use actor David Prowse, who stood at 6 feet 6 inches, however, Prowse opted to play Darth Vader instead. Mayhew was at the time working as an orderly in the radiology department of King’s College Hospital, London. Before this role, Mayhew had appeared in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977). Producers of the movie cast him in the role of the minotaur after they saw his photo in an article about men with large feet.
9. Darth Maul – Ray Park
Darth Maul is a Sith Lord who symbolized evil on Star Wars. He was one of the extremely dangerous killers, known for wielding a double-bladed lightsaber. He was trained by Darth Sidious who killed numerous Jedi and other brave warriors until his demise at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
To portray the character, Lucas cast Scottish actor and martial artist Ray Park, who had previously found work as a stunt double in the film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, to perform combat and do other physical aspects. For the voice, however, he recruited English comedian, voice actor, and director Peter Serafinowicz.
8. C-3PO – Anthony Daniels
One of the famous star wars characters known for providing comic relief is C-3PO. The character which was played by English actor Anthony Davis is a humanoid robot that was designed as a protocol droid intended to assist in etiquette, customs, and translation. The character famously boasts of being fluent in over six million forms of communication.
Anthony Davis, who in addition to his acting is also a mime artist, is the only actor to have appeared in all of the Star Wars film series (the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and the sequel trilogy), as well as its many spin-offs (TV shows, video games, etc.). Before taking up the role in 1977, Davis worked on BBC Radio and for the National Theatre of Great Britain at The Young Vic. He admitted that he was not a science fiction fan and had no intention of meeting George Lucas when he was casting actors, however, following persuasion from his agent, he went ahead to meet Lucas and the rest became history.
7. Emperor Palpatine – Ian McDiarmid, Clive Revill
Emperor Palpatine was the main evil mastermind behind the most terrible events that occurred in the Star Wars Universe. Outwardly, he appeared to be a simple and well-intentioned politician and supporter of democracy. However, he was later discovered to be Darth Sidious, the Dark Lord of the Sith and true master of Darth Maul and Count Dooku.
Palpatine’s character was mainly portrayed by Scottish Shakespearian actor Ian McDiarmid although New Zealand actor Clive Revill has also been credited with playing the character. McDiarmid earned his stripes in theatre, winning awards such as the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama Gold Medal and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a New Play before he agreed to take on the role. He had at the time never played a leading role in a feature film. His only notable film credit was a minor appearance in films like Dragonslayer (1981).
6. Obi-Wan Kenobi – Ewan McGregor, Alec Guinness
Certainly one of the most famous star wars characters, Obi-Wan Kenobi was a very strong Jedi Master who served as a mentor and friend of Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy and then as a mentor to Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy. he was very famous for having defeated Darth Maul and General Grievous, as well as coming very close to killing Darth Vader.
Obi-Wan Kenobi was portrayed by English actor Sir Alec Guinness in the original trilogy and by Scottish actor Ewan McGregor in the prequel trilogy. For Guinness’ performance in the movie, he earned an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations while also receiving worldwide recognition, although he famously despised having to play a role in what he called “fairy tale rubbish”. McGregor, who played the younger version of the character, did not receive any award nominations for his performance, however, it was well received by fans who had generally criticized the prequels.
5. Luke Skywalker – Mark Hamill
Luke Skywalker is the main protagonist of the original Star Wars film trilogy. He is the son of Anakin Skywalker, the trainee of Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, and mentor to Rey, the protagonist of the sequel trilogy. In the film series, he went from being a cocky and reckless young mane to a calm Jedi Master.
American actor Mark Hamill was responsible for portraying the character. As the story goes, Hamill’s close firend, actor Robert Englund, was the one who told him about the auditions for the film after stumbling on it. Hamill, who was at the time mainly appearing on TV shows like the soap opera General Hospital and sitcom The Texas Wheelers, rushed to audition for it and was immediately cast by Lucas. The film launched Hamill to superstar status following its success and his performance which further garnered him several awards.
4. Princess Leia – Carrie Fisher
Many film critics have hailed Princess Leia’s character as one that revolutionalized the film industry since before then, it had often portrayed women in films as “damsels in distress. Leia was instead – a brave general, politician, and an influential rebel who famously stood her ground against Darth Vader and helped bring about the destruction of the Empire’s cataclysmic superweapon, the Death Star.
Princess Leia’s character was portrayed by American actress and comedian Carrie Fisher, who received four Saturn Award nominations for her performances. Fisher made her film acting debut at age 18 in the comedy Shampoo (1975) before she was cast by Lucas to appear in the film series.
3. Master Yoda – Frank Oz
Master Yoda was one of the most powerful Jedi to ever live, serving as the Grand Master of the Jedi Order in the prequel trilogy. The old, short, green-skinned creature further served as a great mentor and trainer to Jedis like Luke Skywalker, Kit Fisto, Mace Windu, Ki-Adi Mundi, and possibly even Obi-Wan Kenobi.
American actor and puppeteer Frank Oz performed and provided the voice for the character. It is said that Lucas did not originally accept Oz to voice the character even though he was Yoda’s puppeteer. He had made an audition for Yoda’s voice actor but eventually settled to give Oz the role. The UK-born son of puppeteers, who grew up in Oakland, California, has also served as the puppeteer of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street.
2. Han Solo – Harrison Ford
Han Solo is one of the most beloved and famous Star Wars characters. He proved over time in the film series that he is not just a simple smuggler but an awesome space cowboy who had wits, skills, a charming smile, and an awesome spaceship. Of all the famous Star Wars characters, Solo proved relatable to the audience, thanks to his flaws, all of which was brought to life by the legendary American actor, Harrison Ford.
Prior to taking up the role of Han Solo, Ford was a struggling actor who had self-taught himself carpentry in order to support his wife and two young sons. He later landed a role in George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973) which kickstarted a friendship between the pair and led to him securing the role of Han Solo which went a long way in establishing him as a superstar.
1. Darth Vader – David Prowse
Darth Vader is undoubtedly topping the list of the most famous Star Wars characters of all time, as even people who have not gotten around to watch any of the films in the series know and regard him as the ultimate bad guy of all bad guys that Hollywood has had to offer. Darth Vader was originally Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father, who was lured to the dark side of the Force by Emperor Palpatine.
The character was physically played by English bodybuilder and weightlifter David Prowse while the character’s voice was done by James Earl Jones. Before taking up the role, Prowse had famously worked as the superhero, the Green Cross Code Man, in the British road safety campaign for children and as a bodyguard in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange. It was during his performance in the latter that he was noticed by Lucas who offered him a role in the film.