It should come as no surprise that there’s been a lot of talk about the Star Wars franchise for the last couple of years. The revival of the franchise that began with the much anticipated The Force Awakens has only been surpassed by the better (and more original) Rogue One. Now we’ve got The Last Jedi looming, and everybody seems to be weighing in on the Star Wars renaissance. And why shouldn’t they? Long gone are the dark days of the prequel trilogy when Hayden Christensen’s wooden delivery made you groan, Jake Lloyd’s screeching made you wince, and Jar Jar’s every utterance made you cringe. OK, so maybe memories are longer lasting than I thought since just writing those three names down made me weep openly, but the truth of the matter is that the Star Wars ‘verse is on a roll.
But let’s forget the mind-numbing fact that The Force Awakens and Rogue One have made over $3 billion at the box office combined. Those horrible prequels made over $2.5 billion themselves, so box office isn’t always a fair indicator of a good flick. What is an indicator of a good flick is if you remember it fondly, and we all remember the original trilogy, which began over 40 years ago with Star Wars: A New Hope, very, very fondly — so fondly, in fact, that we should check in with some of the actors who played the original good guys, bad guys, aliens, bounty hunters, and everything in between to see how they’re doing. Here are 15 original Star Wars trilogy actors and where they are today.
15. Alec Guinness – Obi Wan Kenobi
Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. Little did young Luke Skywalker know that the Old Ben in the desert was actually the legendary Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Or that Obi-Wan had been involved in the rebellion against the empire from its earliest beginnings. All he saw was a crazy old man who could scare a few Sand People. Until, that is, he saw Obi-Wan in action with both a lightsaber and the Force. Then it was apparent that Old Ben was pretty kickass — until he met his former pupil, Darth Vader, in the pivotal scene of the second act of the first movie. But hey, he made a cool ghost, too.
Sir Alec Guinness was acting royalty before, during, and after his stint in the Star Wars world. He was nominated for five Best Actor Oscars before and after the space opera (including for Obi-Wan) and won for Bridge Over the River Kwai. He also won a lifetime achievement Oscar. Oh yeah, he also played Prince Faisal in a little movie called Lawrence of Arabia. He even made a side-TV career out of playing agent George Smiley in the popular and well-regarded Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy series and its offshoots. He died in 2000 and will forever be remembered as one of the giants of acting.
14. Larry Ward – Greedo And Jabba The Hutt
Ahh Greedo — did you shoot first or not? — that is the question. Perhaps the question isn’t quite as Shakespearean as Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” but it’s still a huge bone of contention in the world of Star Wars; that’s for sure. This makes Greedo one of the biggest minor characters to ever grace a franchise-starting movie. Without the cantina scene between the bug-eyed, walking reptilian bounty hunter Greedo and smuggler Han Solo, we would never have had the opportunity to argue for decades over Han’s morals (or George Lucas’s meddling in his own legacy). So we’ve got a lot to thank lizard man for.
The guy who played Greedo, English actor Larry Ward, was actually un-credited in the original movie. C’mon now — not only did Greedo set up a whole Han storyline, he had a great line, too! Ward only had one other role as an actor- Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi. He died in 2007
13. Denis Lawson – Wedge Antilles
Everybody remembers Wedge, right? He was no less than Luke Skywalker’s best friend among the rebel pilots. He was also perhaps the most awesome rebel fighter pilot ever. Think about it — he helped Luke destroy the Death Star, he was the first one to figure out how to destroy an Imperial Snow Walker, and then, finally, he and Lando Calrissian blew up the second Death Star. Wedge, who retired to become a flight instructor after he was done flying, was a huge part of the original trilogy even if he’s only remembered for a few brief appearances now.
Denis Lawson played wedge with joy and abandon and made a minor character memorable. He was born in Scotland and has about 100 film and British TV credits to his name and is still very active on BBC shows like Law & Order: UK and more recently, many, many miniseries along the lines of Agatha Christie Presents, Marchlands, and Parade’s End.
12. James Earl Jones – Darth Vader
Every great story needs not only a protagonist (take a bow Luke!) but also the ultimate bad guy, if possible. And lord knows, Darth Vader, whose name supposedly means “Dark Father,” was certainly a bad dude. For starters, he betrayed the entire Jedi code. Second, he started banging around the universe picking people up by the throat, cutting others down with his lightsaber, and generally being as evil as he possibly could. He even chased Luke in a tie-fighter. Talk about dedication!
Another giant of the movie industry, both figuratively and literally, is James Earl Jones, who provided the voice of Darth. There was a guy named Davis Prowse inside the suit, but Jones did all of the talking. Jones stayed busy even while filming new Star Wars movies, starring in the seminal Field of Dreams, the forever hip Patriot Games, and, of course, voiced Mufasa in The Lion King. Most recently, the eminent actor has been in Star Wars: Rebels (as Vader, duh!) and is gearing up for the live action remake of The Lion King.
11. Billy Dee Williams – Lando Calrissian
The epitome of smooth under pressure (OK, because he was being blackmailed by Darth and the Empire and betrayed all of his friends, but still) Lando Calrissian was the “governor” of Cloud City and a former, shall we say, “associate” of Han Solo’s. That’s right; Lando was a smuggler in his first life and, as you may recall, lost the Millennium Falcon to Han in a card game — whoops! Lando did make up for his treachery when he realized just how evil the empire was and even got to pilot the Falcon again, however briefly. He was instrumental in taking out the second Death Star.
You might have gotten the feeling that actor Billy Dee Williams didn’t need Star Wars very much judging from the way he flowed through his scenes. He was a pretty big film star already before the movie, but afterward, he quickly realized its potential. If you look at his filmography, it seems not a year goes by that he doesn’t voice Lando in an animated feature or video game set in the Star Wars universe. Most recently, he also had a fun voice role as Two-Face in the Lego Batman Movie
10. Jeremy Bulloch – Boba Fett
The original awesome bounty hunter of the original trilogy, Boba Fett proved you could actually look cool and sinister in green and a jet pack — a pretty difficult accomplishment. He might be one of the coolest and yet most hated villains in the entire world of Star Wars. He’s also pretty damn popular to this day on the cosplay circuit. Boba is, of course, the dude who was hunting Han Solo for most of Empire Strikes Back and finally caught him, taking Han’s carbonite-encased body to Jabba the Hutt. Sadly for fans of evil bounty-hunters everywhere, Boba was knocked into the Sarlacc during the battle to rescue Han in Empire.
How cool would it be to Boba Fett, standing around in your Mandalorian armor looking awesome? I wonder why they didn’t ask me? Oh wait, the movie came out in 1980. Instead, Jeremy Bulloch, a British actor, got the role, which might explain why the dude has been working on BBC TV programs for years. He’s been in way too many to list, so instead, I’ll tell you a few other cool things he’s done: he actually played a Captain of the Republic in Revenge of the Sith in 2005, and in the past few years, he’s been in a few Boba Fett-based shorts; Bulloch Fett and Tale of a Timelord as Boba.
9. Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
What can we say about Luke Skywalker that hasn’t already been said? He’s the classic hick hero, the young man who doesn’t know anything about anything, including the fact that he’s destined to become the last hero of a heroic house. Over the course of the original trilogy, Luke went from being a whining farm boy to a badass Jedi dressed all in black. Talk about a character transformation! He also learned the truth about his family, both the good and the bad, and became good friends with a certain roguish smuggler. Luke has led a pretty interesting life; that’s for sure, and by the looks of The Force Awakens, it’s not over yet.
Mark Hamill was basically an unknown when he got the part of Luke, but no more! He’s parlayed his fame in the biggest nerd-fest of all time to even cooler nerdy roles, such as his long running and infamous turn as The Joker in many animated Batman and Justice League productions. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a DC or Marvel villain he hasn’t voiced as he also starred in the Ultimate Spider-Man for years and all kinds of Avengers and X-Men shows. Oh yeah, he’s onboard for at least the next two Star Wars movies as well…
8. Harrison Ford – Han Solo
The ultimate cool dude in a room full of squares, Han Solo always knew exactly who he was — the best. He had the fastest ship, the fastest draw (sorry Greedo!) and the biggest sidekick. It took him a while, but he also got the girl — and, of course, she was a princess! Not only that — Han had the coolest outfit of anyone in the entire original trilogy and the coolest line. You know which one, too — the one in Empire when Leia says “I love you” as he’s being lowered into the carbonite pit, and he simply says, “I know.” Beat that anyone ever!
You might have heard of Harrison Ford here and there. When he wasn’t busy on additional Star Wars vehicles (he’s finally gone though — sniff, sniff), he found time to star as a couple random characters called Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan. He’s currently working on Indiana Jones V and a reboot of his other seminal sci-fi classic Blade Runner.
7. Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia
Princess Leia Organa may have worn a long, flowing white dress and her hair in the most famous buns in the history of hair, but she sure knew how to kick ass and take no prisoners. Remember her with a Stormtrooper’s phaser, blasting her way around the Death Star? How about when she stood up to Darth Vader? She was also a snarky, one-lining genius when it came to making fun of Han and Luke, which was pretty cool. All in all, the princess wasn’t quite who we expected, and that was OK by us.
Carrie Fisher will always be remembered as Princess Leia. Always. Although she starred in (and wrote) some other big-time movies like Postcards From the Edge, it’s her role as Leia that brought her everlasting fame. Tragically, the princess died last year, but we will be seeing her again posthumously in The Last Jedi.
6. Peter Cushing – Grand Moff Tarkin
If Darth Vader was the baddest of the badass mofo bad guys — how do you like that for an intro? — then Grand Moff Tarkin was right behind him. Well, at least until we all got a look at the insanely creepy and scary emperor. Tarkin was cast from a very different mold than the Sith lords, though. A human with seemingly ice-water in his veins, Tarkin was an early supporter of the Empire and swiftly rose through the ranks until he became commander of… yup, you guessed it — The Death Star. He was more ruthless than passionate as he proved when he blew up Alderaan for no good reason except to show that he could. That’s OK, though; Luke, Wedge, and the gang took care of both him and his toy at the end of the first movie.
Tarkin was played beautifully by the great, veteran British actor Peter Cushing. Cushing was huge in the horror movie genre for years before he landed his Star Wars role as he had played Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Nazi commandants, Sherlock Holmes, and other fantastical characters many times for horror house Hammer Films. Sadly, he died in 1994. Happily, he never saw the prequel trilogy.
5. Warwick Davis – Wicket
Like ‘em or loathe ‘em, the Ewoks aren’t going anywhere at this point, whether you want them to or not. I fall firmly in the camp that thinks that the Ewoks are fairly ridiculous and not even something I would want to take in as a pet. But I digress… The leader of the Endor bunch was Wicket, the fuzziest, cutest, and I guess smartest of the Ewoks. He basically ran around poking Stormtroopers with a sharpened stick, which wouldn’t be considered very bright if Stormtroopers weren’t so stupid.
Not many people are aware that veteran character actor Warwick Davis played Wicket. Warwick, who is probably the most famous little person in Hollywood history other than Peter Dinklage (forget Verne Troyer, please!) has done tons of cool stuff since this role. He was Willow in the hit fantasy movie of the same name shortly after Empire, played the Leprechaun in all 500 releases in that horror series, and, of course, has portrayed Professor Flitwick in every Harry Potter movie.
4. Frank Oz – Yoda
Everybody loves Yoda, the odd-talking, retired Jedi master living in the nasty swamps of Dagobah — you know, the weird, little green Muppet whom Luke journeys to learn from in Empire. The fast-moving master of the force that Yoda would become in the prequel trilogy was pretty awesome, but there’s something about the old homespun, mongrelish Yoda that was always cool. Plus, he talked to ghosts! Yoda was instrumental in teaching Luke how to harness the force and become a true Jedi even if he did live in what looked like a waterlogged hobbit hole.
Yoda might be one of the most seminal roles in film history, and yet, he’s not even the biggest role that Frank Oz has ever had. That’s because, for almost half a century, Frank has lent his voice talents to a few little TV shows and movie franchises called Sesame Street and The Muppets. Frank is still going strong as the voice of… are you ready?… Miss Piggy, Animal, Fozzie Bear, Bert, Grover, and Cookie Monster. Hard to beat, even with Yoda.
3. Peter Mayhew – Chewie
Who doesn’t love them some Wookie? I mean, the Star Wars Wikia fan site is called Wookieepedia, after all! There’s something about those big, growly furballs that’s just so much cooler than the small, lame furballs that are the Ewoks. Which makes me wonder — are the two species related? Or would Wookies just think of Ewoks as dinner? Anyway, Chewie was Han Solo’s co-pilot, co-smuggler, and best friend on the Millennium Falcon. He also carried a pretty cool laser-crossbow thing and carried C-3PO around in pieces in a net on his back, something I sure as hell wouldn’t do.
Peter Mayhew, the giant man who played (make that plays) Chewbacca, knows what side his bread is buttered on. Another Englishman, Mayhew did have a regular role on BBC gothic drama Dark Towers back in 1981, but since then, it’s been all Chewie, all the time. He’s been in at least one movie from every era of Star Wars (Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens, in addition to the original trilogy) and has also appeared in all the video games and as Chewie on shows like Glee and David Letterman. He even dropped in on Fanboys!
2. Kenny Baker – R2D2
If you want to talk about one of the most loveable but completely unintelligible characters in movie history, then you need to look no further than R2D2. The little blue and white droid was a huge part of so many events in Star Wars history that it’s almost impossible to keep them all straight — even George Lucas struggles with it! All jokes aside, the little guy’s appearance in the first movie heralds much greater events to come, as it’s he who has the plans to the Death Star stored away. R2D2 is incredibly good-natured, even for a friendly robot, considering he spends almost all of his “waking” hours with that insufferable twit, C-3PO.
Kenny Baker was well known in the industry for his portrayal of R2, of course. After all, he was one of the only actors to appear in every one of the first six movies. He was also a big member of the ensemble casts in both Time Bandits (he played Fidget) and Willow, two of the biggest cult movies of all time among fanboys. Sadly, he passed away last year.
1. Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Speaking of the insufferable twit, C-3PO, here he is. Yay. 3PO was a master linguist robot who, as he would tell you any time you didn’t ask, was fully versed in all kinds of diplomatic, scientific, and language matters. He was also an inveterate complainer who did a piss-poor job of saving the original gang when they were stuck in the Death Star’s trash compactor and a great job of moaning and running away almost every other time he was around. He did work well with R2, so I guess he wasn’t all bad.
Anthony Daniels, who voices and plays the golden robot with such glee, has been in a few non-Star Wars-related projects here and there, but who really cares? He’s played 3PO in every single movie, all the animated movies and series, and all of the video games. He’ll be in the two new Star Wars TV shows, Detours and Underworld, as well as The Last Jedi. You go, 3PO!