Whether you’re a science fiction fan or not, the Star Wars franchise is a monument to myth-making and storytelling; an iconic piece of cinematic history. The Star Wars galaxy might be far, far away, but it is huge, and is home to countless planets and species. This means tons of actors are needed. When news breaks that a new Star Wars film is being cast, talent agencies buzz with the chance to get their clients choice roles. Even established actors and actresses who don’t need the exposure clamour to get a bit part. Case in point: Daniel Craig’s famous uncredited stormtrooper in The Force Awakens. So, over the past 40 years, tons of actors have appeared in these films, many whom you’ve forgotten about; some in roles that appeared on screen for only for an instant. For some of these actors, this might have been an early role before they went on to become household names.
Aside from the starring cast, there have been so many famous celebrities who’ve appeared in these films. This list contains just 15 of them, but there were so many more that you might not have known anything about. Join us as we highlight just a handful, some of which might surprise you.
15 Keira Knightley – Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
For the first half of 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, filmgoers watched Queen Amidala without knowing the character wasn’t really Queen Amidala. When Natalie Portman’s handmaiden character Padmé reveals herself to actually be Padmé Amidala, Queen of Naboo, viewers were shocked. Who was that portraying the queen prior? Well, many were shocked to learn that the character was actually portrayed by 14-year old actress, Keira Knightley. That’s right, three years before her breakout role in Bend It Like Beckham, and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Knightley doubled for Natalie Portman as a decoy in The Phantom Menace. They looked so much alike in the film that it would be years before fans could agree on which scenes actually featured Knightley or Portman!
14 Rose Byrne – Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
In the Star Wars prequels, Queen Amidala, later Senator Amidala, needed a lot of handmaidens. In the years before she became a star of the Insidious series or known for her role as Moira MacTaggert in the X-Men films, Rose Byrne was known primarily for her small roles in a variety of Australian television series. Her first big-budget film role was when she portrayed Dormé in 2002’s Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. She can be seen at Amidala’s side when she travels to Coruscant on Senate business. Coincidentally, in 2006, Byrne appeared in the film Marie Antoinette, which was directed by fellow Star Wars prequel handmaiden, Sofia Coppola. We wonder if they bonded over what it was like to have to defer to Natalie Portman’s character for the entire film. We are sure they both have their own assistants now.
13 Sofia Coppola – Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
Nowadays, she is known as the famed Academy Award-winning writer/director, known for Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides. Back then she was an actress and aspiring director, and most known as the daughter of the famous director of The Godfather movies, Francis Ford Coppola. So, when George Lucas started filming his first new Star Wars film in almost two decades, all of his friends wanted to visit the set. With Francis Ford Coppola and Lucas being such good friends, young Sofia Coppola wanted to visit her “Uncle” George on the set. What’s a great perk of being so close to the creator of Star Wars? You get a walk-on role in the film, of course! Lucas offered Coppola the role of Saché, one of Queen Amidala’s many handmaidens that will be needed in the film. The Phantom Menace was released the same year as her directorial debut The Virgin Suicides, which opened to critical acclaim.
12 Jessica Henwick – Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Are you wondering what a coincidence it must be for all those Game of Thrones actors to have made appearances in The Force Awakens? Wonder no more; both projects, HBO’s Game of Thrones and J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, share the same casting director, Nina Gold. On that note, we present Jessica Henwick, known to fans as the dangerous Sand Snake Nymeria on “Game of Thrones.” Marvel fans might know her better as Colleen Wing on the Netflix series Iron Fist and Defenders. Though she’s covered in a flight helmet and goggles, sharp-eyed fans can catch her as Rebel x-wing pilot Jessika “Jess” Pava, call sign Blue Three, part of the resistance squadron that attacks Starkiller Base. Her character first appeared in the 2015 novel, The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure, written by Jason Fry. In the novel, she is also known as Testor.
11 Joel Edgerton – Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
In the original Star Wars, Owen Lars, Luke Skywalker’s curmudgeonly moisture farmer uncle, was portrayed by noted actor Phil Brown. In the prequels, Joel Edgerton portrays the younger version. He appears in both Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Edgerton would later be known for his roles in The Great Gatsby, Warrior, and Black Mass, or for his role in the Australian television series, The Secret Life of Us. Joel’s brother, Nash Edgerton, was also in the film, appearing as a stunt double for Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. Interestingly enough, Edgerton got the opportunity to meet his predecessor Phil Brown at a Star Wars convention.
10 Keisha Castle-Hughes – Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Keisha Castle-Hughes had no acting experience when she was plucked out of her New Zealand grade school class by a casting director. He thought she’d be perfect for the starring role in 2002’s Whale Rider. For her performance, the 12-year-old was nominated for an Academy Award, and won a Critic’s Choice award, among others. Her next role would be that of the teenage Queen Apailana of Naboo, successor to Portman’s Queen Amidala, in Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Of course, now she’s all grown up and probably more familiar to fans for her role in The Walking Dead, or more famously, as the dangerous Sand Snake Obara from HBO’s Game of Thrones. She can next be seen co-starring alongside Miles Teller in the upcoming war drama, Thank You For Your Service, opening worldwide later this year.
9 Dominic West – Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
The Star Wars films were filled with actors who would later go on to stardom in their own right. Back then they had to settle for background roles. Dominic West was no different. The British actor began in theater at an early age and was an accomplished thespian, but toiled away in small roles in mostly British films. Though he had already starred in a handful of small films, he accepted the role of an unnamed palace guard in Episode I – The Phantom Menace. He would later go on to bigger and better roles such as co-starring as Theron in Zack Snyder’s 300, or his highly praised portrayal of Detective Jimmy McNulty in the HBO’s hit series, The Wire. He even added his voice to the character of Rudder in the animated film, Finding Dory. You can catch him next as Lord Richard Croft, father of Lara, in the upcoming 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider.
8 Peter Serafinowicz – Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
You’ve seen him in Shaun of the Dead, or as Denarian Saal, a member of the Nova Corps, in the hit 2014 Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy, or even on his own short-lived BBC series, The Peter Serafinowicz Show. However, did you know he has maintained quite a career doing voiceover work, having lent his voice talents to many television series and films like Sing and Stars Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Acclaimed martial artist Ray Park was cast as the intimidating Sith Lord, Darth Maul; however, the voice of the menacing villain was provided by Peter Serafinowicz. Serafinowicz also voiced a battle droid commander and a Gungan scout in the film. He is currently starring on the Amazon web series reboot of the action comedy show, The Tick. Serafinowicz landed the lead role as the blue-costumed superhero, The Tick.
7 John Ratzenberger - Episode V – The Empire Strike Back (1980)
John Ratzenberger is best remembered as the know-it-all but beloved Cliff Clavin from the hit television series Cheers, or from his work as the voice of Hamm in the Toy Story movies. However, millions of sci-fi fans around the world might remember him from his brief appearance in the original 1980 Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, as Major Bren Derlin of the Rebel Alliance. He shares a scene inside Echo Base on the ice planet of Hoth, with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). He graciously revisited the role by lending his voice talents as Major Derlin to a 2017 episode of the Disney XD series, Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. Lucasfilm issued an official trading card for Ratzenberger’s character, with the notation, “At the Mos Eisley Cantina, everybody knows his name,” a play on his Cheers character Cliff Clavin’s notoriety at the Cheers bar, “where everybody knows your name.”
6 Treat Williams – Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Though he appeared in a few small roles in the mid-1970s, it was his 1979 performance in Milos Forman’s Hair that made Treat Williams a star. He immediately followed that up with a starring role in the ensemble cast of Steven Spielberg’s hit war comedy, 1941. With his star on the rise, Williams was in England while The Empire Strikes Back was filming at the Elstree Studios set. It was late 1979 and the story goes that he decided to drop by and visit his friend Carrie Fisher on the set one day. While there, director Irvin Kershner offered Williams a walk-on role as an unnamed Echo Base trooper. He accepted and now filmgoers can catch Williams in a quick cameo as one of the rebel troops dashing around the base. Williams would go on to star in Sidney Lumet’s Prince of the City (1981), The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (1981), as well as the television series Everwood, and most recently, Chicago Fire.
5 Julian Glover – Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Julian Glover might be best known now as the villainous collaborator Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (remember, the guy who chose poorly?). A younger generation will know him as Grand Maester Pycelle on the popular series Game of Thrones. But to millions of Star Wars fans, he will always be General Veers, the capable field commander of Darth Vader’s forces in Stars Wars: The Empire Strike Back. It is Veers that can be seen in his AT-AT, leading the ground assault on the Hoth rebel base. In fact, in that film, he’s probably the only competent commander Vader has, at least one of the few that Vader doesn’t Force choke! Glover has been acting since the 1960s, and has enjoyed success on both stage and screen. He was a very familiar face to British television audiences throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and even portrayed the villain Kristatos in the 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.
4 Richard Armitage – Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
To many, Richard Armitage is best-remembered as murderer Francis Dolarhyde from the NBC series Hannibal, or as the heroic dwarf Thorin Oakenshield, King Under The Mountain, in The Hobbit films. The quick-eyed fans can catch Armitage in a small uncredited background role as a Naboo fighter pilot in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Of course, if you’re used to seeing him with all the flowing long hair and regal beard he sports in The Hobbit, you’d probably miss him. He says it was a role that will always be special to him. Still, in his final year of school, he answered a casting call. Armitage believes he got the part primarily because he was “tall and lanky.” He spent hours practicing his American accent and was a bit let down when his words were replaced digitally with a computer-generated voice. Nevertheless, he is still proud of the role, however brief it may have been.
3 Thomas Brodie-Sangster – Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Thomas Brode-Sangster is known to millions for his role as Jojen Reed, loyal friend to Bran Stark, in Game of Thrones, or for his role as Newt in the Maze Runner films. Perhaps you know him as the voice of Ferb in the popular Disney series Phineas and Ferb. He has legions of fans and they were quite excited to catch the young actor appearing, ever so briefly, as Petty Officer Thanisson in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. He’s the First Order officer in the command center of the cruiser Finalizer who alerts his commander that Finn and Poe are escaping. And, with that quick line, he is forever immortalized in Star Wars lore. Pretty cool. He can next be seen in 2018’s Maze Runner: The Death Cure.
2 Judah Friedlander – Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Judah Friedlander is a noted comedian. He gained fame for his role as Frank Rossitano on the long-running hit television comedy series 30 Rock. His character was a hilarious unkempt and sleazy television writer, a foil to both Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin’s characters. So when director J.J. Abrams was casting the first new Star Wars film in many years, he had many small roles to give out. Friedlander was able to nab Star Wars immortality by appearing as an unnamed patron in the scene at Maz Kanata’s bar on the planet Takodana. (Side note: one of his fellow bar patrons is Miltos Yerolemou, known to Game of Thrones fans as Master Syrio Forel, former First Sword of Bravos, and instructor to Arya Stark.)
1 Maisie Richardson-Sellers – Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
After auditioning with thousands of other hopefuls, young British actress Maisie Richardson-Sellers got the opportunity to appear in one scene of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. It was her first film role and she appeared as Republic envoy Korr Sella. Unfortunately, (spoiler) she perishes along with the whole planet of Hosnian Prime when the First Order destroys the planet with their Starkiller Base super-weapon. Though she has no lines, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary fleshes out her character for us. She portrayed Korr Sella, commander of the naval forces of the Resistance, under the command of General Leia Organa and envoy to the New Republic. Not bad for a character seen in just one scene. Richardson-Sellers is now better known for her roles in the vampire series The Originals, and to superhero fans for her role as Vixen in Legends of Tomorrow.
Sources: businessinsider.com, uk.movies.yahoo.com, imdb.com, comicbook.com, starwars.wikia.com, makingstarwars.net