Most Star Wars characters are played by just one actor, but a few of Star Wars’ most iconic personalities have been brought to life through the collaboration of a surprising number of on-set actors, voice talent, stunt doubles and choreographers. Some of these duplicitous characters are obvious, particularly when younger versions of older characters are needed, as in the case of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett. Even so, it might surprise you just how many people were needed to fill any given role. Some examples are even a little strange, particularly when character’s faces or voices change on-screen during a single movie! Following, we examine some of the best examples of live-action Star Wars characters (omitting CG and practical puppets), played by multiple actors.
Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader
Anakin Skywalker and his alter-ego, Darth Vader, probably required more actors to bring them to life than any other character. Actor and bodybuilder David Prowse wore the iconic black costume throughout most of the original trilogy. Meanwhile, legendary Olympic fencer and choreographer Bob Anderson (who passed away in 2012), wore the helmet for Vader’s flight scenes. James Earl Jones provided Vader’s unforgettable voice throughout the original trilogy, reprising his role for Revenge of the Sith (ROTS) and Star Wars Rebels (SWR). However, when Luke removes Vader’s helmet in Return of the Jedi (ROTJ), George Lucas pulls a switcheroo on us and shows us the late actor Sebastian Shaw instead of Prowse, Anderson or Jones!
In The Phantom Menace (TPM), the script called for a tiny tot to play mini-Vader, and so young actor Jake Lloyd took up the role of super-villain-in-waiting. When an older Anakin was needed, Canadian Hayden Christensen took up Anakin’s lightsaber for Attack of the Clones (AOTC) and ROTS, even wearing Darth Vader’s suit in the final scenes of the last movie. Joss Gower and Daniel Stevens performed Anakin’s more challenging stunts in AOTC. Ben Cooke performed stunts for Anakin in ROTS, though Hayden performed many of his own duels. Hayden would later replace Sebastian Shaw in the final scene of ROTJ’s DVD release, as Hayden had arguably become the actor most identified with the character.
Of course voice actor Matt Lanter helped significantly define Anakin’s character in The Clone Wars (TCW) animated film feature and TV series. Anakin was also voiced by actor Mat Lucas in the prior 2D Clone Wars animated series.
Darth Vader nearly has a contender for the largest cast wrapped up in a single character. Boba Fett has been played by a talented group of folks – but do you know them all? Jeremy Bulloch was the principal actor wearing Fett’s costume in The Empire Strikes Back (TESB) and ROTJ. However, actor John Morton (who also played rebel pilot, Dak Ralter), filled in for one scene in ESB, and Jason Wingreen provided Fett’s original voice in the TESB. Additionally, Dickey Beer famously performed Fett’s stunts in ROTJ, and filled several other roles as well.
When it came time to produce the Special Editions, Mark Austin dawned Fett’s helmet for A New Hope (ANH) and Don Bies played the character in ROTJ. Daniel Logan then took up the mantle at age 10 to play baby Fett in AOTC, and went on to voice the character in TCW too. Having established in the prequels that Boba was a clone of Jango Fett, actor Temuera Morrison then re-voiced the bounty hunter’s lines for the DVD release of TESB.
Actor Ian McDiarmid is famous for his portrayal of Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine in ROTJ and the prequels. He didn’t work alone, however. In ROTS, Bob Bowles stood in for some of the lightsabers duels, along with Sebastian Dickins for stunts.
When it came time to make the Blu-Rays, another late change was made. The Emperor’s first appearance in the saga was as a hologram in TESB. Originally Elaine Baker, wife of legendary effects genius Rick Baker, played the part of the Emperor. Her face was covered in a prosthetic, with the eyes of a chimpanzee superimposed to make her appearance all the more unsettling. The Emperor’s voice was then provided by New Zealand actor Clive Revill. For the Blu-Ray, Ian McDiarmid recorded a new replacement scene to create a better continuity between all of the films.
Voice actor Ian Abercrombe went on to play Palpatine in TCW. When he passed away in January 2012, actor Tim Curry voiced the character for the rest of seasons 5 and 6.
Star Wars’ original Rodian was a gender-bender. Actor Paul Blake played the character when both Han Solo and Greedo appeared in same frame, but actress Maria De Aragon wore an animatronic mask for head close-ups. Meanwhile, linguist Larry Ward provided Greedo’s voice. Two decades later, a child-sized Greedo was called for in a deleted fight scene with Anakin Skywalker in TPM, so little Oliver Walpole (who also played Anakin’s friend, Seek) then played the part. When Greedo made his animated debut in TCW, Tom Kenny provided his voice.
Jabba the Hutt’s right-hand-Twi’lek was played by Michael Carter in ROTJ but voiced by Erik Boauersfield (who also voiced Admiral Ackbar). This would not be the end of Fortuna’s film career. Alan Ruscoe dawned Fortuna’s lekku in deleted senate scenes in TPM. Sound Editor Matthew Wood ultimately made his own acting debut as Bib Fortuna during the podracing scenes in the film.
Older and Younger
When George Lucas filmed the prequel trilogy, new talent was needed to play younger versions of many important characters. Most of his selections are fairly straightforward, as in the case of Owen and Baru Lars. In ANH, they were played by Phil Brown and Shelagh Fraser, and then in the prequels by Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse, respectively.
Other examples include rebel Captain Raymus Antilles, who is played by both Peter Geddis (ANH) and Rohan Nichol (ROTS). The Empire’s Grand Moff Tarkin is played by Peter Cushing (ANH) and Wayne Pygram (ROTS), as well as voice actor Stephen Stanton (TCW and SWR). The Republic senator and Rebel leader Mon Mothma is played by Caroline Blakiston (ROTJ) and Genevieve O’Reilly (ROTS), as well as voice actor Kath Soucie (TCW).
The elder Obi-Wan Kenobi was played by legendary actor Alec Guinness, but bringing younger Obi-Wan to life was slightly more complex due to the many action scenes in the prequels. Obi was chiefly played by Ewan McGregor, but he was assisted by the prolific stunt doubles Andreas Petrides (TPM) and Nash Edgerton (AOTC and ROTS). The latter is the brother of the aforementioned Joel Edgerton. Legendary voice actor James Arnold Taylor has spent the most time as Ob-Wan though, playing the character in the 2D Clone Wars series, the 3D TCW film and TV series, as well as SWR.
Is This a Jedi Mind Trick?
Occasionally characters are even changed mid-film, with a slightly unsettling effect. It’s common to re-dub lines in the studio, especially when there are audio problems on set during filming, but ideally it’s done by the original actor. In ROTJ, the case of Rebel A-wing pilot, Sila Kott, is particularly odd. She is played by British actress Poppy Hands, yet inexplicably dubbed over by an American man’s voice in the final cut of the film!
Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles is one of the most unusual actor swaps in the entire saga. In the briefing room on Yavin, actor Colin Higgins, who passed away in December 2012, played Wedge Antilles. Reportedly he had trouble remembering his lines however, and was replaced by British actor Denis Lawson (uncle of actor Ewan McGregor) for the remaining scenes of the attack on the Death Star. George Lucas wanted Wedge to have an American accent though, so he cast David Ankrum to dub the lines for both actors. Thus Wedge Antilles has two on-screen faces, but a singular voice. Denis Lawson polished his American accent and went on to play Wedge in the rest of the original trilogy, using his own voice.
If you’d like to meet a few of these actors in person, you are in luck! Jeremy Bulloch, John Morton, Dickey Beer, Daniel Logan, Ian McDiarmid, Clive Revill, Erik Boauersfield, Matthew Wood, Bonnie Piesse, and Stephen Stanton will all be at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, and most will be available for autographs!
Author of DK’s Star Wars: What Makes a Monster?, Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide, and the upcoming LEGO Star Wars: Into Battle, follow Adam Bray on Twitter at @authoradambray.