‘Star Wars’: 25 Worst Casting Mistakes in the Saga
For over 40 years, the Star Wars saga has been a beacon of fun, adventure, and imagination for generations of moviegoers. Along the way, the George Lucas-created epic has made an incomparable impact on pop culture, contributing unforgettable moments, characters, and bits of dialogue to the cinematic landscape. Plus, let’s not forget that Lucas’ decision to retain merchandising rights and the series’ insane box office numbers helped shape the industry and created the concept of a summer movie season.
Yet, despite all that Star Wars has done for the world of movies, the saga is not immune from its own problems. The prequel films in particular have a divisive reputation among fans, and even the original trilogy isn’t perfect. Moreover, though the original films launched the careers of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, the saga has intermittently featured some egregious casting missteps as well. Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest ones.
25. Keisha Castle-Hughes as Queen Apailana
Here’s where it becomes difficult to blame the actor over the cardboard-cutout dialogue written by Lucas for the prequel trilogy. Whale Rider and Game of Thrones star Keisha Castle-Hughes was both an overlooked and wasted talent as the Queen of Naboo in Revenge of the Sith. She is an actress who deserves far more than what she got.
24. Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Before you bust out the pitchforks, we’ll clarify this one: Alec Guinness straight up did not enjoy his time in Star Wars, and at times, you can practically feel him phoning in his performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi as a result. In a letter to his friend written when he was originally cast, he labeled the franchise “fairy-tale rubbish,” later expounding on how much he hated the dialogue.
23. Joel Edgerton as a young Owen Lars
In A New Hope, Uncle Owen comes off as resentful of Luke’s father in his youth, an emotion that we’d hoped would shine through as a source of conflict in the prequels. Instead, Joel Edgerton spends most of his time coming off as little more than indifferent to Anakin, functioning only as a prop to serve the larger narrative concerning the search for Shmi when she’s captured by Tusken Raiders.
22. Silas Carson as Nute Gunray
We’re not sure what accent Nute Gunray is supposed to be using in the Star Wars prequels, but having English actor Silas Carson don a slightly (and offensively) Asian-sounding inflection was a horrible call all around.
Today, Gunray is remembered as the prequel villain most likely to have you cringing every time he speaks.
21. Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera
There’s no doubting Forest Whitaker’s acting talents across his lengthy career in Hollywood. That being so, it was tough to really buy into Saw Gerrera in Rogue One, with Whitaker playing the paranoid, unhinged extremist rebel.
Odds are last-minute rewrites and reshoots are at least slightly responsible for the scattered nature of his character, but all we have to go off of is the final product we saw in the film itself.
20. David Prowse as Darth Vader
Darth Vader is more than just the booming voice of James Earl Jones, with British actor David Prowse donning the actual suit in the original trilogy. And while he didn’t do anything bad in the role itself, he caused a whole lot of problems for the franchise off the set.
In a speech at University of California, Berkeley in 1978, he spoiled The Empire Strikes Back twist a full two years before the film’s release, and spent a good deal of his time beefing with Lucas over having his voice swapped out for Jones’.
19. Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett
When you think of the Fett family, you think of hardened, crafty badasses. We saw little of that from Jango Fett throughout Attack of the Clones, as Temuera Morrison delivered a relatively flat and uninspiring portrayal of a man who is supposedly frightening enough to clone a whole army.
18. Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Truly great villains are often the most well-rounded ones, and that’s not at all what we got from Domhnall Gleeson’s performance as General Hux. As the military leader of the First Order in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Hux comes off as little more than a mustache-twirling cartoon baddie, offering little in the way of depth or development.
17. Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala
Given that Padmé was supposed to be the whole reason Anakin turned to the Dark Side in the first place, it’s tough to see Natalie Portman’s stiff performance as the former Queen and Senator as anything even close to compelling. For what feels like the thousandth time, we can probably blame the script and the direction she received on set, but it doesn’t make Padmé any more interesting.
16. Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker
When it comes to the mother of the man who would later become Darth Vader, you’d expect to see some semblance of at least a veiled sinister nature. Instead, Pernilla August mostly played Shmi Skywalker as a two-dimensional, benevolent housekeeper. That largely could have been a product of the script, but it doesn’t make Shmi any more of an intriguing character.
15. Andy Secombe as Watto
Much like fellow The Phantom Menace cast member Ahmed Best, Andy Secombe was largely a victim of his direction from Lucas. That said, Watto’s role as a borderline anti-Semitic caricature can’t be ignored, especially when paired with a handful of other similarly cringeworthy performances in the film.
14. Clive Revill as Emperor Palpatine
Clive Revill’s biggest sin in the Star Wars saga is simply that he’s not Ian McDiarmid, the actor we know most as Emperor Palpatine. The thing is, Revill first played the Emperor in the original version of The Empire Strikes Back, and only found himself cut in subsequent versions of the film.
13. Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe
Donnie Yen’s talents as a martial arts star are beyond reproach, and his big fight scene in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was a blast to watch. That said, his acting still left something to be desired, failing to deliver the level of depth that his character, Chirrut Îmwe, seemed to demand.
12. Clancy Brown as a variety of characters in the animated Star Wars universe
This one’s not so much a knock against Clancy Brown’s considerable voice-acting abilities, as much as it’s a problem with the frequency of his casting. Over his run in the Star Wars animated universe, he’s played two major characters, which in itself isn’t exactly a problem per se. But when you start hearing the same distinctive voice from side players, and good guys and bad guys alike, it starts to call some unnecessary attention.
11. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
When Kylo Ren removed his mask for the first time, seeing Adam Driver’s face didn’t exactly scream, “this is an imposing villain.” And while you could make an argument that he’s supposed to come off as an angsty teenager, it goes a long way toward compromising his role as someone to be feared.
10. Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks
This one’s tough to pin on the actor too, but we’d be remiss in not bringing Jar Jar Binks into the conversation nonetheless. Ahmed Best could very well have been doing exactly what he was directed to do by Lucas, and yet still, it doesn’t make the final product any less cringeworthy.
9. Sebastian Shaw as old Anakin Skywalker
While we understand that Darth Vader sans helmet wasn’t meant to be imposing, it also seemed like a poor decision to unmask him in the first place. Enter Sebastian Shaw, the man most known as the elderly Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi.
When you look at Vader unmasked, and then think of him as the Sith who terrorized the galaxy for decades, it doesn’t quite measure up to fan expectations.
8. Ray Park as Darth Maul
While one of the cooler-looking villains in the Star Wars saga, Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace felt under-developed personality wise. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that he had all of two lines in the entire movie, but there’s something to be said for casting stuntman Ray Park for the role, rather than a trained actor.
It makes a stark contrast too, especially when you see Maul voiced to perfection by Sam Witwer in the animated Clone Wars TV series years later.
7. Brian Blessed as Boss Nass
All bad CGI aside, Boss Nass was one of the more regrettable inclusions in The Phantom Menace. Few people know that the Gungan ruler was voiced by stage legend Brian Blessed, in a nigh-criminal misuse of his considerable talents. It’s a role that was far below Blessed’s abilities and prestige, and one that remains to this day as one of his bigger career mistakes in Hollywood.
6. Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn
We’ve seen Liam Neeson in a variety of roles, including his decidedly more badass side, thanks in large part to the Taken franchise. That being so, it would have been interesting to see at least a little bit of that in The Phantom Menace. Qui-Gon Jinn is supposed to be as rebellious to the will of the Jedi Council as he is wise, but in the end, he comes off mostly as stoic. Ultimately, it’s a role we know that Neeson could have done better with.
5. Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
Anakin just can’t catch a break. First Lloyd, and now Hayden Christensen. When news broke that the second film in the prequel trilogy would introduce a teenage Anakin, many big-name actors were rumored for the part. Nevertheless, Lucas chose Christensen, and whether the resulting performance in Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith was a product of Lucas’ direction and scripts or Christensen’s limited range (we venture to say it’s a combination of both), rarely has a lead character been so irritating and unlikable.
Christensen is at least solid in the 2003 indie drama, Shattered Glass, so perhaps this one’s on Lucas after all.
4. Daniel Logan as young Boba Fett
Okay, we know we said we hate to pick on child actors, but we can’t get through this list without mentioning Daniel Logan’s role as a young Boba Fett. Just as the prequels (in the eyes of many fans) stripped Vader of any mystery when Lloyd entered the saga, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones does the same thing for the fan-favorite bounty hunter.
Thankfully, Logan doesn’t have too much screen time. However, when he is onscreen, his lack of acting experience is borderline distracting. We can only hope that if the actor returns to the role in live action (as he has in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series), he’ll fine-tune his performance style a bit more.
3. Terence Stamp as Chancellor Valorum
Another example of a great actor with an underwhelming part is Terence Stamp as Chancellor Valorum. We’re willing to bet some of you didn’t even realize that Stamp was in Star Wars. If so, that’s probably because he has almost nothing to do. Chancellor Valorum only appears in a couple of scenes in The Phantom Menace.
This begs the question of why Lucas would bother bringing in such a talent when Stamp didn’t even have the chance to use any of his tools as a performer. Talk about a wasted opportunity.
2. Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
Don’t get us wrong, Samuel L. Jackson is an incredibly gifted actor, and any director is lucky to have him. However, since most of the actors in the Star Wars saga were either unknowns or up-and-comers when they joined the saga, it’s weird to see the Oscar-nominated star of Pulp Fiction, A Time to Kill, and The Negotiator acting alongside Jedi Master Yoda.
Lucas’ bizarre directorial style doesn’t help either, as Jackson is more wooden and has less personality here than in virtually any of his other work.
1. Jake Lloyd as young Anakin Skywalker
As much as we hate to pick on child actors, we’re ending this list with one anyway. Anakin Skywalker has historically been at the heart of the saga, both before and after he becomes Darth Vader. We’re not 100% opposed to Lucas’ idea of meeting Anakin as a young boy, but actor Jake Lloyd lacks the subtlety and nuance to create a character we can root for.
Remember, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released the same year that Haley Joel Osment earned an Oscar nod for The Sixth Sense. Imagine how much more effective Anakin’s downfall would have been with an actor who could elevate the script and bring a bit more depth to it. The kid from Jingle All the Way just doesn’t cut it here.
Additional reporting by Nick Cannata-Bowman.
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