Was Palpatine Wanted in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ Before J.J. Abrams Came Along?

The finale for the Skywalker Saga within the Star Wars franchise is fast-approaching. The Rise of Skywalker has a lot to live up to and needs to provide sufficient closure on many characters to be a success for fans. One way it hopes to do that is to bring back Emperor Palpatine, a figure that has been a significant villain in all the trilogies except the sequels (The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi). 

Interestingly, the well-known villain wasn’t original in Episode IX. For J.J. Abrams, it was essential to bring him back to close out the saga. 

A 'Star Wars' concert that has orchestra playing live alongside the movie.
Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine on screen during ‘Star Wars: In Concert’ at the Orleans Arena May 29, 2010, in Las Vegas, Nevada | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Emperor Palpatine originally was not in the script for ‘Episode IX’

In an interview with Empire magazine, Colin Trevorrow talked about how he was initially the director and writer for Episode IX. Collider reported that the head of Star Wars fired Trevorrow from the project because of creative differences involving the script. Regardless, he told Empire that Abrams had the idea to bring Darth Sidious back after his “death” in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. “Bringing back the Emperor was an idea JJ brought to the table when he came on board,” he said. “It’s honestly something I never considered. I commend him for it. This was a tough story to unlock, and he found the key.”

Even though they removed Trevorrow from Episode IX, he still has writing credits on The Rise of Skywalker because some of his ideas were kept in the script. “I’m not sure anyone who chooses the creative life should expect things,” he said. “But I’m grateful to JJ [Abrams] for embracing some of our ideas. It’s exciting that fans will get to see the moments that felt essential to all of us.”

Palpatine was essential in making ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ stand out

As one could easily guess, the audience reaction to Palpatine’s return in The Rise of Skywalker was huge. When the trailer premiered at Star Wars Celebration in April, the crowd lost it when Palpatine’s well-known, ominous laugh happened in the trailer. He’s a character so fundamental to the other trilogies; it’s a perfect tribute to bring back in this one. 

Empire also interviewed Abrams in October and addressed his reasoning for bringing the Emperor back. “Some people feel like we shouldn’t revisit the idea of Palpatine, and I completely understand that,” he said. “But if you’re looking at the nine films as one story, I don’t know many books where the last few chapters have nothing to do with those that have come before. If you look at the first eight films, all the set-ups of what we’re in IX are there in plain view.”

Adding these new elements of surprise can be partly credited to Rian Johnson

Abrams received criticism for The Force Awakens being a little too similar to other Star Wars films. And while Abrams welcomes those criticisms, he stands by wanting to continue the story that he. 

He did, however, tell TotalFilm that Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi took risks that inspired him for The Rise of Skywalker. “In Episode 7, I was adhering to a kind of approach that felt right for Star Wars in my head,” Abrams said. “It was about finding a visual language, like shooting on locations and doing practical things as much as possible. And we continue that in Episode 9, but I also found myself doing things that I’m not sure I would have been as daring to do on Episode 7.”

All opinions aside, the final Star Wars film is going to have lots of fun aspects for all fans to enjoy.