George Lucas Said The Emperor Was Definitely Dead Before Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

Palpatine Star Wars

I didn’t particularly enjoy Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It was confusingly plotted, had very little sense of tension and repeatedly walked back the interesting elements of the previous film. But one thing I felt really dragged the movie down was J.J. Abrams’ decision to resurrect Emperor Palpatine. We last saw him on screen being hurled into the reactor core of the second Death Star and exploding, shortly before the Death Star itself exploded. You might think that would finish the guy off, but he’s come back to life for reasons the film doesn’t care about going into.

Bringing back a villain with no real connection to the events of the previous two pics wasn’t a smart move, giving me the sense that Abrams just didn’t have confidence in Kylo Ren to be a compelling antagonist in his own right. And, since the movie’s release, we’ve heard that his inclusion may have been a very late addition.

Apparently, Ian McDiarmid was only contacted in early 2019 to appear in the film, and like us, he was under the impression that the Emperor died for good in Return of the Jedi. In fact, in an interview with Digital Spy, McDiarmid revealed his surprise at being asked to reprise the role, saying:

“I thought I was dead! I thought he was dead. Because when we did Return of the Jedi, and I was thrown down that chute to Galactic Hell, [he was dead]. And I said, ‘Oh, does he come back?’ And [George] said, ‘No, he’s dead.’ [Laughs] So I just accepted that. But then, of course, I didn’t know I was going to be doing the prequels, so in a sense he wasn’t dead, because we went back to revisit him when he was a young man. But I was totally surprised by this.”

I suspect Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is destined to go down in history as a big missed opportunity. Abrams had a great cast of actors to work with, Rian Johnson left him with a bunch of plot threads to develop and there were any number of satisfying ways he could have chosen to wrap up the Sequel Trilogy. It’s just a shame he chose the one that simply regurgitates a character we’ve seen extensively before.