Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine Was Almost Completely Different

Emperor Palpatine

Thanks to the mind-blowing first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalkerwe know that Emperor Palpatine is set to make his shock return in the upcoming Episode IX. Ian McDiarmid’s creepy laugh heard in the preview is so ingrained in Star Wars fans’ minds that we all instantly knew that the sound of it meant that Darth Sidious would be making a comeback.

As we await the conclusion of the Skywalker saga, then, it’s interesting to look back at how the character could’ve been completely different. Most fans will know that McDiarmid didn’t play the role in the theatrical cut of The Empire Strikes Back, with Marjorie Eaton appearing under the mask and Clive Revill providing the voice. It was only for the Emperor’s increased part in Return of the Jedi that McDiarmid was hired and the rest is cinematic history.

However, ScreenRant have been taking a look at J.W. Rinzler’s 2013 book, The Making of Return of the Jedi and uncovered the fact that McDiarmid initially didn’t win the part. 75-year-old English actor Alan Webb was originally cast as the villain for Episode VI. Fate intervened, though, when both a dangerous snowstorm and Webb contracting the flu prevented him from traveling to the set. The much-younger McDiarmid, then 37, was found to replace him.

As SR writes, if Webb had remained in the role, this could have had a huge knock-on effect for the future of the franchise. When it comes to the Prequel Trilogy, for instance, Webb may have been too elderly to reprise his part. Perhaps McDiarmid, who had already met with Lucas prior to Webb’s casting, could have belatedly landed the gig, but who can say? Likewise, without a reliable performer like McDiarmid on hand to return, the Emperor might’ve not even been involved in Episode IX. 

It’s fascinating to think about what the Star Wars universe would be without him, but thankfully, McDiarmid is our Emperor, and we’ll find out what his latest diabolical scheme is when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits cinemas on December 20th.