WARNING: Spoilers for Rogue One below.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story didn’t devote much screen time to Darth Vader, but the iconic Star Wars villain certainly made his presence felt by the time the end credits rolled. Much of Rogue One’s focus on the Empire centered on Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), who gets his own taste of the Dark Side of the Force, but Vader nonetheless leaves a memorable impression on the first standalone Star Wars movie in his limited screen time.
Whenever Vader came on the screen, it felt like the same classic character, even with a new costume. That’s mainly because James Earl Jones returned to lend his distinctive voice to the character. But Vader’s mannerisms are also reminiscent of the original Star Wars trilogy, down to the way he points his finger at Krennic. The faithful, familiar recreation of Vader for Rogue One owes some credit to not one, but two actors who combined to make Vader look as menacing as he sounds.
As reported by PopSugar, Spencer Wilding is a 6-foot-7 mountain of an actor who you might recognize from other recent blockbusters if you see his face, which you do not see with Vader in Rogue One. He recently played a prison guard who takes Peter Quill’s Walkman away in Guardians of the Galaxy. Wilding has also played a White Walker on Game of Thrones, an uncredited role as a Knight of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and three different characters on Dr. Who.
The other actor who helped portray Vader is Daniel Naprous, who is mostly credited as a stunt performer in his career but gets an acting credit for Rogue One. Naprous has 40 stuntman credits to his name going back to 1995, including Game of Thrones, Prometheus, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Children of Men. He also performed stunts for the upcoming Wonder Woman and Kingsmen: The Golden Circle.
Wilding and Naprous did a respectable job combining to bring Vader’s intimidating physical presence back to life in Rogue One, despite the character’s brief time on screen. Vader’s unsettling presence in his confrontation with Krennic dominated the scene and introduced a whole new generation of Star Wars fans to his immense power. Vader’s ruthless attack on a group of rebel soldiers in the movie’s final sequence provided an even louder reminder of Vader’s capabilities, in what is perhaps the character’s deadliest moment in the entire franchise.
It was, of course, a major challenge to be tasked with reviving such an iconic villain. Rogue One’s version of Vader may not turn out as memorable an appearance as in the original trilogy – but he didn’t have to. Rogue One’s deep, talented cast carried the movie enough that Vader did not need to appear very often for the movie to be a success. And he certainly didn’t need a lot of screen time to make a major impact.