Casting can truly make or break a project. An actor has to be entirely believable in their designated role in order for a project to be convincing and enjoyable. Given how many characters each episode of the Star Wars saga boasts, it’s really no small feat to ensure that each character is well-cast, well-acted, and plays well off their corresponding scene partners.
Sometimes, a casting choice is doomed by bad writing and poor development. Other times, characters seem like they could be great in theory, if only the casting had been a little better. Occasionally, neither the character nor the actor seems as though they could have been salvaged in any way.
Rarer than all other scenarios is one in which the character truly seems as though it was made for the actor, and the actor was made to play that character in return, creating a truly iconic performance in the process.
Star Wars is filled with myriad characters both memorable and forgettable, and there’s no denying that casting played a large part in each character’s success.
Here are the 10 Incredible Star Wars Casting Decisions (And 5 That Were TERRIBLE).
15. Incredible: Harrison Ford as Han Solo
To put it simply, it’s entirely impossible to imagine anyone else than Harrison Ford as Han Solo.
No matter what that means for Solo: A Star Wars Story, it goes without saying that Han would not be as influential in popular culture as he has been had anyone other than Ford portrayed him.
With the perfect mix of scruffy nerfherder humor and the roguish charm of a scoundrel, Han Solo fills and subverts every action hero trope in spades. He may win the heart of Leia Organa over time, but Han is clearly anything but a ladies’ man. Awkward and self-doubting, Han is allowed to be both vulnerable and heroic.
Armed with comedic timing in spades, charisma by the bucketful, and Ford’s inherent talent, Han Solo became one of Star Wars‘ most important characters for a very good reason, all thanks to the right casting choice.
14. Incredible: Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
When it comes to following in an actor’s stead, it’s safe to say that Sir Alec Guinness’s shoes would have been incredibly difficult to fill.
Thankfully for the Star Wars franchise, however, they were able to find an actor not only able to follow in Guinness’s footsteps, but also make the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi entirely synonymous with himself.
Thanks to films such as Trainspotting, Ewan McGregor was a familiar name already by the time he would portray Obi-Wan. But his previous level of fame did nothing to prevent his name from being instantly and eternally associated with the iconic Jedi master.
McGregor played Obi-Wan over the span of his Jedi career, from bright-eyed padawan to disillusioned failed master. And no matter his years, McGregor imbued each and every moment of his performance with one of Star Wars‘ most crucial elements: humanity.
13. Terrible: Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a movie unlike any other Star Wars movie. Arguably more of a war-driven plot than any of the other films, Rogue One also boasts a larger cast of core characters than the traditional saga films.
Among these characters, standouts include Baze, Chirrut, and Bodhi, distinct and diverse characters with truly original points of view and personalities. Cassian Andor presents an interesting grey morality absent from prior protagonists in the franchise as well.
And then, we have Jyn Erso, a character who could and should have been amazing. Jyn is clearly Star Wars‘ answer to the stiff upper lip, only out for themselves male heroes that populate many early 20th century war dramas.
But based on a combination of Felicity Jones’ inscrutable acting choices, awkward and exposition-laden dialogue, and perhaps the eleventh hour reshoots for the film, Jyn is a largely forgettable character, no matter the importance of all members of the Rogue team’s sacrifice.
12. Incredible: Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa
As a princess, a rebel leader, a senator, and a general– Leia Organa has truly done it all over the course of the Star Wars saga, no matter the pain she endured along the way. Resilient even in the face of the direst of straits, Leia is equal parts vulnerable and badass, wise beyond her years and selflessly heroic from the very beginning.
Leia’s acerbic wit and fiery tempers are traits that could have gone horribly awry in the hands of a less capable actor. But it’s entirely thanks to the considerable talent of the late Carrie Fisher that Leia became the successful and inspirational character she remains to be to this very day.
In addition to Fisher’s nuanced portrayal of Leia, Fisher’s talent as a writer and editor also helped considerably behind the scenes, strengthening dialogue and characterization even in the sequel trilogy.
11. Incredible: John Boyega as Finn
Early in the development of his character, Finn was a Caucasian smuggler named Sam with a chip on his shoulder and an air of being Han Solo wannabe. Sometimes, a project really doesn’t know what a character needs to be until the right actor is found.
With the casting of John Boyega, a relative newcomer to the game after a starring role in the British sci-fi film Attack the Block, Finn’s character gained a whole new role, purpose, and life. Aided by Boyega’s endless charm and earnest heart, Finn has become one of the franchise’s most fascinating characters.
As a onetime Stormtrooper who feels out of place in his new world, Boyega plays Finn with every bit of anxiety and stress on display as needed. Yet, Finn consistently provides many of the films’ lighter moments, all thanks to Boyega’s perfect comedic timing.
10. Terrible: Domhnall Gleeson as Armitage Hux
The minor characters in Star Wars are prone to falling into the trap of the archetype. In a story so fundamentally connected to the path of the hero’s journey, it’s only inevitable that certain characters’ development are sacrificed in favor of serving the story.
More often than not, the secondary dark side characters suffer the worst of these fates, delivering virtually indistinguishable lines with grimaces and British accents in spades.
Yet no matter their conventionality, it is possible for these characters to become iconic, if the performer is right. Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin more than attests to this fact.
However, in the case of Armitage Hux, the sequel trilogy has somehow succeeded in creating an utterly forgettable character by going above and beyond the archetype and heading straight for the extremes.
Domhnall Gleeson is a wonderfully talented actor, and there’s no denying that if you’ve seen any of his other roles, particularly Ex Machina. That’s why it’s such a shame that, as Hux, his talents are utterly wasted on such a thankless character.
9. Incredible: Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
From his introduction, Lando Calrissian is a character whose entire personality is based on charm and deceit. A gambler, liar, and manipulator, Lando is the perfect cocktail of friend and foe.
Charming until he betrays you, Lando is that one friend who’s really only ever out for himself… until a change of heart kicks in almost too late, and suddenly, he’s the most loyal friend you’ve ever had.
Calrissian’s arc has a whole lot of complex psychology wrapped up in it, in a very short amount of time, and with a less talented actor, this transition from manipulator to hero would have felt so much less than genuine.
However, with the casting of the suave, smooth, and superbly talented Billy Dee Williams, Lucasfilm guaranteed that Lando Calrissian would be a character remembered fondly for years to come, no matter his initial misgivings.
8. Incredible: Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
It takes a considerable amount of talent to turn a character from a whiny farmboy, to an intergalactic hero, all the way to a jaded and paranoid old man. To return to a character who meant so much to so many after nearly 40 years is no easy task.
But to return to a beloved character after so many years, only to reveal a deeply flawed and vulnerable new side of said character, and to do justice to both character and plot in the process… Well, that’s practically unheard of.
Yet that’s exactly what Mark Hamill has done, transforming Luke Skywalker from hero to human and hero again. With his earnest and kind demeanor, emotional openness, and commitment to understanding a plot even if he didn’t initially agree with it, Hamill has proved himself the consummate professional time and again.
7. Terrible: Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala
The issues fans have with the prequel trilogy are likely endless. Two major points of dissatisfaction over the years have included the hackneyed love story and the overwrought political drama. Of course, what both of these plots have in common is a considerable mistake in casting.
Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Padme Amidala may be one of the worst mistakes that the franchise has ever made. With a bizarre blend of monotone line delivery and over dramatics, Portman’s Padme is disingenuous, disinterested, ineffectual, and extremely boring.
6. Incredible: Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor
For all the many flaws of the prequel series, one thing that cannot be faulted is the development of Palpatine into The Emperor.
Although the films are continually bogged down by dry political drama that never seems to amount to anything, Palpatine’s presence livens each and every conflict that he is present within.
His ascension to power is a harrowing journey, showing the utter failure of the Jedi and the Galactic system at every turn.
He is only as successful as he is, of course, due to the way in which his character is portrayed. And thanks to the manipulative potency of Ian McDiarmid’s Machiavellian maneuvers, it’s no real surprise that Palpatine ends the trilogy with unlimited power.
5. Incredible: James Earl Jones as Darth Vader
With the advent of motion capture and voice over work existing in tandem, voice actors are slowly but surely being taken more seriously in recent years. They are now being rightfully praised for their work.
Yet long before this cultural shift, one man in particular deserved unending credit for a key performance in Star Wars he completed with only his voice and nothing more. James Earl Jones’ booming voice is as much a part of Darth Vader’s character as any visual aspect of him, if not more so.
Utterly commanding and filled with raw emotional power, Jones’s voice work transforms the narrative potential of Vader as a cartoonish dictator into something far more Shakespearean and nuanced, creating the legend he is today.
4. Terrible: Benicio Del Toro as DJ
The Last Jedi had the unenviable task of introducing a group of new characters into an already incredibly populated cast. Certain characters, such as Resistance heroes Rose Tico and Amilyn Holdo, were clear successes from the get go, with critical responses raving in their favor.
Yet other characters were far less successful, and perhaps in no case more than the vaguely named D.J. Except, of course, D.J. is not even his real name, referring simply instead to his tagline of “Don’t Join.”
Portrayed by Benicio Del Toro, whose body of work more than attests to his clear acting talents, the character comes across as a muddled mess. A quasi-mercenary out for himself, D.J. is, in some ways, the sequel trilogy’s answer to the iconic Lando Calrissian.
However, by making him a clear alcoholic, liar, and manipulator from the beginning, and someone with no relationship to Finn and Rose whatsoever (unlike Han and Lando’s checkered past), the film, and Del Toro’s portrayal along with it, failed to make D.J. worth anything more than a few awkward laughs.
3. Incredible: Daisy Ridley as Rey
As a character whose journey is predicated on mystery, loneliness, and the struggle to remain hopeful, Rey’s portrayal clearly requires a lot of nuanced emotions and uncomfortable introspection. Lesser actors could turn her overall story into a melodrama, sensationalized to the point of soap opera theatrics.
Thankfully, however, that is never once a possibility due to the casting of the wonderfully gifted Daisy Ridley as Rey in The Force Awakens.
With a portrayal that combines raw pain, rage, and hope, Ridley is a tour de force as the sequel trilogy’s lead heroine. If the future of the Jedi order rests in her hands, it’s safe to say that there’s no one else who would have been more qualified to lead.
2. Incredible: Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
The sequel trilogy of Star Wars has been considered not only the making of a protagonist, but the making of an antagonist, too. In both films we’ve seen so far, we have witnessed the making and unmaking of the man known as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo.
Tortured and emotionally conflicted in a way that Star Wars characters have never been before, it’s easy to see how people can misread his character as “emo” or over the top.
However, no matter the theatrics associated with his role, it’s Adam Driver’s subtler moments of reflection, self-doubt, and vulnerability that have shown that Kylo Ren is so much more than just a man with a mask.
Childish and lost, Driver’s Kylo is a fundamentally flawed antihero, poised for greatness and left to fend for himself in a world that never took the time to care about him.
1. Terrible: Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
More than any other character in the Star Wars franchise, Anakin Skywalker truly suffered from bad writing and development.
With the reveal of Anakin’s backstory, generations of Star Wars fans everywhere wondered how it was possible that the emotionally childish padawan could have possibly become the imposing Darth Vader.
Aided by awkward dialogue (“I hate sand” anyone?), impulsive behaviors with almost no logic behind them, and a rapid descent into darkness, Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker is almost impossible to associate with James Earl Jones’ masterful and nuanced Darth Vader.
While Christensen did improve as Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, showing a fuller range of emotions and development, the effort was all but too little, too late.
Anakin’s poor characterization in the nearly unwatchable Attack of the Clones all but guaranteed negative responses to Anakin were here to stay.
What do you think were the best and worst Star Wars casting decisions? Let us know in the comments!
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