When A New Hope debuted way back in 1977, most of the actors were unknown. Harrison who? But as the series moved on, the actors became stars and it became fun to hide people in the background -- and even the foreground.
Star Wars movies, starting way back with The Empire Strikes Back, have been filled with cameos. They run the gamut superstar actors hidden behind makeup to hiding in the background and up-and-comers giving their careers a quiet little boost to behind-the-scenes stars getting a brief chance to shine on the big screen and directors jumping in front of the camera to actors hiding behind it. Just as a taste, because we can’t technically call them cameos, you might remember seeing the now-famous (but unknown back then) Keira Knightley, Rose Byrne, and Sofia Coppola as Padme’s handmaidens in the prequels. We're going even deeper than that.
Now get ready to uncover the cameos in a galaxy far, far away with 15 Hidden Cameos In Star Wars Movies.
Yes, the glorious creator of our favorite galaxy far, far away, George Lucas, put himself in the last Star Wars film he directed, Revenge of the Sith. Unlike directors like Alfred Hitchcock or M. Night Shyamalan, he's not big on putting himself in his own movies, but he made an exception here, portraying blue-faced Papanoida in a brief scene in the opera house where Palpatine spilled some Sith secrets to Anakin Skywalker.
Papanoida later appeared as an animated character in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, though Lucas didn’t lend his voice. We learn that the character is the chairman of the planet Pantora. His daughters were kidnapped by the Federation via the infamous bounty hunter Greedo. Papanoida heroically tracked down Greedo and forced him, with the help of Jabba the Hutt, to spill his daughters’ whereabouts, even engaging in some blaster fire along the way. Side note: an action figure was made of the character holding a cane and its tip was in the shape of the Death Star.
The cameos in The Force Awakens by hilarious actors Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live, Trainwreck) and Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, House of Lies) are strictly off-screen. Although both have plenty of experience voicing animated characters, in this case they were merely consultants for the robotic beeps and tweets of the Star Wars galaxy’s latest lovable little droid, BB-8.
Hader says he spoke into some sort of talk box, which was connected to director J.J. Abrams’ iPad, which filtered his voice into a sound effects app. He originally tried using his real voice, but it didn’t work out. As for Schwartz, he says he originally wrote real dialogue for the spherical droid, which Lucasfilm turned into robotic sounds, but much like Hader’s attempt, it didn’t work out. Then he tried something similar to Hader’s final attempt, filtering his voice into a computer. Schwartz also said his original written dialogue was used to establish emotional tones during the editing process.
We all know that Owen and Beru Lars, Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle, met an untimely, fiery end in A New Hope. So it was nice to see (much younger veresions of) the moisture farmers again in Attack of the Clones. In what may technically be more of an early role than a cameo, Joel Edgerton portrayed Owen and reprised the role in Revenge of the Sith. But his performance only amounted to a handful of lines.
The Australian star of the underrated MMA movie Warrior made his Star Wars appearance in the midst of a run on the popular Australian TV show The Secret Life of Us. It was through Edgerton’s portrayal of Owen that we learned he became Anakin Skywalker’s stepbrother when his father married Anakin’s mother, Shmi Skywalker. And it was that relationship which paved the way for Obi-Wan Kenobi to take the orphaned Luke to be raised by Owen and Beru-- which, it turned out for the couple, was a fatal mistake.
Let’s call John Ratzenberger’s brief performance as Major Derlin in The Empire Strikes Back a good luck charm for the actor. At the time, he was 32 years old and hadn’t yet become a household name. Granted, for younger readers, he still may not be much of a household name. But very soon after this appearance, he broke out as hilariously pathetic know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin on Cheers, spending 11 seasons in America’s living room. Since then, he’s become a Pixar staple, voicing characters big and small in every single Pixar film to date.
As Major Bren Derlin, the mustachioed Ratzenberger played the man who had to make the tough decision to close the Echo Base door on Hoth, as an attack was imminent, despite Luke Skywalker and Han Solo still being out in the cold. In the canon novel Heir to the Jedi we get more details on Derlin’s career, notably that he was on the Rebel ground team on Endor during the time of Return of the Jedi, though he didn’t appear in the movie.
Anthony Daniels is so much a part of every Star Wars movie that it’s hard to say he made a cameo. After all, he’s played C-3PO in all seven movies, strapped on the gold droid suit for a million other on-screen appearances and voiced him in just about every animated iteration of the character. But he did manage to appear without the gold mask hiding his face in Attack of the Clones, playing Dannl Faytonni in the Outlander Club scene on Coruscant, where Anakin and Obi-Wan were chasing the bounty hunter Zam Wesell. He also briefly appeared in Revenge of the Sith, in the opera house scene.
Lucas placed Daniels and other normally costumed Star Wars actors in Attack of the Clones, showing their real faces as a sort of thank you. And the name Dannl Faytonni is a near anagram for Anthony Daniels, also as a sort of tribute. The character later resurfaced in a 2008 StarWars.com web comic, where he meets Daniels’ alter ego, C-3PO.
Long before his fellow droid Daniels played another character in Attack of the Clones, the late Kenny Baker-- the man inside R2-D2-- appeared in Return of the Jedi as an Ewok named Paploo. The only difference between his appearance and Daniels’, of course, was that Baker’s face was still disguised by a costume. The 3’8” British actor was the perfect height to play one of the diminutive, furry inhabitants of the forest moon of Endor.
Baker was first cast to play the most prominent Ewok, Wicket, but was unable to take such a demanding role due to an illness. But he did get to play Paploo in a standout scene in Episode VI. You’ll surely remember Paploo as the adventurous Ewok who steals one of those sweet Imperial speeder bikes, which distracts a group of scout troopers who chase him, allowing Han and Leia a little more freedom to approach the Imperial generator.
The late artist Ralph McQuarrie played a massive role in creating the visuals of the world we’ve come to know as the Star Wars universe. Even the concept art he created of characters during the early production days of A New Hope have since become iconic, as have his famous hyper-realistic matte paintings used as backgrounds in the original trilogy. His style was used as a template for The Clone Wars animated series and has influenced Rebels as well. And some of his original concept art was even used by J.J. Abrams to create characters and settings in The Force Awakens, even a few years after McQuarrie’s death.
The legendary artist continues to influence this beloved franchise and was greatly admired by Lucas for his work, so it’s no surprise that McQuarrie was rewarded with a cameo. Given the anagrammatic first name “Pharl,” he appears briefly in The Empire Strikes Back. On the Rebels’ Hoth base, he walks across the screen, fittingly holding a clipboard with a sketch pad, as he walks in front of one of his own matte paintings of a transport ship.
Some of you may be wondering who Pablo Hidalgo is and how his cameo can be significant if you’ve never heard of him. After all, he’s not an actor or even a director. Others will know exactly who he is. He started out as a huge fan and created the "Star Wars Fan Boy Association". Then, around the turn of the millennium, he was brought into the Star Wars inner circle thanks to his extensive knowledge. He helped build StarWars.com to serve as a resource for fans during the prequels. These days, his knowledge is so vast that he’s a writer of reference books and a story consultant for just about everything in the Star Wars universe, with the title of “creative executive” at Lucasfilm.
But very early on he was rewarded for his indispensable knowledge with a cameo in Revenge of the Sith. His character, Janu Godalhi (an anagram for his father’s name, Juan Hidalgo), appeared, along with other cameos, in the opera house scene. So far, it’s the character’s one and only appearance in canon, though he did also appear in a non-canon “Choose Your Own Adventure” style Clone Wars book for kids.
It was a role that any old extra could have played, but Daniel Craig-- James Bond himself-- took it just for the fun of appearing in a Star Wars movie: a simple, costumed stormtrooper. This is a guy worth nearly $100 million thanks to his appearances in blockbusters like Casino Royale and Skyfall, but Star Wars has a way of bringing the little kid out even in multimillionaires who have a reputation for occasionally being a little cranky. Craig kept his cameo a secret during filming, but he happened to be filming Spectre at the same studio at the same time, so it was easy for him to run over to the Star Wars set.
All that being said, knowing Craig is inside the costume of this particular stormtrooper makes the scene all the more enjoyable. He’s the trooper that Rey, captive on Starkiller Base, tells to remove her restraints. He responds, “I’ll tighten those restraints, scavenger scum!” But then she digs into her hidden Force powers and plants a Jedi mind trick on him, and he impotently declares, “I will remove these restraints and leave the cell with the door open.” Finally, the icing on the cake comes when she tells him to drop his weapon as he leaves the room-- and he does.
So, you’re a dad and you love your kids and you want to show them around the office, show them off to your co-workers. You bring them in and everybody says how cute they are and how much they’ve grown. But when you’re George Lucas, the office happens to be a mega-blockbuster film set.
When Lucas was making the prequel trilogy, he had three children (he’s since had a fourth, three-year-old Everest): Jett, Katie and Amanda. And all three made it into the prequels at various points as various background characters. Jett was just nine when Attack of the Clones was released, the perfect age to play a padawan named Zett Jukassa, a role he reprised in Revenge of the Sith.
Katie appeared in all three prequels. Billed as Jenna Green in The Phantom Menace, she had a one-line role as human Amee, noting that Anakin had been working on his podracer for years. In Attack of the Clones she was Lunae Minx, a purple Twi’lek at the Outlander Club. And in Revenge of the Sith she was in blue makeup as Chi Eekway Papanoida, Daughter of Baron Papanoida, who was played by her real-life father. Katie also wrote a bunch of Clone Wars episodes.
As for Amanda, she also appeared in all three prequels: first as dancer Diva Funquita, then as Adnama in Clones’ Outlander Club, and finally as a human senator named Terr Taneel.
The story of actor Treat Williams appearing essentially as an extra in The Empire Strikes Back is quite similar to Craig’s story. Just 28 at the time of filming, he was considered an actor on the rise in the late ‘70s thanks to his Golden Globe-nominated performance in 1979’s Hair. Presumably a fan of A New Hope, which everyone simply knew as Star Wars at the time, and evidently a friend of Carrie Fisher, Williams visited Empire’s Hoth set at Elstree Studios in England.
While there are set photos of him with Fisher wearing the uniform of a Hoth Rebel soldier, nobody has quite been able to pinpoint where he appears in the film. After all, there are plenty of identically dressed men walking around Echo Base, which is where he would’ve appeared because the external scenes weren't shot England, when he was on set, but in Norway. Clearly, his appearance is shrouded in mystery and technically uncredited, but he was most certainly there.
Of the four directors who have helmed the seven so-far-released Star Wars films, only two have put themselves in their own movie. We already saw Lucas in Revenge of the Sith, but even before that, the late Richard Marquand cast himself for a tiny background role in Return of the Jedi. A relatively inexperienced film director at the time, there were reports of difficulties with him and the cast, particularly Carrie Fisher and Lucas himself, who is said to have been on set all the time to make sure Marquand was getting things right.
Regardless, Marquand did get on-screen as the eponymous Major Marquand/Newland. The fictional Marquand was an Imperial AT-ST pilot during the Battle of Endor, who becomes a casualty of war when he’s beaten up by an Ewok who jumped into the AT-ST’s cockpit, with the help of Chewbacca. While the character was originally named Marquand for the director, it’s oddly been changed in the new canon to Newland.
A handful of famous people quietly leant their voices to The Force Awakens, including one posthumously. But we’ll start with the multi-talented Kevin Smith, director (Clerks, Chasing Amy), writer, actor, producer (Comic Book Men) and podcaster (SModcast). A lifelong Star Wars fan, he voiced a stormtrooper during the battle at Maz Kanata’s castle, who sees Resistances fighters approaching and shouts the single line, “We have incoming at 28.6! Move!”
Then there are Frank Oz, Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor-- all familiar names to Star Wars fans. Oz voiced and performed the puppet version of Yoda in previous films, while Guinness and McGregor played the older and younger versions of Obi-Wan Kenobi, respectively. The voices of all three could be heard deep in the audio mix during the spooky vision Rey had after touching Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. Oz came in to record a few lines as Yoda for Episode VII, but they wound up using his lines from previous movies. McGregor also came in to record the line at the end of the sequence, where Obi-Wan says, “Rey… these are your first steps.” But they mixed in audio from the late Guinness saying the word “afraid” in a previous film to get him saying “Rey” in the form of the “rai” in “afraid.”
Like many actors who make cameos in Star Wars movies, Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg grew up a huge fan of the franchise. Having previously appeared in J.J. Abrams' TV shows and films like Lost, Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek, Pegg clearly had an “in” with the director of The Force Awakens. Pegg is also an accomplished screenwriter, so he also served as a sounding board for Abrams, along with jumping into costume as junk boss Unkar Plutt. It’s a role probably slightly too significant to technically be considered a cameo, but his hiding in costume qualifies him for this list.
Plutt, of course, is the sleazy, blobby dude who underpays Rey on Jakku, tries to buy BB-8 off her, and secretly keeps the Millennium Falcon under a tarp. He can also briefly be seen in Rey’s vision, taking young Rey by the arm. Cathartically, in the novelization of the film, Plutt gets his arm ripped off by Chewbacca-- a scene filmed for the movie but edited out. Pegg has also contributed to the Star Wars universe by voicing the bounty hunter Dengar in two episodes of The Clone Wars.
Warwick Davis is the king of the Star Wars cameo. He first appeared in the Star Wars universe not in a cameo, but in a featured costumed role as the adorable and adventurous Ewok Wicket in Return of the Jedi. The 3’6” British actor was just 13 when that film was released, and as an adult has gone on to make brief appearances in The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens, while he’ll also be seen in the upcoming Rogue One and Episode VIII.
He can actually be seen as four separate characters in The Phantom Menace. As Anakin’s little friend Wald, he’s in costume as a Rodian (think Greedo); he’s a “walking double” for Yoda; and he appears out of costume both as Weazel, who bets on the pod race, and as a street trader on Tatooine. In The Force Awakens, he’s again in costume as Wollivan, a Blarina alien who appeared in Maz Kanata’s bar. We don’t yet know much about his roles in the upcoming movies, but he did show up in the Rogue One TV commercial, as a little alien firing a blaster.
Who do you think will cameo in Rogue One? What are your favorite Star Wars cameos? Let us know in the comments.