Star Wars actor Ian McDiarmid reveals the Order 66 sequence in Revenge of the Sith needed to be toned down due to violence. After portraying the Emperor in 1983's Return of the Jedi, McDiarmid returned to the series to play Palpatine in all three prequels. In those films, audiences witnessed his arc from Naboo Senator to galactic overlord, seeing the origins of the intimidating Empire. The ruthless Palpatine had no qualms about wiping out his enemies swiftly, including the Jedi Order that had protected the Republic for generations.
After Anakin Skywalker turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader, Palpatine's first order of business was to eliminate the remaining Jedi. He initiated the infamous Order 66, in which the clone troopers scattered throughout the galaxy turned on their Jedi generals and killed them. Anakin led a squad to the Temple and killed any Jedi there, including a room full of younglings. It was undeniably a harrowing sequence to watch, but originally it was even more intense.
While at the FanX convention in Salt Lake City, Utah (via ComicBook), McDiarmid talked about Order 66, revealing director George Lucas' initial plan:
“I think it was a little more gruesome than you ended up seeing, you know. A lot of young potential Jedi ended up on the cutting room floor."
The actor explained the primary reason for the edits was so Revenge of the Sith could receive a more family-friendly rating. While Lucas' original vision illustrated the full extent of Palpatine's "uncompromising" nature, even McDiarmid agrees the changes were for the best. Revenge of the Sith was already pushing boundaries for the franchise by being the first PG-13 Star Wars movie - due in large part to the scene where Anakin is burned alive on Mustafar. It's quite possible the MPAA would have rated an earlier, more brutal cut of the movie R (something similar happened on the first Avengers), but that obviously would not fly. Star Wars is designed to be a cinematic experience people of all ages can enjoy, and the last thing anyone would have wanted is for the film's target audience to be limited.
Recent tentpoles like Deadpool and Logan proved the viability of R-rated tentpoles, but it remains unlikely we'll ever see anything close to that in Star Wars. Frankly, PG-13 is as severe a rating material like Star Wars needs, as that maintains the all-inclusiveness Disney and Lucasfilm strive for, while also allowing leeway for terrorizing sequences like Darth Vader's hallway massacre in Rogue One. Disney has already announced they won't produce R-rated content for their upcoming streaming service, so Star Wars will always operate in the PG-13 ballpark. That hasn't hurt the modern films at all, seeing that they've collectively grossed over $4 billion.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019