The folks at Lucasfilm have a slew of films in store for us in the coming years, from this December’s first stand-alone Star Wars film, Rogue One, a Han Solo film, and two more episodic installments, including next year’s still-unnamed Episode VIII. And they’ve already given us one cinematic foray into animation with 2008’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which led to the six-season series of the same name.
Speaking of animation, we also have the third season of Star Wars Rebels, which premieres on September 24. And while there hasn’t been any public talk of bringing the live-action film world together with the animated world, we think it would be awesome. That led us to wonder which actors would be perfect for roles in live-action Rebels or Clone Wars movies. Our only rule here is we’re not casting actors who have already played the roles in live-action, like Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala.
Get ready for our cast of big names and lesser-knowns, as we wonder: What if Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars Were Live Action?
19 KAREN GILLAN AS ASAJJ VENTRESS
Asajj Ventress is a Clone Wars-only character, having never appeared in a Star Wars live-action film. But she’s a juicy villain who would surely pop in a big way on the big screen, an opportunity for a young actress to really dig her teeth into a role, not unlike what we saw from Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn this summer in Suicide Squad. Ventress is a lot of things: an independent woman, a pro with a double-lightsaber attack, a side-switcher, a former Jedi Padawan, a witch, and most of all, a badass that's strong with the Force.
We know, Karen Gillan is already playing a somewhat similar character in Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies (a kick-ass bald warrior woman with potentially split allegiances), but she’s just so good at it that we want to see her do it again as arguably an even better character in Ventress. (Seriously, though, how awesome would a stand-alone Ventress origin film be?)
18 JON BERNTHAL AS CAPTAIN REX
Captain Rex was just another soldier cloned from the DNA of Jango Fett during the process we saw on Kamino in Attack of the Clones. But he was also so much more, as we saw in The Clone Wars. Though he didn’t officially appear in any of the prequel films, he was a significant character in the animated series from that era, as a trusted clone trooper captain and right-hand man to Anakin Skywalker, who was a Jedi General at the time.
So we’ve never seen him as a live-action character, but we know what he looks like based on helmet-less appearances in The Clone Wars, not to mention his older version in Rebels. And, like we said, he’s cloned from Jango Fett, who, along with Commander Cody and the other clones, was played by Temuera Morrison in the prequels. Morrison is a solid, rugged-looking dude, not the kind of guy you’d want to cross. That’s exactly the reason Jon Bernthal was cast as The Punisher in the Daredevil Netflix series (along with his intense acting abilities). And that’s exactly why we see Bernthal as the perfect Clone Wars-era Rex.
17 JOHN LITHGOW AS MAS AMEDDA
Actor David Bowers hasn’t had a blockbuster-filled career, and hasn’t worked much in recent years, but he did have his moments of glory slapping on blue makeup and horns/tusks as Mas Amedda in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith after Jerome Blake played him in The Phantom Menace. As Chancellor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Bowers utters the immortal line, “This is a crisis!” when trying to convince the Jedi Council that ordering a clone army is the right thing to do. Mas Amedda has a much larger role in the Clone Wars animated series, so we’d need someone who could handle the workload in a live-action version.
Enter beloved character actor John Lithgow. Granted, he’s older at this point, now 70, but he’s still busy and has the height, booming voice and definitely the chops to pull it off. In fact, his age makes him a strong choice as a reliable, knowledgeable and experienced ear for Palpatine to lean on.
16 SYDNEY PARK AS AHSOKA TANO (CLONE WARS-ERA)
Young Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano was one of the breakout characters on The Clone Wars, as one of the few major characters that didn’t appear in the prequel trilogy. She was an eager teenage apprentice under Anakin Skywalker, who, like her master, wasn’t afraid to bend the rules if she felt it would serve the greater good. She was ultimately falsely accused of bombing the Jedi Temple hangar, so by the end of the series, she’s got a healthy dose of resentment boiling within, alongside her desire to do what’s right.
We’d love to have someone particularly dynamic for this role, a young actress ready to really show what she’s got and bust out. Amandla Stenberg is the obvious choice, as something of an “it” girl these days, despite very little screen time in recent years. So we’re going to go a little outside the box to Sydney Park. The 18-year-old former star of Nick@Nite’s Instant Mom has the snarky sense of humor for the role, as a comedian herself. Next up for her will be a run on the seventh season of The Walking Dead, as a character named Jennie, who’s described as optimistic, yet hardened – which could also be said of Ahsoka.
15 JARED HARRIS AS CHANCELLOR PALPATINE
When Scottish character actor Ian McDiarmid took on the role of the evil Emperor for 1983’s Return of the Jedi, he couldn’t have had a clue what was to come for him and that character. He returned for all three prequels as Senator/Chancellor Palpatine, who gradually grew in public power while privately hiding his true motives and identity: the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, hellbent on controlling the galaxy.
McDiarmid was fantastically sinister when he had to be, but also believably kind and forthright in public. We believe Jared Harris is just the actor to pull that off in a Clone Wars live-action flick. You probably know the 55-year-old Brit (same age, incidentally, as McDiarmid in The Phantom Menace) as Lane Pryce in Mad Men or from his recurring role on Fringe. It was in the latter role that he displayed the simmering, intelligent evil necessary for Palpatine/Sidious. Plus, he just looks believably like the character.
14 BOKEEM WOODBINE AS MACE WINDU
Back in the ‘90s, after Samuel L. Jackson had broken out in Pulp Fiction and late-bloomed into an A-list star, he made no secret about his desire to be in the upcoming Star Wars prequels. He said, “You can make me a stormtrooper if you want, I don't care – as long as I know I'm in the movie, I don't care if anybody else knows or not." He got to be much more than an anonymous armored soldier, though. He was handed the significant role of Mace Windu, a Jedi Master and key member of the Jedi High Council, rocking the only purple lightsaber in the galaxy (on film, anyway).
As we all know, Jackson has a huge presence in any film he’s in. He can steal a scene like few others, so that quality will be tough to match. Bokeem Woodbine’s career has followed a similar path to Jackson’s, spending more than two decades as a little-known but busy character actor before finally making a name for himself last year on the FX series Fargo. That’s led to a big-screen role as the supervillain Shocker in next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. With his head shaved, Woodbine looks like the perfect Mace and we know he’s got the chops to pull off the wisdom and intensity of the character.
13 JOHN HANNAH AS COUNT DOOKU
When legendary British actor Christopher Lee first appeared in Attack of the Clones as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus, he was just the fourth Sith Lord we’d ever seen on the big screen, after Darths Maul, Vader and Sidious. He was a particularly sinister one, too, as a former Jedi turned to the dark side. Lee made a career of playing iconic dastardly villains, from Dracula in a bunch of movies, to Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
While Scottish thespian John Hannah doesn’t quite have the evil-portraying pedigree the late Lee had, he’s an amazingly well-rounded actor that we can’t help but think would look great in a dastardly dark cloak, blue eyes peering through, with a nice grey beard. He’s got a naturally mischievous look about him, like he’s a guy you’re not quite sure if you can trust, which is perfect for Dooku, a man famous for switching sides. There are definitely aspects of his performance last season on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Holden Radcliffe that inform our decision here.
12 ODEYA RUSH AS PADME AMIDALA
When Natalie Portman took on the role of Padme Amidala in the prequels, she was an 18-year-old clearly on the cusp of big things. Even as a kid in Leon: The Professional and Beautiful Girls, there was denying that she had the "it" factor in spades. So she was the ideal choice for the kid-Queen-turned-Senator from Naboo who would literally give birth to the plot of the original trilogy, as the mother of Luke and Leia.
We’re tapping 19-year-old actress Odeya Rush to be our new Padme. Interestingly, both Portman and Rush were born in Israel, but their similarities don’t end there. They lived part of their early years in America in the New York/New Jersey area, and they definitely share a similar, delicately-featured look, despite the difference in eye color (Portman’s are brown, Rush’s are blue). While Rush doesn’t have the same kind of experience in dramatic fare that Portman had early on, she showed some Amidala potential in last year’s Goosebumps movie.
11 JAMES MCAVOY AS OBI-WAN KENOBI
We’ve had some pretty incredible actors play Obi-Wan Kenobi over the years. First, Sir Alec Guinness played the old-man hermit version (and his ghost) in the original trilogy. He was an Oscar-winning knight, for crying out loud. Then, in the prequels, we had the younger version as played by Ewan McGregor, considerably more spry and with a wry sense of humor – not to mention a believable younger version of Guinness.
So, clearly, James McAvoy would have sarlacc-sized (read: gigantic) shoes to fill if he were to unsheath that blue lightsaber and don the beige and brown robe. But we think he could handle it. After all, he’s already taken the mantle from another knighted actor, Sir Patrick Stewart, to capably play Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise. On top of that, McAvoy has the added advantage of being Scottish, just as McGregor is.
But if there was one actor from the prequel trilogy that we'd like to see return to the franchise (and one we'd be willing to bend this article's rules for), it's McGregor, who's expressed interest in returning to the role in recent months. Between McGregor and McAvoy, we could go either way.
10 JOE ALWYN AS ANAKIN SKYWALKER
To put it mildly, the casting of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker for Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith was...divisive. At the time of the casting, he was a little-known, 20-year-old Canadian who had acted opposite a scary dummy in the Goosebumps '90s TV series and appeared in The Virgin Suicides. To his credit, he was handed some questionable dialogue and, regardless, he will always be our young Anakin.
But maybe Joe Alwyn could better highlight the subtleties of the character in a Clone Wars live-action movie. The 25-year-old British newcomer is poised to breakout on the big screen in a major way in a few short months as the star of Ang Lee’s highly anticipated Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, where he'll play a young soldier who’s come home from Iraq. We don’t know much firsthand about his skills, but the trailer certainly shows the combination of all-American looks with a tortured soul that we’ve come to know from Anakin. Lee has a notoriously good eye for young up and coming talent, so don't be surprised if Alwyn becomes the next big thing in Tinseltown.
9 SONEQUA MARTIN-GREEN AS AHSOKA TANO (REBELS-ERA)
As we shift from our Clone Wars cast to Rebels, we’ll start with one of the two significant characters who appear in both animated series: the great former Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano. When she appears in Rebels, which takes place 15 or so years later, she’s a more mature and hardened version of herself, operating undercover against the Empire and mentoring some of the younger Rebels.
Since we had Sydney Park as our younger Ahsoka in our Clone Wars movie, we’ll need someone who can carry that mantle from Park. So we’ve chosen fellow The Walking Dead star Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha). No, they don’t look exactly alike, but their faces would be buried under orange and white makeup, anyway. And we think Martin-Green has displayed an Ahsoka-like transformation on the hit AMC series into the more hard-nosed character Sasha is now, plus she’s shown some of the action chops necessary for the Star Wars role.
8 VINNIE JONES AS CAPTAIN REX (REBELS-ERA)
Our beloved Captain Rex from The Clone Wars, good old CT-7567, one of the few clone troopers who didn’t respond to Order 66 and destroy the Jedi, returned to television during the second episode of the second season of Rebels. Though he’d been in hiding for 15 years, he had grown a bushy beard and lost his hair, but was still loyal to the good guys and aided the Rebels in their fight against the Empire.
All this means that we may have to cast yet again for our Rebels live-action movie. Our first thought was Jonathan Banks of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame (Mike). He looks the part more than anyone else, and he would destroy the role, but he’s about 10-15 years too old. So we need another hard-headed (literally and figuratively) actor. Former soccer star Vinnie Jones definitely fits the bill, and we’re sure he’d do a great job. But he’s actually only 11 years older than Bernthal, our Clone Wars Rex. So we wonder, could Bernthal simply be made to look a little older and reprise the role for a Rebels adaptation?
7 MATT SMITH AS THE GRAND INQUISITOR
Situated as it is during the long period (nearly two decades) between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Rebels depicts fewer characters previously played in movies than The Clone Wars. So we have a little more of a blank slate to work with here. The Inquisitor begins our run of these new characters. He’s a bad dude. A former Jedi Knight who turned to the dark side (though he was not a Sith), he became a Jedi hunter, which led him to tracking down Jedi Kanan Jarrus and his Padawan Ezra Bridger.
He’s got a strikingly evil look, with a long, bald head and haunting yellow eyes. So imagine Matt Smith, the celebrated 11th Doctor on Doctor Who, with a shaved head and yellow contact lenses. He’s already got a naturally long head and the angular cheekbones of The Inquisitor. Smith has struggled to find his footing post-Doctor Who, but this could be the role to set him on the path to stardom.
6 LIEV SCHREIBER AS AGENT KALLUS
Imperial Security Bureau agent Kallus is another bad dude. Although, being a bad dude is kind of the primary qualification for being a high-ranking soldier in the Empire, so that goes without saying, really. But this is a guy who had his sights on leading an entire species, the Lasat, into extinction – and he nearly did. All that being said, without spoiling anything, he does experience a significant change in his world view.
We’ve got veteran actor Liev Schreiber down as our Kallus. First of all, he looks quite a bit like Kallus, with his thick light brown hair and strong, boxy skull. And if you’ve seen him as Sabretooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, you know he can grow a mean pair of sideburns (well, more of a beard without the middle part, really) like the baddie in question. And there’s no doubt that the Ray Donovan star has the intense acting chops to pull off someone as ruthless as Kallus can be.
5 ZENDAYA AS SABINE WREN
Sabine Wren is about as colorful as they come, in more ways than one. She wears colorful Mandalorian armor – because, after all, she’s a fully-trained Mandalorian warrior – but she also has a colorful personality, as a free-spirited artist with a sarcastic sense of humor. Plus, even though she has her artsy side, she’s also very knowledgeable when it comes to mechanics, electronics, weapons and languages.
Twenty-year-old actress Zendaya (it’s her real first name, but she’s dropped her last name as a performer) is similarly multi-talented. Not only is she an actress, known primarily for her starring roles on the Disney Channel sitcoms Shake it Up and K.C. Undercover, but she’s also a dancer who appeared on Dancing with the Stars and a musician with one album already under her belt. Set to appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming next year, she also happens to resemble Sabine Wren enough to believably bring her to the big screen.
4 ROBERT MAILLET AS ZEB ORRELIOS
Remember the Lasat species we mentioned Kallus tried to drive to extinction? That would be Zeb Orrelios’ species. And one look at that image of Zeb and you know he’s not the type of guy you want to cross. The former Captain of the Lasan Honor Guard is a key member of the band of renegades at the center of Rebels, looking to take down the evil Empire. But despite his tough exterior, and strong skills in battle, Zeb also has a big heart.
In live-action, we’d have the option of going motion capture for this giant, 6’9” creature, or putting a guy in a suit. Physical resemblance isn’t really necessary for motion capture, so we’re going to assume a guy in a suit, Chewbacca-style. Speaking of everyone’s favorite Wookiee, when we wondered what the Star Wars original trilogy would look like if cast today, we tabbed big man Robert Maillet as Chewie. And the 6’10” former WWE star, who appeared in 300 and was The Master on The Strain, would seem to be an equally good choice for Zeb.
3 CHLOE BENNET AS HERA SYNDULLA
Hera Syndulla, the Twi’lek captain of the Ghost on Rebels, is not only one of the best pilots in Star Wars canon, but we recently named her one of the best in all of science fiction. And for good reason. The daughter of a head resistance fighter, she’s a no-nonsense leader who time after time flies her crew out of hairy situations. But, like Zeb, she’s also got a very compassionate side.
For this role, we’re going with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Daisy Johnson/Quake/Skye herself, Chloe Bennet. In the small screen role that made her a major name in the TV industry, Bennet displays pretty much all of the qualities we just mentioned about Syndulla. She can be a no-nonsense warrior, but deep down she’s a sensitive soul and the daughter of a leader. Bennet would have to be game for early mornings in the makeup chair, but we’re sure she’s up to the task.
2 RYAN POTTER AS EZRA BRIDGER
Essentially orphaned by the Empire at the age of seven (they took his parents away because they publicly spoke out against the reigning power), Ezra Bridger quickly became a key part of the rebellion at a young age, joining the crew of the Ghost. With all but a handful of Jedi exterminated, Ezra didn’t even realize he was Force-sensitive until he met Jedi Kanan Jarrus, despite the fact that he’d unwittingly been utilizing his powers for some time. He has trouble trusting people thanks to his rough past, but he’s also a playful kid full of pranks.
If nothing else, our pick for the role, Ryan Potter, definitely looks the part. The voice of Hiro in Big Hero 6, the 21-year-old actor starred in the Nickelodeon series Supah Ninjas and is already a skilled martial artist, so he’d be ready for the action antics that Ezra gets up to. Potter may have his heart set on another sidekick role in an upcoming blockbuster franchise, but we'd think he'd be an excellent pick for this as well.
1 LEE PACE AS KANAN JARRUS
Kanan Jarrus was one of the few Jedi who escaped the attempted Jedi extinction of Order 66, as seen in Revenge of the Sith. Though he denied his Jedi ways for some time while in hiding, he eventually embraced them once again and took on young Ezra Bridger as his apprentice. Like many of his fellow Rebels, Jarrus has two sides: a rather intense, irritable and secretive side, and a kinder, more caring side with a sarcastic sense of humor. On top of that, he and Hera Syndulla are something of an item.
Jarrus is a tall guy at 6’3”, with a narrow, angular face that just screams Lee Pace. In fact, Pace is a little taller at 6’5”. He’s no stranger to massive movie franchises, having appeared as Elven king Thranduil in The Hobbit trilogy, as well as taking a place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy. In those roles, he also showed skills as a leader, for better or worse, that could translate into a big-screen stint as Jarrus.
What did you think of our casting decisions? Which of these actors would you like to see join the Star Wars universe on the big screen? Sound off in the comments.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in U.S. theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.