Due to his demanding performance schedule, actor Ian McDiarmid was not able to make the trip to Indianapolis for Celebration III, the Star Wars party of a lifetime. Still, McDiarmid did want to share his insights with the fans in attendance. During the Episode III scoring sessions in London, he sat down for an exclusive interview with starwars.com Hyperspace and spoke candidly and at length about his role as Palpatine throughout the Star Wars saga.
This interview will appear on video during Celebration III and online for members of starwars.com Hyperspace. Here's a sample:
"When we were doing Return of the Jedi there was a rumor that George Lucas had nine films in his head, and he'd clearly just completed three of them," recalls McDiarmid. "Someone said that, 'Oh, I think what he might do next is go back in time, and show how Vader came to be.' It never occurred to me in a million years that I would be involved in that, because I thought, 'oh well, then he'll get a much younger actor.' That would be obvious."
McDiarmid carried on with his stage career after the success of Jedi. His connection to the saga was kept from being overly publicized due to his being obscured under heavy makeup for the role of Emperor Palpatine. Years would pass before Star Wars entered his life again.
"I heard that George was indeed going to make those prequels, and that he was coming to London and he wanted to see me. I had no idea, I suppose, that the Emperor in some form would be in it." After a brief meeting with Lucas (10 minutes in length, McDiarmid recalls) it became clear that Palpatine was not only returning, but that he would be central to the events in this new trilogy.
"I was sort of reeling," McDiarmid says. "Then he explained to me, not in great detail, about the trajectory of the three movies, and my character in relation to that. But he talked about two people. He talked about this perfectly ordinary, rather charming, politician who one day became Emperor. And that story would be seen in films 1 and 2, and in film 3 he would move closer to the center as he got closer to power."
Unlike the face-obscuring role of the Emperor, this time McDiarmid would keep his own features for the role of Palpatine. "This only happened because I was the right age," says McDiarmid. "I was the right age, ironically, for the first prequel when it was made. I wouldn't have been if he'd started with [Episode I]. So I was in the very strange and rather wonderful paradox of playing myself when young at my own age, having played myself previously when 100-and-I-don't-know-what. So that was, of course, extremely interesting and a challenge, and it was wonderful to think that I'd be part of the continuing saga. And of course I went home and refused to believe it. But bit by bit it became a reality."
For the complete interview, catch the 5 p.m. screening on Thursday April 21st at the 500 Ballroom of the Indiana Convention Center during Celebration III. You can also find it online as part of the extensive starwars.com coverage of the event. It will be exclusive to Hyperspace members.