• Mattie Stu

Star Wars: Where Are They Now? - Ian McDiarmid



Despite studying for a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, Ian McDiarmid discovered that his true calling was in theatre. In pursuit of his childhood dream, Ian attended Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where his work earned him the prestigious gold medal. Early in his career, McDiarmid starred in a string of Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, and King Lear. He also served as the joint Artistic Director of London's Almeida between 1990 and 2001. During his tenure, the Scot was awarded with the coveted London Evening Standard Award in 1998, and convinced many Hollywood stars, including Kevin Spacey, Ralph Fiennes and Anna Friel, to perform in the revived theatre. At the age of 37, Ian portrayed Harry Hackamore in Sam Shepard's play Seduced. For the part, McDiarmid wore a great deal of prosthetic make-up. The performance displayed the Scot’s ability to convincingly portray a much older character, which landed him the role of Palpatine in George Lucas’ hugely successful Star Wars series. The mainstream attention propelled his career to unimaginable heights. But what has he gone on to do since? Well, let’s find out! This is Star Wars: Where Are They Now Episode 8 – Ian McDiarmid.

16 years after appearing in Return of the Jedi, McDiarmid reprised the role of Palpatine in the Star Wars prequels. However, as well as recreating the evil and twisted nature of Darth Sidious, he masterfully portrayed the character’s pleasant but manipulative alter ego. As a result, Ian made an appearance in the 2004 re-release of The Empire Strikes Back and featured in many Star Wars games. However, despite the worldwide attention McDiarmid received due his portrayal of Palpatine, he is yet to star in another major movie role. Instead, the Scot has worked in radio, performed in his fair share of TV series, such as City of Vice, 37 Days and Utopia, and of course has since made a return to theatre. Unfortunately, on October 22nd, 2008, Ian suffered a heart attack while on stage. Towards the end of Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, McDiarmid began to suffer from dizzy spells. Despite concealing his condition to the point where the audience failed to notice and critics later awarded him glowing reviews, backstage staff feared he was having a heart attack and so phoned an ambulance 10 minutes prior to the play’s conclusion. However, when help arrived 7 minutes later, the heroic actor insisted he finish the show before receiving medical attention.

Currently, Ian continues to work as hard as ever, and his latest project, Britannia, will hit the small screen in 2017. However, even at the age of 72, the Scot has not ruled out a return to the Star Wars saga, especially if the long talked about live-action TV show becomes a reality:

"It would be nice if one day they would be followed up...who knows? Who knows if Palpatine would be in it? It could be like A New Hope. There could be a terrific representative -- and by god, Peter Cushing was a terrific actor -- doing the emperor’s bidding. If he happened to pop up in the script I would hate if it was to go live and someone else were to be in it."

It's not a stretch to think that Ian will reprise the role of Palpatine given the numerous planned Imperial-era spin-off movies. And, let’s face it, Ian seems very reluctant to let anyone else portray the iconic villain.

So, what do you think of Ian McDiarmid’s performances as Palpatine? And would you like to see him return to the galaxy far, far away? Let me know in the comments below.


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