The return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” has become one of the most divisive plot points in the final entry of the Skywalker Saga. Considering Palpatine played no part in “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” some “Star Wars” fans are criticizing “Rise of Skywalker” writers J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio for randomly resurrecting the Sith villain just to force a larger conclusion to George Lucas’ main “Star Wars” narrative. According to Palpatine actor Ian McDiarmid, however, it was never Lucas’ intention to resurrect the villainous character.
“I thought I was dead!” McDiarmid told Digital Spy in a recent video interview. “I thought he was dead. Because when we did ‘Return of the Jedi,’ and I was thrown down that chute to Galactic Hell, he was dead. And I said, ‘Oh, does he come back?’ And [George] said, ‘No, he’s dead.’ So I just accepted that. But then, of course, I didn’t know I was going to be doing the prequels, so in a sense he wasn’t dead, because we went back to revisit him when he was a young man. But I was totally surprised by this.”
Palpatine first appeared as a hologram in “The Empire Strikes Back” and then had a major role in “Return of the Jedi.” McDiarmid reprised the character in Lucas’ “Star Wars” prequels, which depict Palpatine as a politician who is secretly a Sith and uses manipulation to transform the Galactic Republic into the Empire. Palpatine is killed in “Return of the Jedi” by Darth Vader. The way McDiarmid tells it, that was the ending Lucas envisioned for the character and Palpatine was not supposed to live on to torment the Galaxy as he does in “Rise of Skywalker.”
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Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has claimed it was always the plan to bring back Palpatine in the third film of the new “Star Wars” trilogy, but some fans are skeptical that’s the case, considering Palpatine’s return was not threaded into “The Force Awakens.” Colin Trevorrow, who was hired to direct “The Rise of Skywalker” before dropping out due to creative differences, told Empire magazine Palpatine was never a factor in his development of the movie.
“Bringing back the Emperor was an idea J.J. brought to the table when he came on board,” Trevorrow said. “It’s honestly something I never considered. I commend him for it. This was a tough story to unlock, and he found the key.”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is now playing in theaters nationwide.