The STAR WARS films have attracted tremendous actors, ever since creator George Lucas first rolled cameras on the original film. British stalwarts like Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing, for example, came from the rich history of British comedies from Ealing Studios and horror films from Hammer. The original film minted stars, too, as Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford all went on to develop long, fruitful careers.
That set a pattern for attracting existing stars (Ewan McGregor, Laura Dern) and relatively new talent (Hayden Christiansen, Daisy Ridley) that continues today. (Got the urge to rewatch the entire series? Here's our ideal STAR WARS viewing order.)
Almost since the beginning, however, these films have also featured surprising cameo appearances. As we look towards the end of the original saga, with the December 20 release of STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, (here's our overview of the new movie) let's look back at some of the biggest STAR WARS guest stars over the years.
The director and star of CLERKS and JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK is part of the Star Wars mythology. His appearance came midway through THE FORCE AWAKENS, when Han Solo, Rey, Chewbacca, and Finn traveled to Takonada to visit Maz Kanata. The quartet of heroes got captured by the First Order, but they were saved by a Resistance fleet. When the counterattack began, a Stormtrooper voiced by Kevin Smith shouted "We have incoming at 28.6! Move!"
Daniel Craig has proven he’s good with a gun as James Bond, but as it turns out, he's probably not so good with a blaster. The actor made a sneaky cameo in THE FORCE AWAKENS as a Stormtrooper whose mind is controlled by Rey after she is captured and interrogated by Kylo Ren. The weakness of Craig's Stormtrooper lets the entire First Order down, and indirectly puts an end to Kylo's plans for galactic domination. Then again, he is a Stormtrooper, and they're not exactly known for being proactive. Guess this means that, no matter which franchise he’s a part of, Craig still finds a way to save the world. (Or, in this case, the galaxy.)
Long before INSIDIOUS, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and BRIDESMAIDS, Rose Byrne appeared in ATTACK OF THE CLONES as Dormé, Padmé Amidala’s loyal handmaiden. "George [Lucas] was so cool. I had done little Aussie movies. He was really cool. Natalie was great. It was a fun shoot," she said of her role in the film during a 2018 interview with UPROXX. Her role is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance, but Byrne is on screen long enough to make her fans do a double-take.
Joel Edgerton is one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors. Prior to gaining widespread recognition in projects like THE THING and WARRIOR, he played a small yet key role as a young version of Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen in ATTACK OF THE CLONES AND REVENGE OF THE SITH. Despite his brief appearances, Edgerton is unmistakable in the films, which will probably make his role a surprise to fans of the actor who weren’t aware of his connection to the Skywalker lineage.
Simon Pegg is one of the few actors who has worked in both the STAR WARS and STAR TREK series. The actor who plays Scotty in the recent TREK films appeared under heavy makeup in EPISODE VII. Pegg, a major fan of the franchise, went to the galaxy far, far away when he played Unkar Plutt, a Jakku junk dealer who deals with Rey in THE FORCE AWAKENS. In an Empire Magazine article, Pegg revealed he worked both in front and behind the camera, writing "I am on set as a consultant, acting as a sounding board for J.J. [Abrams], who is making tweaks to the already wonderful screenplay."
As a frequent collaborator of filmmaker Rian Johnson, it’s no surprise that Joseph Gordon-Levitt got the opportunity to appear in THE LAST JEDI. He played Slowen Lo, a tall alien with a short temper who gives Finn and Rose some trouble when they park in the wrong spot during their visit to Canto Bight. The part was so small that Johnson challenged fans to identify Gordon-Levitt in the film.
Rose Byrne wasn’t the only soon-to-be-famous face that served the former Queen of Naboo. At the beginning of her career, Knightley portrayed Sabé in THE PHANTOM MENACE. Sabé was one of Padmé’s handmaidens, who would pose as her decoy on a regular basis to protect her from possible attacks. During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show Knightley revealed that she looked so much like Natalie Portman, that she would be her stand-in for scenes for which Portman was not available to film. Knightley, who was 12 years old at the time, said she often didn't even know if she or Portman was the focus of the scene.
Before becoming the Academy Award-winning filmmaker she is today, Sofia Coppola appeared in a few notable films. One was STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE. In fact, Coppola (whose father, Francis Ford Coppola is a long-time friend of George Lucas) was the third now-famous handmaiden to Padmé Amidala. In fact, the shot pictured above features Keira Knightley disguised as Padmé, and Natalie Portman disguised as a handmaiden, with Sofia Coppola standing between them.
"Cheers" was still two years away when John Ratzenberger appeared as a Rebel officer in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, so this counts as another STAR WARS cameo that is more surprising now than it was at the time. Ratzenberger appears in scenes set on the ice planet Hoth when Luke Skywalker has gone missing. This isn't the actor's only brush with the eventual Disney family, either; he has had at least a minor voice role in every Pixar film, beginning with his appearance as Hamm in the original TOY STORY.
All images courtesy of Disney and Lucasfilm.