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A tribute to the fallen legends of Star Wars

Tue 4th May 2021

"In a galaxy far, far away", some four decades ago, the Star Wars legacy began. Since then, the franchise has captured the hearts of fans from all across the world. The story of farm-boy Luke Skywalker and rebel Princess Leia battling the Dark Empire that had enslaved their galaxy launched many actors' careers and forged lasting friendships. From household names to men behind masks, these are some of the fallen actors that made Star Wars so beloved to their fans.

Carrie Fisher | Princess Leia

"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."

Carrie Fisher in Star Wars.
Carrie Fisher in Star Wars.

Carrie Fisher played Princess Leia in the first Star Wars movie (1977) in a role which many would agree defined her career. Fisher was nominated for four Saturn Awards for the role, which was a complex one. Princess Leia was loved by many because of her warm heart and great strength in the face of disaster.

Fisher starred in other films including: Shampoo (1975), The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), The 'Burbs (1989), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Soapdish (1991), and The Women (2008).

Carrie Fisher passed away on 27 December 2016, aged 60. Her co-stars and directors from Star Wars and other works paid their respects and Steven Spielberg said: "I have always stood in awe of Carrie. Her observations always made me laugh and gasp at the same time. She didn't need The Force. She was a force of nature, of loyalty and of friendship."

Alec Guinness | Obi-Wan Kenobi

"Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." / "The truth is often what we make of it; you heard what you wanted to hear, believed what you wanted to believe."

Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Picture: Supplied
Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Picture: Supplied

Sir Alec Guinness was an English actor who played one of the most popular characters within the Star Wars universe, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Guinness' performance as Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars brought him worldwide fame and earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor -  which, believe it or not, is the only acting nomination for a Star Wars film.

Guinness' career spanned more than 60 years and his early days saw him in Ealing Studios' comedies. Other films he performed in include The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Man in the White Suit (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955) - all of which rank among the biggest British films of the 20th century.

With many accolades under his belt, Guinness won an Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe and a Tony Award. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the arts in 1959 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. He was awarded the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in 1980. Sir Alec Guinness passed away on 5 August 2000 aged 86

Fellow friends and actors paid tribute to his incredible skills as an actor - Sir John Mills described him as a very rare individual, saying "He was first of all, as you know, a very, very great actor but he was very, very retiring, shy, very charming and he had great humility."

Kenny Baker | R2-D2

"Boop Boop Beep Beep Boop Bleep"

Kenny Baker was the man behind R2D2.
Kenny Baker was the man behind R2D2. Bang Showbiz

English actor Kenny Baker appeared as the endearing R2-D2 character in six of the theatrical Star Wars films. With a stubby metal frame and boop beep voice, R2-D2 was a lovable droid that fans went crazy over. Baker also played the role of Ewok Paploo in Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars boosted Baker's career, leading him to roles in other big films such as The Elephant Man (1980), Time Bandits (1981), Willow (1988), Flash Gordon (1980), Amadeus (1984) and Labyrinth (1986) Kenny Baker passed away on 13 August 2016, eleven days shy of his 82nd birthday.

Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, paid tribute to his friend, saying "Goodbye Kenny Baker. A lifelong loyal friend. I loved his optimism and determination. He was the droid I was looking for!"

Christopher Lee | Count Dooku aka Darth Tyranus

"It is obvious that this contest cannot be decided by our knowledge of the force, but by our skills with a lightsaber."  

Christopher Lee was a classic film villain, including in the Star Wars trilogy. Photo: Petr Novák, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5
Christopher Lee was a classic film villain, including in the Star Wars trilogy. Photo: Petr Novák, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5

English Actor Christopher Lee played Count Dooku, aka Darth Tyranus, the Jedi Master who fell to the dark side. One of the main villains of the Star Wars trilogy, Lee appeared in both Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005).

Lee had an illustrious career spanning seven decades and was well known for his deep, strong voice, which meant he was often cast as the villain, playing one of the biggest there is, Count Dracula in the Hammer film series, Dracula (1958-1974). He also starred in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) as Francisco Scaramanga, and Saruman in both the Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001-2003) and The Hobbit film trilogy (2012-2014).

Knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009, Lee also received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011 and the BFI Fellowship in 2013. Lee passed away on 7 June 2015, shortly after celebrating his 93rd birthday.

Following Lee's passing, the UK Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, called Lee a "titan of the golden age of cinema."

Peter Cushing | Wilhuff Tarkin

"The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the Council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away."

Peter Cushing as Wilhuff Tarkin
Peter Cushing as Wilhuff Tarkin

English actor Peter Cushing played the ambitious and ruthless human military officer Wilhuff Tarkin in the original 1977 Star Wars film. One of Star Wars' two main antagonists, Tarkin was one of the highest-ranking officers in the Empire, even outranking Vader. Cushing was such a pivotal role in the Star Wars franchises that in Star Wars: Rogue One, they resurrected him via CGI. They did this using archive footage and a digital scan of his life mask used in the 1984 film Top Secret!

Cushing's acting career spanned an impressive six decades appearing in more than 100 films, television and stage. Cushing often appeared alongside actor Christopher Lee, who became one of his closest friends. Like Lee, Cushing had major success in horror films from the Hammer studio era. He played Baron Frankenstein in six of their seven Frankenstein films and Doctor Van Helsing in five Dracula films.

Peter Cushing passed away on 11 August 1994, aged 81. Often acting out horrible and grisly fantasies, Cushing was remembered as a gentleman who had a kind and generous soul.

"He was a very special man; old-fashioned; a gentleman," said co-star Richard Briers.

Peter Mayhew | Chewbacca

"Arrrrgghh Ugghaha Aagggrhrhh gahhh hagghghaa"

The late Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films. Picture: Jack Tran
The late Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films. Picture: Jack Tran

Peter Mayhew was an English-American actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars film series. He played the wookiee character in all live-action appearances from 1977 to 2015 before his retirement from the role.

When casting the original Star Wars movies, director George Lucas sought out a tall actor and after Mayhew stood up to greet Lucas, the 2.21m actor was cast immediately. Mayhew worked as an orderly at Mayday University Hospital in Croydon at the time and continued to do so in between filming.

Chewbacca, as we know, didn't have any lines but was voiced using sound recordings derived from animal noises. Mayhew modelled Chewbacca around this and studied bear, monkey and gorilla behaviour at London Zoo to truly represent the role.

Peter Mayhew passed away 30 April 2019 aged 74. George Lucas said "Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature…and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend."

Phil Brown | Uncle Owen

"That wizard is just a crazy old man. Now, tomorrow I want you to take that R2 unit to Anchorhead and have its memory erased. That'll be the end of it. It belongs to us now."

American actor Phil Brown played the important role of Luke Skywalker's uncle Owen Lars in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

Phil graduated from Stanford University in 1937 and was accepted into the famous Group Theatre of New York which sadly folded in 1941. Brown, along with a number of fellow seniors banded together and braved the move to Hollywood to try their luck in films.

By 1950, Brown was unable to find work in Hollywood due to continued allegations that he was a Communist Party member, so reluctantly moved his family to England where he built an acting and directing career. Brown responded to a George Lucas casting call in the U.K. seeking actors with strong American accents, which he was casted for immediately. Phil Brown passed away on 9 February 2006 aged 89, two months before his 90th birthday.

David Prowse | Darth Vader

Dave Prowse was the man behind the Darth Vader mask. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Dave Prowse was the man behind the Darth Vader mask. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

David Prowse was an English bodybuilder, weightlifter and actor who played the physical form of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Prowse originally spoke the dialogue but George Lucas wanted a "darker voice" and casted James Earl Jones to speak the part of the villain character instead.

Known as the Green Cross Man in the UK between 1971-1990, Prowse also featured as Frank Alexander's manservant, Julian, in the film A Clockwork Orange (1971), a circus strongman in Vampire Circus (1972), a minotaur in the Doctor Who serial The Time Monster (also 1972), and an android named Coppin in The Tomorrow People in 1973. In 2015, Prowse took part in two documentaries about his Darth Vader role, one entitled The Force's Mouth and the other entitled I Am Your Father.

David Prowse passed away 28 November 2020 aged 85. Upon Prowse's passing, George Lucas said "David brought a physicality to Darth Vader that was essential for the character. He made Vader leap off the page and onto the big screen, with an imposing stature and movement performance to match the intensity and undercurrent of Vader's presence. David was up for anything and contributed to the success of what would become a memorable, tragic figure."

"May the force be with you…"

By Kirsten Jakubenko

Sources:

  • https://www.looper.com/173227/star-wars-actors-you-may-not-know-passed-away/ 
  • https://www.gamesradar.com/the-star-wars-cast-and-friends-say-goodbye-to-carrie-fisher/  
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrie_Fisher 
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Lee 
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenny_Baker_(English_actor) 
  • https://twitter.com/HamillHimself/status/764532827001991168 
  • https://www.starwars.com/databank/grand-moff-tarkin 
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Cushing 
  • https://www.independent.co.uk/news/acting-world-pays-tribute-to-a-gentleman-of-horror-1567768.html 
  • https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Phil_Brown 
  • https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0114436/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
  • https://screenrant.com/star-wars-best-obi-wan-kenobi-alec-guinness-ewan-mcgregor/ 
  • https://www.starwars.com/news/8-great-obi-wan-kenobi-quotes 
  • https://www.thecharacterquotes.com/uncle-owen 
  • https://www.cinemablend.com/news/2471399/george-lucas-writes-sweet-tribute-to-peter-mayhew 
  • https://twitter.com/jjabrams/status/1245114821848092672/photo/1 
  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/869583.stm 
  • https://www.fanthatracks.com/news/conventions-events/rest-in-peace-andrew-jack-major-caluan-ematt/