Monday, August 11, 2014

Happy birthday Ian McDiarmid!

I would like to wish a happy birthday to Ian McDiarmid, who has portrayed Darth Sidious/Palpatine in every film that the character has appeared in. Palpatine is the only human character that has had the same actor portray him throughout the Star Wars saga.

You might be wondering that if Palpatine was chronologically older in the original trilogy, then how could the same actor portray a younger version of the character 16 years later? The answer is, of course, makeup. McDiarmid was under 40 years old when he played Palpatine in episodes V and VI, but he wore all kinds of makeup to make him look a lot older and decrepit. 
Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars
For the prequel trilogy, McDiarmid probably wore a lot less makeup, because he naturally looked age-appropriate for the character. Near the end of Revenge of the Sith, Mace Windu memorably deflected Palpatine's lighting back at his own face, and thus was the origin of how Palpatine's face looked so deformed in Return of the Jedi

Though some of the acting in the prequel trilogy was rather wooden (*cough* HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN *cough*), McDiarmid acted beautifully as one of the most complicated and intelligent characters of the series. Palpatine may have been a classic villain, but you have to admire the guy. He probably spent at least 20 years of his life manipulating the entire galaxy to get exactly what he wanted: total domination. 

Specifically, we watched him become a friend and mentor to Anakin Skywalker throughout the Clone Wars and prequel trilogy. In Revenge of the Sith especially, he subtly convinced Anakin that the Jedi Order was corrupt. Even more, he sensed Anakin's fear of Padmé's death at childbirth, and gave him the idea that joining the Dark Side would allow him to save her. In the end, he was victorious, and held the throne as Emperor of the galaxy for over 20 years until the Rebel Alliance eventually usurped him. 

As I saw many other celebrations of McDiarmid's birthday online today, I noticed that many people were surprised that he was younger than Christopher Lee (Count Dooku). McDiarmid is turning 70 years old today, while Lee is 92 years old. I guess it's strange that the master is 22 years younger than his servant. Though I would assume that Palpatine is chronologically much older than he appears (due to Sith powers), according to Wookieepedia he is still 20 years younger than Dooku.

Many fans have also speculated if Sidious will return in Star Wars: Episode VII. Though Max Von Sydow (who is 85 years old) has been cast as a yet-unspecified role, it seems like McDiarmid would happily reprise his role any time he is asked. In the Expanded Universe, Darth Sidious secretly cloned himself before dying, which causes all sorts of problems for the New Jedi Order. Though his death seemed pretty unambiguous (he was hurled into a reactor shaft, and then destroyed in a "moon"-sized explosion), Darth Maul (who was sliced in half before falling down a reactor) managed to survive, as shown by various comics. 

Are you hoping that Palpatine/Sidious will return in future Star Wars films, or maybe even get an origin story of his own? Tell me in the comments, and may the force be with you all.

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