When an actor lands a major role in a mega-hit franchise like Star Wars, they probably assume that they’ve made it and their career is on easy street from that point on, but so many actors’ careers have been brought to a sudden halt just after their time in the saga that it’s surprising no one has suggested Star Wars is cursed. Natalie Portman was very vocal about the difficulty she had finding work after finishing her role as Padme Amidala in the prequel trilogy, but thankfully, she was one of the lucky few who was actually able to bring her career back to life. Most actors aren’t that fortunate.
Maybe it has something to do with taking on such an iconic role that casting directors and audiences can’t see them as anyone else. Maybe it has something to do with the writing and directing of certain films (looking at you Prequel Trilogy), but huge stars have lost all momentum, fresh faces have been trapped in perpetual mediocrity, and sometimes, promising actors never get a chance to get their career off the ground. There’s no telling yet if the sequel trilogy will suffer the same curse, but if so, at least we’ll always have Star Wars.
15. MARK HAMILL
As the star of a major sci-fi adventure film like Star Wars, Mark Hamill probably expected his career to skyrocket as a heroic leading man. While he never had a problem finding work, he primarily became a voice actor for most of his career, most notably as The Joker across dozens of Batman animated series, films and video games.
While we would never want to downplay the significance of such an iconic long-time role, Hamill probably expected his face to be on the big screen across other major adventure franchises like Harrison Ford managed with the Indiana Jones series, but Ford appears to be the only exception to the Star Wars curse. While fans across the globe will forever cherish him as Luke Skywalker, he was unfortunately pigeon-holed in the role forever.
14. CARRIE FISHER
Carrie Fisher is one of the more surprising ones to not skyrocket into super-stardom after her success with Star Wars. While it may have been hard to see Mark Hamill as an “action star,” everyone was in love with Princess Leia, so it’s a shock that she didn’t instantly become Hollywood’s new “It” girl. She didn’t exactly fall off the map completely outside of Star Wars, she also didn’t really get starring roles in anything.
Her biggest role after Return of the Jedi, was opposite Tom Hanks as his wife in The ‘Burbs, but other than that she became more well known as a go-to script doctor in Hollywood, polishing existing scripts into final drafts for everything from comedies like Hook and The Wedding Singer to action movies like Lethal Weapon 3 and Last Action Hero.
13. ALEC GUINNESS
Sir Alec Guinness was already a well-known actor with a dozen hits on his resume such as Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago before taking on his most iconic role ever as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Guinness was infamously not a fan of the script and saw the role as being beneath his talent, having played such iconic figures as Jacob Marley’s ghost, Julius Caesar and even Adolf Hitler.
Guinness even claimed at one point that he asked George Lucas to kill off the character in the first film so he wouldn’t have to return. His distaste for the Star Wars saga likely only got worse when he stopped getting such iconic roles after A New Hope, resulting in his return to the role he despised in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
12. AHMED BEST
This might come as a surprise to you, but the actor who brought Jar Jar Binks to life has not been treated kindly by Hollywood. As ridiculous and terrible a character as Jar Jar was, it’s actually kind of a shame that Ahmed Best ended up taking most of the punishment for the character because he’s actually a pretty gifted voice actor.
Aside from a few small parts in scattered films and tv series, all of Best’s work has come from repeat work as Jar Jar Binks in various Star Wars television shows and video games. It’s even more of a shame because outside of an uncredited extra part in an independent film, The Phantom Menace was Ahmed Best’s first acting role, and it spoiled the rest of his career.
11. PETER CUSHING
Peter Cushing was another mega-star that George Lucas managed to nab with Star Wars, and another career brought to a screeching halt. He was arguably an even bigger star than Alec Guinness when he joined the production of Star Wars, having lent his talent to such iconic roles as Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing and even Doctor Who (in two non-canon movies).
After Star Wars, he still took roles in minor films but almost none of them were on the same level as his fame before Grand Moff Tarkin, the biggest of which was his brief reprisal of his role as Sherlock Holmes in the 1984 tv movie, Sherlock Holmes and the Masks of Death.
10. ANTHONY DANIELS
Anthony Daniels’s story sounds much the same as Ahmed Best’s, and he ended up suffering much the same fate in his post-Star Wars career. Star Wars was his first role aside from a small one-time part in a tv series called Centre Play, and aside from a few small guest roles here and there on tv shows, most of his acting work in the following years came from reprising his role as C-3PO in various Star Wars related tv shows, films, specials and video games.
He currently holds the record from the original Star Wars cast with the most recurring appearances in other Star Wars-related media. It might have something to do with Alec Guinness saying that he was the only actor who gave a bad performance in the original film, but Star Wars has treated him well over the years and he’s remained a fan favorite.
9. PETER MAYHEW
Star Wars was Peter Mayhew’s first acting role ever, and in 40 years, he has only ever played eight other characters, aside from appearances as himself. Star Wars royalty checks probably go a long way, but if there’s an example of an actor from the original trilogy not being able to break away from a single role, Peter Mayhew is it.
Granted, as with all its alumni, Star Wars has treated him well, bringing Peter back in every subsequent appearance of the iconic Wookiee until 2017’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, due to his failing health and inability to stand for long periods of time, but he was credited as a “Chewbacca consultant,” because we all know he’s the only actor who can truly bring Chewie to life.
8. KENNY BAKER
A lot of people don’t know that there was actually a man inside the R2-D2 costume, moving around and operating the droid. Up until Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, that man was Kenny Baker. He was credited as an R2D2 consultant on The Force Awakens due to his failing health, and he tragically died several months after the film’s release.
Much like his fellow cast members, Kenny Baker also struggled to find work outside of Star Wars. It’s arguable that he had moderately more success than Peter Mayhew or Anthony Daniels, but even as a dwarf actor, having multiple Star Wars movies on his resume didn’t help him out much. Compare that to Warwick Davis, who played Wicket the Ewok, and had a staggeringly successful film career. Maybe it’s just main characters who suffer the Star Wars curse?
7. JEREMY BULLOCH
Then again, no one would refer to Boba Fett as one of the main characters in any Star Wars movie, and actor Jeremy Bulloch, who was the man behind the mask as the deadly Boba Fett, suffered the same curse. Oddly enough, Jeremy Bulloch was another actor who had an extremely long list of film and tv roles under his belt by the time he filmed The Empire Strikes Back.
He had made a few appearance on Doctor Who, he was in The Spy Who Loved Me and he had large roles in several Shakespeare adaptations. Then after his time with Star Wars, he mostly appeared in one-shot tv guest spots on various sitcoms or as Boba Fett in other Star Wars projects. George Lucas did bring him back as Captain Colton for Revenge of the Sith though, so that’s something.
6. JIMMY SMITS
While Jimmy Smits wasn’t exactly a mega-star before he showed up as Senator Bail Organa in Attack of the Clones, he was a fairly well-known name from his recurring role on L.A. Law as Victor Fuentes and his starring role on NYPD Blue as Detective Bobby Simone. It was actually a surprise to most people seeing a TV actor show up in a major Hollywood production like Star Wars.
He probably expected such a major role to elevate him to the status of movie star, but unfortunately for him, he was never quite able to break free from basic cable television. Although the movie role offers didn’t start pouring in, he did manage to continue on his track in television with recurring roles on The West Wing, Dexter and Sons of Anarchy.
5. IAN MCDIARMID
Ian McDiarmid didn’t even make his first official appearance in the Star Wars franchise until Return of the Jedi, then just called “The Emperor.” For a while, it seemed as if McDiarmid would never need to make another appearance in the Star Wars saga, and his acting career seemed to continue on relatively unhindered, if not a little underwhelming.
Then, of course, The Phantom Menace happened and Ian McDiarmid wasn’t the only one whose life was ruined by that movie. He continued on with the role of Sheev Palpatine through Episodes II and III, as well as re-filming dialogue for the 2004 DVD release of The Empire Strikes Back, replacing Marjorie Eaton (actor) and Clive Revell (voice), but didn’t reprise his role in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is strange considering his acting slate was pretty clear for the most part.
4. HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN
As you’ll soon see, the role of Darth Vader especially seems to have a curse associated with destroying actors’ careers. Everyone except James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, had their careers effectively ended before they began. Hayden Christensen has had a handful of unsuccessful film roles since Revenge of the Sith, but he hasn’t been able to get anything major.
Performing against a blue screen with CGI characters and terribly written dialogue gave the impression that he was a bad actor, which sadly isn’t the case. Even award-winning actors like Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson and Natalie Portman had difficulty giving a decent performance in the prequels, but unlike Christensen, they already had enough clout to continue their careers after their time with Star Wars ended.
3. SEBASTIAN SHAW
Sebastian Shaw’s acting career goes all the way back to 1930 and he had an extremely impressive and extensive list of television and film roles for the 53 years he was in Hollywood before he met with the career killer franchise that is Star Wars. He wasn’t actually the man in the Darth Vader suit throughout the films, just at the very end of Return of the Jedi when Luke takes off Vader’s helmet.
As you can already guess, Sebastian Shaw’s career sputtered away with only a few minor roles after Return of the Jedi, but it actually gets even worse. In George Lucas’ special edition edit, he entirely removed Shaw’s kind face as Anakin’s force ghost in the funeral scene to be replaced with Hayden Christensen’s creepy grin. In the end, he was almost completely removed from the very film that ruined his career.
2. DAVID PROWSE
The original Darth Vader was played by three different people. The voice was James Earl Jones, the face was Sebastian Shaw, and the imposing figure walking around in the Darth Vader costume throughout the original trilogy was David Prowse. Of course, Prowse didn’t know that would be the case at the time. He recorded all his lines in character, and George Lucas later had James Earl Jones dub over all his lines without Prowse’s knowledge.
Despite that deception, Prowse returned for Episodes V and VI before Lucas added more insult and hired Sebastian Shaw for Vader’s face. His career beyond that never amounted to more than guest roles on small TV shows and he’s still famously furious with George Lucas 40 years later claiming that his health, marriage and career have all suffered at the hands of Darth Vader. Wouldn’t you be angry too?
1. JAKE LLOYD
When it comes to Star Wars destroying lives, there’s no story more tragic than that of Jake Lloyd. Getting the role of a young Darth Vader is undoubtedly one of the most amazing opportunities a kid could ask for, but we all know how well The Phantom Menace, and Jake Lloyd’s performance, in particular, were received.
Jake started getting bullied relentlessly in school for “ruining Star Wars,” which eventually led to him transitioning to home-schooling and leaving his acting career behind forever. Being under ten years old during the filming of The Phantom Menace, many were critical of his acting ability, but we’ll never get to know the kind of actor he might have developed into thanks to the critical failure of Episode I, and the bullying that resulted from it.
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