Star Wars. Just the mention of the multimedia franchise invokes images of epic space battles, emotionally riveting lightsaber duels, and of course the iconic John Williams score. But just as famous as the cinematic elements of the galaxy far, far away is the cast that consistently brings to life a roster of engaging and unique characters. Star Wars has been a launching point for legendary acting careers, making Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill household names. The series has become so synonymous with elevating careers that when the long awaited seventh film entry came out, seasoned actors like Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig, and even Max von Sydow were climbing over each other to get even minor roles.
Fortunately, all the leads either went to returning veterans or fresh faces who could take the space opera in a different direction. But Star Wars is only so big and sometimes the support it gives can’t eclipse the mistakes an actor made in the past. And sometimes it makes a brand-new star with limitless possibilities who immediately makes a considerable misstep in their career path. With that in mind, here are 15 embarrassing roles that Star Wars actors would like for you to forget.
15 BENICIO DEL TORO IN BIG TOP PEE-WEE
An incredibly talented and versatile actor, Benicio Del Toro has become a fan favorite of foreign film buffs and a known name in the mainstream. His magnetic accent, strangely captivating charisma, and rapturous presence have been around for decades in critically acclaimed films like The Usual Suspects, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Snatch. But where did this acting hero get his big break? As Duke the Dog-Faced Boy in Big Top Pee-Wee.
That’s not a joke, that’s not a lie. Not only was Benicio Del Toro in a Pee-Wee Herman production, he played a character that was half-dog, half-man, and involved multiple facial prosthetics which only served to make his involvement in the film all the more hilarious. Del Toro must be constantly thanking his lucky stars that his career didn’t end there
14 DONNIE YEN IN BLADE II
Donnie Yen has apparently inherited the torch originally borne by Bruce Lee as the unofficial ambassador of Eastern martial arts to Western audiences. As the blind monk Chirrut, he brought an air of levity to Rogue One while maintaining an intimidating aura of enigmatic strength. The same can not be said for his role of Snowman in Blade II. In the sequel to the revolutionary vampire superhero movie, Yen played a wordless member of the Bloodpack, a team of vampires who the titular hero reluctantly aligns with.
Though he does get a semi-impressive action sequence where he gets to show off his sword skills, his involvement in the movie is cut short when his teammate turns into a monstrous reaper and kills him. Yen’s performance is only a shadow of what he is capable of, but even Brando would have struggled to find any meat in the role.
13 LAURA DERN IN JURASSIC PARK III
Laura Dern is perhaps best known for her role of botanist Ellie Sattler in 1993’s Jurassic Park. The passionate, confident, and capable scientist fit Dern’s acting style like a glove and her tentative romance with Sam Neil’s Alan Grant formed the heart and soul of the film. Which is why it was a horrible idea to bring her back for the extremely lackluster third entry to the Jurassic Park trilogy.
Sattler didn’t get to do anything and Dern’s brief appearance in the film felt more like desperate fan service than a winking nod. On top of that, her cameo shows her married to another man, though still friends with Grant. Amazingly, the two still had chemistry, but anyone who could have cared by the time Jurassic Park III came out must have been furious that their favorite paleo scientist couple never actually happened.
12 FELICITY JONES IN THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
Rogue One stands out as a unique entry in the Star Wars franchise as a stand-alone story and therefore not tied to the overarching Skywalker-centric plot. A big part of its draw was Felicity Jones as the conflicted lead Jyn Erso. Jones has been delighting audiences since the late '90s and has more momentum now than she ever had, but even a locomotive can be stopped. In this case, the buffer was The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The doomed franchise reboot following Sam Rami’s genre defining series only got two entries in before it was dropped by Sony. Unfortunately, Jones got caught in the vacuum and played Felicia, who comic fans would recognize as the alter ego of Black Cat. She never got to explore the role because it was abruptly cut short, probably for the best considering the backwards direction the series was indicated to go in.
11 IAN MCDIARMID IN SLEEPY HOLLOW
From his first appearance as Emperor Palpatine in the original trilogy to his final evolution into the character in Revenge of the Sith, Ian McDiarmid has been known as the lovable ham of the Star Wars cast, always chewing his scenes with the gusto of a gluttonous food critic. As a respected Shakespearean actor and world-renowned director, it feels like McDiarmid had earned a role he could visibly enjoy playing up. This was not the case in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow.
As Doctor Lancaster, a fairly minor role in the film, McDiarmid is forced to downplay his act while other actors known for their over-the-top style like Johnny Depp, Christopher Lee, and especially Christopher Walken get to over exaggerate every aspect of their performances. It must have been torture for McDiarmid to play and it’s equally painful to watch.
10 ANDY SERKIS IN 13 GOING ON 30
At this point, Andy Serkis has become the undisputed master of motion capture performances, so much so that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is legitimately considering making an Oscar category for such roles mostly because of his contributions to the form. Outside of motion capture, however, he’s still considered a talented performer and is a much sought-after addition to any cast. But for all his accomplishments, he was, and always will have been, in the 2004 rom-com 13 Going on 30, wherein a 13-year-old girl wakes up as Jennifer Garner after a birthday wish gone wrong.
Serkis plays an eccentric and demanding fashion mogul. He’s visibly hamming up the role to an unnecessary degree, but is one of the most entertaining part of the film with his snarky attitude. Still, it’s a notable departure from his acting style and one best left forgotten.
9 ANTHONY DANIELS IN I BOUGHT A VAMPIRE MOTORCYCLE
For over 40 years, Anthony Daniels has been C-3P0, the gilded android of the Star Wars universe, and basically nothing else. And in his defense, he doesn’t really have to do anything else. Daniels has landed himself a cash-cow of a role that nobody else could possibly emulate and can easily support him throughout the rest of his life. And his choice of films outside of the Star Wars franchise demonstrates that maybe it’s for the best if he limits himself.
In 1990, he featured in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle, which is about as B-movie as it gets. The film follows a motorcycle that gets cursed after its rider kills a Satanist and then goes on a murder spree. Daniels plays a priest tasked with defeating the demon bike. He overacts his way through the whole thing and everyone is grateful he stayed true to Star Wars ever since.
8 ADAM DRIVER IN THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU
Inarguably, Adam Driver is one of the most enigmatic young actors working today. After virtually stealing the entire series with his role on Girls, he followed up his immediately iconic performance with a slew of quality roles in independent films where he got to show off his passion and range. His biggest success in his still-young career has been absolutely nailing the role of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens.
Before that, however, he was in This is Where I Leave You, a dramatic comedy that, despite its A-list cast, was about as entertaining as a waxing. Driver, as the obnoxious and unlikable youngest member of a grieving family, doesn’t help proceedings as his zeal for the role showed off more of his flaws as an actor than his strengths as a star.
7 GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE IN THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS
As the silver-suited Captain Phasma, Gwendoline Christie’s involvement in The Force Awakens was largely overhyped and criminally underutilized. But while it appears her role may be upped in the upcoming Last Jedi, it doesn’t fix the fact that Star Wars is the second place where Christie mishandled. The first place, for better or for worse, was in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.
Back in the 2009 cinematic tragedy that very nearly sank Terry Gilliam’s career, the future Brienne of Tarth was then known by the simple moniker of ‘Classy Shopper 2.’ She had a brief scene where she was almost unrecognizable from her signature look today. It was one of her first film roles so it makes sense that she’d start small, but her talent should have been visible even back then.
6 HARRISON FORD IN MORE AMERICAN GRAFFITI
Forget Star Wars, forget Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford is George Lucas’s greatest creation. Ford was a fairly active actor before Lucas cast him as Bob Falfa in his 1973 film American Graffiti, but his career took a significant uptick when he continued his collaboration with the young director. Since American Graffiti was their first film together, it made sense for Ford to reprise his role in some small way for the sequel six years later.
But while the first Graffiti is remembered as the first real success for what would eventually become one of the most polarizing auteurs in cinema, More American Graffiti is remembered as being the drastically sub-par follow up from the guy who directed Cisco Pike. In that sense, Ford’s very brief cameo as a grown up Falfa is mercifully short and even goes unremarked on in the film’s credits.
5 EWAN MCGREGOR IN ALEX RIDER: OPERATION STORMBREAKER
If there was any definitively good aspect of the rightfully condemned prequel trilogy, it was Ewan McGregor as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi. Portraying the same character that Alec Guinness originally portrayed in the '70s, McGregor completely emulated the incorruptible sage character. On top of that, he has a storied career with an impressive filmography and several accolades to his name.
So much so that even when he signs on to a complete and total dud like Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, he made sure to in the most impressive action sequence in the movie, square off against the only other good actor in the film, and do both in one scene before being killed off by Jude Law. It’s still something to be ashamed of, to be sure, but at the very least he escapes the film with something resembling dignity.
4 JOHN BOYEGA IN THE CIRCLE
Though he’d accumulated something of an underground following and critical respect as one of the best up and coming young actors in the business today, John Boyega didn’t really become a household name until he starred as turncoat Stormtrooper Finn in The Force Awakens. After his stardom was more or less confirmed, Boyega had his veritable pick of where to take his marquis status. So he took it to the failed Emma Watson vehicle The Circle. In his defense, bigger names than his were attracted to the film, including Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt.
The movie, about Emma Watson’s character joining a big-brother-like tech company, features Boyega as Ty, a dissenting employee. His interactions with Watson demonstrate his charisma and talent, but the film gives him very little conflict to work with and his characterizations are superficial at best. Overall, The Circle just didn’t deserve him.
3 OSCAR ISAAC IN X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
For those that don’t like arthouse films or even Coen brothers movies, The Force Awakens was likely their first introduction to the jaw-dropping, eye-drawing screen presence of Oscar Isaac. At least, it hopefully was. Otherwise the first time they saw Hollywood’s next great actor would have been in X-Men: Apocalypse where he played the titular villain under inch-thick makeup, a bulky costume, and a performance that was over-the-top yet still somehow phoned in.
Basically, Bryan Singer took the reincarnation of Laurence Olivier and decided he’d work best as a mouthpiece for faux-Wagnerian arias of genetic superiority, like a eugenics professor desperate to fill his class. Needless to say, Singer was wrong and Isaac’s momentum ground to an abrupt halt, making his performance in the upcoming Last Jedi less of a victory lap and more of a tentative reminder that he’s actually amazing.
2 CARRIE FISHER IN DROP DEAD FRED
The amount of influence the late, great Carrie Fisher exerted over Hollywood can never be understated. An underappreciated comedian, an advocate for mental health support, and one of the most talented screenwriters and editors of the last 40 years, Fisher first dropped into the limelight as the incomparable Princess Leia in the first Star Wars movie. But nobody can have such a prolific career without the occasional poor decision.
For Fisher, it was Drop Dead Fred. The 1991 film bizarrely billed itself as a comedy despite not having any actual humor in it. The story followed a frazzled career woman reconnecting with her old imaginary friend while Fisher plays her supportive but impatient friend. She’s good in the role, but it’s not hard to imagine Fisher waiting for the next cut so she can negotiate her uncredited Hook cameo between takes.
1 MARK HAMILL IN THE GUYVER
Sometime after redefining the hero’s journey archetype for an entire generation and sometime before becoming the definitive Joker for another, Mark Hamill was in loose adaptation of a popular Japanese manga called The Guyver. Widely considered to be one of the worst films ever made, it has grown a cult following from ironic enjoyment. The film is about a murder mystery being solved by Hamill’s detective character and two teenagers which leads to the discovery of aliens, evil corporations, and superpowers.
It’s so bad that it managed to sign Hamill and doesn’t even make him the main lead. Instead, he meanders around onscreen for an hour, looking pretty annoyed that he signed onto this disaster, and then explodes into a goop monster in what is, to be fair, a legitimately impressive practical effect. And if you’ve ever wanted to see that, then the loony bin is looking for you.
Which of these roles is the worst? Let us know in the comments!