WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story, in theaters now.
Many fans understandably expected Jabba the Hutt or Boba Fett to appear in Solo: A Star Wars Story, as the gangster and the bounty hunter helped to shape the lovable rogue we came to know in the original trilogy. However, while it's certainly hinted they may play roles in a potential sequel, the surprise cameo in director Ron Howard's film is reserved for another antagonist from the franchise: Darth Maul. True Star Wars devotees will immediately recognize not only his distinctive features but also his voice.
The former Sith apprentice of Darth Sidious turned crime lord looks considerably different than when audiences last saw him, whether that was in The Phantom Menace or, far more recently, on the animated Star Wars Rebels, appearing beneath a hood in hologram, his body supported by cybernetic legs. Now, Solo brings brings together Maul's live-action and animated history for the character's return to the big screen.
He's portrayed physically by Ray Park, who originated the role in 1999's The Phantom Menace, and voiced by Sam Witwer, who continued as Darth Maul across animation and video games, from The Clone Wars to Star Wars: Battlefront II to Rebels. It's a blending of two aspects of the character, who's experienced a more fully realized life on animated television than he even did in live-action.
Of course, while Maul was a formidable presence in The Phantom Menace, his time his screen was relatively limited, pitting him twice against Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), whom he ultimately kills before himself falling in a lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Until Solo, that was the last time Park played the character. However, The Clone Wars, the 2008 to 20014 animated series set between the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, expanded upon Maul's backstory before, in Season 4, revealing he'd survived the fight with Obi-Wan. He takes on his own apprentice, begins to build a criminal empire, and emerges as a potential rival to his former master, Darth Sidious.
An older Maul, again voiced by Witwer, is reintroduced in the Season 2 finale of Star Wars Rebels, where he repeatedly manipulates protagonist Ezra Bridger, and eventually is confronted by Obi-Wan again. Alas, Maul fares about as well in this duel as he did in there first, and dies in Obi-Wan's arms.
Directed by Ron Howard, Solo: A Star Wars Story stars Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca. They’re joined by Thandie Newton as Val, Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37, Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos and Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett. The film is playing in theaters nationwide.