From C-3Po to Yoda - 10 iconic Star Wars characters
Some will return for The Force Awakens, others will not, and yet more will be revealed, but here are our top 10 most iconic Star Wars characters so far:
1. DARTH VADER
Vader is the bad guy that bad guys have bad dreams about: a towering, sable-suited creature whose gleaming SS armour, fly-eyed samurai mask and robotic voice convey the horror of the Galactic Empire’s police state within minutes of the first film’s opening shot. With his measured stalking tread, fondness for silky understatement, chivvying grasp of Death Star man-management and tendency to choke underlings mid-meeting, Vader is also, incidentally,the Boss from Hell – until, of course, you meet his boss. The only thing that could have made him scarier would be if David Lynch, the director George Lucas really wanted for Return of the Jedi, had taken the helm.
2. OBI-WAN KENOBI
The first-equal sage of Star Wars, and also the man most indirectly responsible for all of Star Wars’ misfortunes, Obi-Wan must have spent all that time in the desert kicking himself hard than the people who turned Hitler down from art school. Alec Guinness’ distaste for the role is well known, as are the millions he made off the back of his 2pc royalty deal, – “New rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper,” he wrote to a friend while filming, “and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable” – but the watchful intelligence of his performance is the axis around which the first film revolves.
As Obi-Wan, his fathomless gaze and hypnotic tones lent an intense seriousness and conviction to Lucas’s dribbly musings about the Force; without Guinness selling the movie’s mystique to us, we might not still be talking about Star Wars today. The same case can’t be made for Ewan McGregor’s twitchy take on the role in the prequels (to say nothing of his Jedi Mullet), but better and worse actors than him were chewed up in the meat-grinder of those films. The animated adventures of Obi-Wan in the Clone Wars cartoons, meanwhile, are surprisingly decent.
3. PRINCESS LEIA
Only about three women in the original trilogy are not portrayed as slaves or dancers. Princess Leia has a lot to make up for, then, but she has a good shot at it: fearless, competent and decisive, she triumphantly resists the damsel-in-distress cliches into which the scripts repeatedly try to funnel her. Carrie Fisher struck a neat balance between imperiousness and enthusiasm, and carried off her gobstopper lines with élan (“I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board”) – and although the infamous golden bikini sequence is an admitted low point, even that ends with Slave Leia getting her own back on Jabba in a strangulation scene so grisly that it must have haunted more childhood nightmares than just mine.
4. HAN SOLO
The gruff smuggler with a heart of gold will be No1 on this list for many people, and for one reason: Harrison Ford’s performance in the films that made him a superstar is irresistible. Han’s progression from womanising, selfish rambler-
gambler to freedom-fighting Alliance general is arguably the more fulfilling character trajectory, and his relationship with Carrie Fisher’sLeia (once she gets over the fancying-her-brother thing)gives the films their emotional centre. A lot of this is down to Ford himself, who devised lines such as the famous “I love you / I know” exchange and once brilliantly complained to Lucas, on receipt of some particularly turgid pages, that “you can type this shit, but you can’t say it”
The waddling golden protocol droidmay be fluent in over six million forms of communication, but Star Wars lore never seems to have answered the question of whether he speaks them all in the querulous whimper that marks his English (sorry, his Galactic Basic). The droid’s elegant, gleaming look was based by Ralph McQuarrieon the female robot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, but Anthony Daniels’ self-righteous performance could probably have brought hilarious life to a house brickbalanced on matchsticks. But isn’t C-3PO right to complain? Droids are the peons of Star Wars’s intergalactic feudalism, and poor old Threepio’s suggestion that “we seem to be made to suffer” is grimly borne out by the casualty rate in the films.Only Star Wars: Droids, an animated series from the Eighties that is surely overdue for revival, gave the metal manservants their moment in the limelight.
The story goes that, late one night in the editing room for Lucas’s film THX-1138, someone asked for reel 2, dialogue 2 – R2, D2 – and cogs began to turn in the director’s brain. Whatever the case, This doughty little bucket on wheels, with his cryptic squeakings and wise little flickering lights, often comes perilously close to stealing the whole Starwarvian show. Lucas is said to have wooed Kenny Baker, the 3ft8in actor inside the robot suit, by telling him that the droid was the narrator of the films: the position gains weight when you see that Artoo is also the first character in the first interior shot of the first film.
7. LUKE SKYWALKER
The tousle-headed country boy at the centre of Lucas’ intergalactic monomyth, the whining teenager who ends up saving the galaxy, the poor sap whose family issues it would take a planetful of therapists to resolve: Luke is Star Wars’ everyman, a regular dude plucked from his life of bullseyeing womp ratson the moisture farm who still can’t believe, even as he carves his way through a sand barge full of gangsters and faces off against the most fearsome villain in the universe, it’s all happening to him.
8. BOBA FETT
A distinct air of menace and excitement hangs about the character on his first introduction in The Empire Strikes Back. Fett is the guy Vader gets to do his dirty work – think about that – and one of three people to answer back to the Sith Lord and survive. And what does Vader mean when he tells Fett to capture Han Solo with “no disintegrations”? What does this guy normally get up to?
Yoda was originally mooted as a nine-foot-tall creature with a huge beard, but the decision to make him the tiniest being in the films was an inspired moment.
Han’s faithful partner in crime, always ready with a hug and a comforting growl or to pull your arms out of their sockets. Lucas is said to have derived the idea for the Wookiee from a Malamute dog he owned (called Indiana), which had a habit of riding around in the passenger seat of his car and looked, to drivers behind, like a gigantic hairy humanoid. Ralph McQuarrie and makeup artist Stuart Freeborn worked out the character design – essentially, Cousin Itt with a bowcaster and a pilot’s license – while sound designer Ben Burtt tackled the problem of devising a language for a creature that only communicated in roars. The eventual noise is said to have incorporated elements of bear, badger, lion and walrus calls. It’s one of the greatest mysteries in the Star Wars canon that someone as canny as Lucas never thought to market a Chewbacca conditioner.