Return of the Jedi’s 40th Anniversary Panel Had Fond Memories and Funny Stories

“Scary teddy bears,” Emperor Palpatine himself, Ian McDiarmid, said. “The end of Palpatine.” The iconic actor behind Star Wars’ greatest villain was one of four actors to appear on the 40th-anniversary panel for Return of the Jedi at Star Wars Celebration 2023. McDiarmid was joined by Lando Calrissian’s Billy Dee Williams, Wicket the Ewok’s Warwick Davis and C-3PO’s Anthony Daniels. It was moderated by Fennec Shand herself, Ming-Na Wen.

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Though the actors were only on stage for half of the panel (the rest was modern Star Wars creators Rob Bredow, Neil Scanlan and Doug Chiang talking about how Jedi influenced them), they provided plenty of excellent insights and stories. For example, Daniels talked about how the first scene shot for the movie was on a stage in the UK, and it was supposed to be the heroes getting on the Millennium Falcon in the desert. However, the sand was so messy on the stage, shooting was incredibly difficult and even when they did get the shots, they were cut.

Deleted Falcon scene.

Deleted Falcon scene.
Photo: io9/Germain Lussier

Warwick Davis shared that part of the reason why Wicket stood out among the Ewoks is that most of the actors playing them were much older. He was 11 years old at the time so he was always raring to go and had tons of extra energy. Plus, the fact he could pass his tongue through the suit made the character much more enduring.

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McDiarmid joked how he never thought he’d come back from the dead, referring to the Rise of Skywalker, especially after the way they filmed his character’s death scenes. Because he needed to fall down the Death Star’s shaft, the actor was on a harness and pulled up at rapid speed, which could then be flipped in post-production. He said the biggest problem with it was that actor David Prowse, who played Darth Vader, had trouble catching his feet, which made the toss look believable.

He also mentioned that it was never quite set what Paplatine’s voice was going to be. But, once he saw how he looked, he got it. McDiarmid said if the character looked disgusting, he should sound disgusting. He described the result as “a voice on the vomit,” which gradually mellowed from there.

As for Billy Dee Williams, he wasn’t able to share much as the actor is obviously not well, but still got a laugh when asked about his experiences hanging upside down in the Sarlaac Pit sequence: “It was very uncomfortable.”

Also, it was announced that Return of the Jedi will return to select theaters on April 28. Here’s a poster to mark the occasion by Matt Ferguson.

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