Casting Call: Heir to the Empire

Heir to the Empire
In a just world.
An anonymous commenter on yesterday's post asks who should have been cast in a hypothetical 1993 film adaptation of Heir to the Empire.

The hour when such a film could have been made has long since passed, but wistful speculation on what might have been is all Star Wars fans have left.

Without further ado, here is my proposed cast for a production of Star Wars: Episode VII - Heir to the Empire circa May 1993.

Note: The original core cast of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams certainly would have returned, so their presence is assumed.

Let's get right down to business with the man of the hour himself, the only Star Wars villain to rival Darth Vader for menace and fan acclaim...

Grand Admiral Thrawn: Hugo Weaving

Hugo Weaving

Cosmopolitan actor Hugo Weaving had mainly done foreign films and television as of the early 90s. However, he's since amply demonstrated he has the chops to play calculating, menacing villains.

Add in Lucas' notorious penchant for hiring foreign actors and relative unknowns, and weaving might have gotten his big break six years early with a breakout turn as Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Talon Karrde: Danny Trejo

Danny Trejo

Ex-con and crime flick mainstay Danny Trejo may seem a rather un-Star Wars-ish choice at first glance.

However, bear in mind that HttE would have been produced during an intermediary period in Lucas' directing career. Trejo travels in the same circles as later Star Wars alum Samuel L. Jackson.

Lucas' existing preference for drawing talent from the indie scene and his then-evolving soft spot for prominent genre actors would've made Trejo a natural fit to portray gritty underworld player Talon Karrde.

Joruus C'baoth: Donald Sutherland

Donald Sutherland

OK, utterly mad Jedi clone Joruus C'baoth is a silly character. That's fine, because venerable actor Donald Sutherland has played his share of silly roles.

He also has the acting skills to elevate C'baoth from a rather dubious plot device to a three-dimensional, sympathetic character in his own right.

Sutherland pulling that off--which he could have--would have gone a long way toward beating the odds and delivering a film that surpassed the book.

Captain Gilad Pellaeon: Armin Mueller-Stahl

Armin Mueller-Stahl

Finding the right talent to play consummate naval officer and Thrawn's trusty right hand Gilad Pellaeon would give Lucas the perfect excuse to delve deep into the European cinema scene.

The role of Pelleaeon needs someone with gravitas and quiet dignity who can nevertheless bring the hammer down when called for.

I submit to you that accomplished German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl, best known to American audiences for his roles in Shine and Eastern Promises, aptly fits the bill.

Mara Jade: Bridget Fonda

Bridget Fonda

Admit it, you forgot about Bridget Fonda there for a minute. This member of Hollywood royalty might be keeping a low profile these days, but in the early 90s she'd made her name as an action star thanks to her lead role in Point of No Return.

Here's the deal: Next to Thrawn himself, no EU Star Wars character is more desperately needed to rehabilitate the franchise than Mara Jade. She would have spared Luke his fate as a dead end failure and given him a chance at a lasting legacy.

Plus, she's easily one of the most popular and enduring Expanded Universe characters.

Astlin - Souldancer Astlin - The Ophian Rising
Mara Jade clearly had zero influence on me.

The crucial role of Imperial assassin turned smuggler turned Luke's main squeeze requires an actress capable of projecting feminine strength with more than a hint of darkness lurking beneath the surface. Fonda has proven herself equal to the task.

Rukh: Kane Hodder

Kane Hodder

Need somebody for a stunt and makeup-heavy role involving stealth kills with a blade? This dude played Jason Voorhees. I rest my case.

Ah, what might have been.

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  1. It could be done as an animated adaption, but that will never happen under Disney's tight grip.

    We're just going to have to accept that it was a missed opportunity just like everything in the franchise from the prequels onward.

    1. John C. Wright's Starquest has some interesting potential, and there's already a Thrawn-like character in the plans. Perhaps he might be prevailed upon to include a Mara-like character too? If not for the Luke-analoge then perhaps for the non-Fin-badass-redeemed-stormtrooper analog...

    2. Considering the high ratio of misses to hits, Star Wars' staying power has been baffling.

  2. We're in serious Susie Derkins territory here ( "...and while I'm dreaming, I'd like a pony." ) but what the heck?

    Weaving is a good call, although the only major thing I'd seen him in prior to Matrix was that one Yahoo Serious film. Consistent with the 'ascendant '90's actors' theme, an unshaven Raul Julia as Karrde and glorious Dead Calm/Far and Away-era Nicole Kidman as MJ (vouched for by Willow colleague Ron Howard, natch). And I think after pondering the shock value, Lucas probably would've lifted his creator's veto and changed C'Baoth back to a Kenobi clone as Zahn intended, which naturally would've meant Alec Guinness ' return.

    Of course, Disney could still follow George's Orwellian precedent, re-number their current abysmal sequels and adapt the books with new actors, reconning as needed. It's kind of disturbing how quickly the Special Editions have been accepted as THE original trilogy, just as he intended.

    1. A Kenobi clone???

      And Lucas vetoed it??? WHAT WAS HE THINKING?!?!?!?

      That would have been...amazing...

    2. Those are all excellent picks. I deliberated casting Kidman before going with Fonda by a razor-thin margin, so she's still a close second choice.

      Julia would absolutely kill as Talon Karrde.

    3. "That would have been...amazing..."

      And it makes perfect sense.

    4. And considering how HttE opened with Ben's spirit making a final fond, proud farewell to Luke, proclaiming him not the last of the old Jedi, but the first of the new, imagine the pathos we could have gotten from Luke then being confronted with his old mentor's evil twin.

    5. Kenobi clone...that actually makes way more sense. It’s been a long time, but I recall my father and I laughing at Cbaoth and Luuke. Having to face a dark kenobi would have been far more dramatic and emotionally conflicting for Luke, and an odd echo of Vader’s words in the first movie.

    6. A mad clone of Kenobi would have amazing. The books were very strong, and I have great memories of reading them. But a clone Kenobi?

      Now that’s turning things up to eleven!

  3. I have the De-Specialized editions of the original trilogy.

    The last money I'm going to spend on Star Wars will be some of the Zahn books and some of the X-Wing series from the early EU.

    If I can find them at used bookstores.

  4. Pretty solid casting, but I would also go with Nicole Kidman over Bridget Fonda. In your scenario Danny Trejo's career would have become quite different for sure. I love these type of "what if" posts.

  5. About my only quibble with your casting is Kane Hodder. He’s just too imposing. And I seem to remember the Noghri being small and cat-like.

    And I believe we’re talking 90’s (pre-WETA) so I don’t think we would have the John Rhys-Davies/Gimli shrinking effect.

    My nomination for Ruhk: John Leguizamo

    1. Leguizamo did manage to be the only good thing about Spawn (1997).