Star Wars Celebration Orlando – Ian McDiarmid: Tales from the Dark Side

Ian McDiarmind 2017 SWCO panel
SWCO 2017 Ian McDiarmid “Path to the Dark Side” panel

The passing of Carrie Fisher has made me realize the iconic actors that brought the legendary characters of Star Wars to life will not be around forever. This compelled me to include Ian McDiarmid’s Star Wars Celebration panel from this afternoon in our coverage today, and although it didn’t have any spoilers or upcoming film news, it took us a little deeper inside the mind of the most diabolical character in the galaxy…



Ian McDiarmid’s panel at Star Wars Celebration started off with our host (and excellent one at that) Warwick Davis showing us a montage of Palpatine throughout the course of the saga, and introducing the man himself, Ian McDiarmid. Here are highlights from their interview:


  • When George Lucas called Ian to “audition” for a role in the prequel trilogy, he asked him how he felt about playing an Emperor. Ian said he’d be interested, and the audition was over. I don’t think any of us could imagine anyone else playing the role of Palpatine, so this was more of a humorous anecdote to get things going.
  • McDiarmid was given no information on the character, but simply the script, wardrobe, and makeup, which helped him mold Palpatine the way he saw him, and the only thing that remained was his voice. He revealed he physically saw the Emperor as almost reptilian, with his wrinkled skin and yellow eyes, and developed the now iconic and recognizable evil voice based on his impression of a reptile learning to speak. He created the voice from his diaphragm and less so from his throat, as he wanted the evil to literally come from within.
McDiarmid performing his Palpatine voice
McDiarmid performing his Palpatine voice


  • Much to fans disappointment, McDiarmid knows only what was in the script pages in regards to Darth Plagueis, so there are no scrapped notes or lines that he knows of.
  • The now famous opera scene where Palpatine speaks to Anakin about Plagueis and the powers of the dark side took 20 takes, although they never rehearsed the scene. McDiarmid recalls having an extremely hoarse throat, which made him ask George Lucas to delay filming the scene. Lucas felt the involuntary hoarseness of his voice actually worked as a bridge between Palpatine the politician and the Sith Lord, the real monster within, so the takes were used. The scene was then played in its entirety for the audience.


“The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural” – Sheev Palpatine


Warwick Davis then turned it over to the crowd for questions to close out the panel. Again, it was no headline grabbing news worthy panel, but we were able to listen to the actor who played the most evil character in the Star Wars saga over the course of three decades. For nostalgia and insight alone it was a fun panel. I hope you had a chance to see it, but if not, go to the Star Wars YouTube channel and check it out!


You can find me on Twitter @JohnnyHoey



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John Hoey is the Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net and the host of The Resistance Broadcast podcast

"For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is."

John Hoey

John Hoey is the Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net and the host of The Resistance Broadcast podcast"For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is."

24 thoughts on “Star Wars Celebration Orlando – Ian McDiarmid: Tales from the Dark Side

  • April 14, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Love sheev

  • April 14, 2017 at 2:01 am

    McDiarmid is surely among the very greatest actors to have appeared in the entire franchise. Heck, even the so-called “fans” who have made it their life’s mission to moan and gripe about the “horrible prequels” will often add a caveat: ” … except every scene with Ian McDiarmid.”

    • April 14, 2017 at 3:28 am

      I hate everything about the Horrible Prequels except for McDiarmid.

      • April 14, 2017 at 3:48 am


      • April 14, 2017 at 7:06 am

        And Ewen McGregor. That’s it. CGI Clones, jango fett, all CGI 3rd act in ATC, jumping around Yoda, Midiclorians, Sand, bad makeup on Palps, gungans, the 55 minute lightsaber fight at the end of ROTS, GTFO.

        • April 14, 2017 at 8:21 am

          I liked Liam Neeson too. With his large stature and the natural air of nobility he gives off – he seemed like the epitome of what the Jedi were supposed to be during their supposed “golden era.” I thought his casting was perfect for that character, and he turned in a good performance as well. And Darth Maul was pretty bad-ass too. Then there was Jar-Jar….

    • April 14, 2017 at 3:55 am

      yes because only true fans will suppress their subjective views and blindly love all the films.

    • April 14, 2017 at 4:37 am

      Yes, because as we all now, only true fans will blindly praise all media from a franchise.

    • April 14, 2017 at 6:48 am

      Or the fans who’s mission it is to moan and gripe about how other fans moan and gripe about the prequels?

  • April 14, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Papa palpatine!! Long live the emperor!

  • April 14, 2017 at 3:27 am

    They were literally INSANE to not have him in Rogue One. What I would have given to see Krennic GROVEL to Palpatine, with Vader nearby.

    • April 14, 2017 at 3:49 am

      Nope. Would make zero sense if you have been keeping up with the books.

    • April 14, 2017 at 4:19 am

      It would take away from his Empire/Jedi appearances and people would wonder why he was not in ANH.

  • April 14, 2017 at 4:22 am

    He always seemed very toad like in ROTS when fighting with Yoda, I don’t want him back as a clone like in the old EU but I am not opposed to seeing him in spinoffs or Rebels. Maybe even forcebacks in the ST.

    • April 14, 2017 at 11:27 am

      What about as a hologram recording in the ST? Best way to discover his final order.

      • April 14, 2017 at 1:06 pm

        Like what they did in Aftermath ?

        • April 14, 2017 at 6:49 pm

          Not read it….still could be other stuff he’s not disclosed. This is Palpatine after all.

          • April 15, 2017 at 4:40 pm

            All in all it’s a descent trilogy. Jakku gets a big time to shine in Empire’s End, including the battle alluded to in Lost Stars and Battlefront. The interludes have some interesting tidbits in them as well.

            Maybe if they someday use some stuff from the Making of TFA book, we will see Palpatine’s spire from the second Death Star again (hopefully under water, like in the concept art), where there will be many possibilities to reference ol’ Sheev.

          • April 15, 2017 at 11:21 pm

            Could you say what exactly was his final orders?

  • April 14, 2017 at 7:02 am

    One word to sum up this panel:


  • April 14, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    That moment when Ian McD. talked about something shocking, the audience broke out in laughter and he had no idea what was going on.

  • April 14, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    I hope he is involved in another Star Wars film or show before he’s no longer willing or able.

Comments are closed.