It's been more than four decades since the "Star Wars" franchise debuted with 1977's "A New Hope." Since then, the galaxy far, far away has expanded to include a prequel trilogy, a sequel trilogy, several animated series, two stand-alone films, an incredibly popular live-action TV series and more. In honor of the latest installment in the expansive multi-platform franchise — the third film in the sequel trilogy, "Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker," which debuts on Dec. 20, 2019 — Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at early and former cast members to see how their lives have changed over the years…
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Mark Hamill was a young and relatively unknown actor who won the role of Luke Skywalker in 1977's "Star Wars," which would later become "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope."
In an attempt to avoid being typecast as Luke Skywalker-esque characters, Mark Hamill turned to Broadway. He then enjoyed a second calling as a voiceover actor, voicing characters on "Batman: The Animated Series," "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance," "Regular Show" and "Metalocalypse." He also voiced Chucky in the 2019 "Child's Play" remake, had stints on "Knightfall" and "The Flash" and popped up in 2017's "Brigsby Bear" and in 2014's "Kingsman: The Secret Service." He married dental hygienist Marilou York a year after "A New Hope" debuted. (They've since welcomed three children.) He reprised the iconic role of Luke Skywalker in "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi" and will reportedly appear in "The Rise of Skywalker."
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Harrison Ford was a star on the rise when he won the part of Han Solo, the captain of the Millennium Falcon in 1977's "A New Hope."
Despite his fame and success playing iconic characters like Indiana Jones and Han Solo, Harrison Ford is easily one of the most private stars in Hollywood. In 2010, he wed Calista Flockhart after an eight-year courtship. (They're parents to her adopted son, Liam.) He was married twice before: He and Mary Marquardt, with whom he has two sons, divorced two years after "A New Hope" debuted, while he and screenwriter Melissa Mathison, with whom he has a son and a daughter, separated in 2000 following nearly two decades of marriage. Harrison's other biggest hits include "Blade Runner," "Witness," for which he earned an Oscar nomination, "Patriot Games," "The Fugitive" and "Sabrina." He also returned to the role of Han Solo in 2015's "The Force Awakens."
Carrie Fisher beat out actresses including Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep and Diana Ross for the role of the beautiful but tough Princess Leia Organa.
Carrie Fisher went on to appear in "The Man with One Red Shoe," "Hannah and Her Sisters," "When Harry Met Sally" and more, though she turned to mostly smaller films, voice work and guest-starring spots on TV following the '90s. She actually thrived behind the scenes and became a script doctor, performing uncredited polishes on movies like "The Wedding Singer" and "Sister Act." She also wrote and starred in a one-woman play, "Wishful Drinking," that enjoyed a successful Broadway run and became the basis for her book of the same name — one of several works she penned. It also inspired an Emmy-nominated HBO special. (Additionally, she scored Emmy nominations for her guest-starring roles on "30 Rock" and "Catastrophe.") The beloved daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer-actor Eddie Fisher — who was briefly married to Paul Simon in the early '80s and welcomed a daughter, actress Billie Lourd, with former partner Bryan Lourd — claimed in her 2016 memoir, "The Princess Diarist," that she and Harrison Ford had an affair while shooting "A New Hope." Sadly, Carrie — who was open about her struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction over the years — died of cardiac arrest at the age of 60 in late 2016. (Multiple drugs were in her system at the time of her death.) She returned to the role of Princess Leia in 2015's "The Force Awakens" and starred in 2017's "The Last Jedi," which was shot before her death. She'll also appear in "The Rise of Skywalker" thanks to unused footage left over from the previous films.
The charming Billy Dee Williams was the perfect fit for the role of equally charming Lando Calrissian in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." Like his pal Han Solo, the former con artist was a scoundrel who ultimately put his own interests aside to assist the Rebel Alliance in their time of need.
Billy Dee Williams is fond of his "Star Wars" alter ego: He's voiced Lando on episodes of "Robot Chicken," "The Cleveland Show" and "Star Wars Rebels" as well as in "The Lego Movie" and several video games — and he's set to return to the role for the first time on-screen in nearly 40 years in "The Rise of Skywalker." His other biggest hits include 1989's "Batman," in which he portrayed Harvey Dent, "The Ladies Man," "Undercover Brother" and the 2017 "Dirty Dancing" made-for-TV movie. He also had stints on "NCIS" and "General Hospital" and is an accomplished artist — his paintings have appeared in solo exhibitions around the country and are hanging in the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian. He has been married three times and has three children from two of those marriages.
Hayden Christensen portrayed Anakin Skywalker in "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," beating out superstars Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Phillippe for the role of the Jedi Knight on a tragic path to the dark side.
Hayden Christensen received mixed reviews for his performance as Anakin Skywalker in "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" — he even won a Golden Raspberry for worst supporting actor. Sadly, the former Golden Globe nominee's career never fully recovered. He starred in "Factory Girl," "Awake" and "Takers" as well as "Jumper," "New York, I Love You" and "American Heist" — all of which featured his longtime off-and-on partner Rachel Bilson. The duo, who got engaged in late 2008, welcomed a daughter, Briar Rose, in 2014. They called it quits for good in 2017 amid reports that he had an inappropriate relationship with Emma Roberts, his co-star in 2018's "Little Italy" — his most recent gig.
Before Hayden Christensen took on the older version of the role, sweet-faced Jake Lloyd portrayed Anakin Skywalker in "The Phantom Menace."
Aside from voicing young Anakin in a series of video games, Jake Lloyd only acted once more after "The Phantom Menace" debuted: in the sports drama "Maddison," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001 but didn't land in theaters until 2005. After he retired from acting over the cruel bullying he suffered from classmates, he retreated from public life — save for the occasional convention appearance. In 2012, he said that he destroyed all his "Star Wars" memorabilia and that he refused to re-watch the films. The former child star, who reportedly studied psychology at Chicago's Columbia College, landed in hot water with the law in 2015 when he was arrested for reckless driving, driving without a license and resisting arrest after leading police on a high-speed car chase. Jake, who suffers from schizophrenia, spent some time behind bars before he was transferred to a psychiatric facility.
James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, while English bodybuilder David Prowse was the man inside the iconic costume.
James Earl Jones went on to star in "Coming to America," "Field of Dreams," "The Hunt for Red October," "The Sandlot" and more. He also voiced Mufasa in "The Lion King" (both the original 1994 cartoon and the 2019 remake), continued his long-running Broadway career and racked up Emmy nominations for his work on "By Dawn's Early Light," "Heat Wave, "Gabriel's Fire," for which he won in 1991, "Picket Fences," "Under One Roof," "Frasier" and "Everwood." The Oscar-nominated actor, who voiced Darth Vader in 2016's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," is set to star in 2020's "Coming 2 America" sequel. In 1982, he married his second wife, actress Cecilia Hart, with whom he has one son. She died in 2016.
Alec Guinness starred as Luke Skywalker's mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi — who'd been living in solitude under the name Ben Kenobi — in 1977's "A New Hope."
Alec Guinness was already an Oscar winner by the time he was cast in "Star Wars." He actually earned another Academy Award nomination for his work as Obi-Wan Kenobi in "A New Hope." Two years later, he took home an honorary Oscar, and in 1989, he scored yet another nomination for his work in "Little Dorrit." His other biggest hits include an Emmy-nominated turn on "Smiley's People," the "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" miniseries and 1984's "A Passage to India." The English actor, who released three memoirs between 1985 and 1999, wed actress-playwright Merula Sylvia Salaman in 1938. They had one son, actor Matthew Guinness, and were still together when Alec died at 86 in 2000 from liver cancer.
Ewan McGregor won the role of young Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas's "Star Wars" prequel trilogy. During filming, the Scottish star took special care to ensure that his portrayal of the Jedi Master closely resembled the speech and mannerisms of the original Alec Guinness version of the character.
Ewan McGregor — who in 2019 confirmed that he'll return to the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in an upcoming live-action Disney+ series — has starred in a number of buzzed-about projects since his first stint in the galaxy far, far away. In 2013, he earned a Golden Globe nomination (his second) for his performance in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen." Five years later, he won his first Globe for his work on "Fargo," for which he also scored an Emmy nomination. His time on the TV show is memorable for another reason, though: In 2017, the Scottish star left his wife of more than two decades who's also the mother of his four daughters, Eve Mavrakis, for co-star Mary Elizabeth Winstead after they connected on set. His other biggest hits include "August: Osage County," "The Impossible," "Angels & Demons" and the 2017 live-action remake of "Beauty and the Beast," in which he voiced Lumière. Most recently, he starred as the adult version of Danny Torrance in 2019's "Doctor Sleep."
George Lucas chose acclaimed actor Liam Neeson to play Obi-Wan Kenobi's mentor, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, in 1999's "The Phantom Menace." It was Qui-Gon who discovered the Force in young slave boy Anakin Skywalker and took him under his wing.
Liam Neeson went on to star in a wide range of films — from "Gangs of New York" and "Kingdom of Heaven" to "Love, Actually" and the 2010 reboot of "The A-Team." He also starred in the "Taken" franchise, appeared in Christopher Nolan's "Batman" trilogy and voiced Aslan in the three mid-aughts "The Chronicles of Narnia" movies. Most recently — in 2018 and 2019 alone — the busy Irish actor starred in "The Commuter," "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," "Widows," "Cold Pursuit" and "Men in Black: International." Sadly, Liam experienced tragedy in 2009 when his wife of 15 years, Natasha Richardson, died after suffering a head injury during a skiing lesson. Their sons were born in 1995 and 1996.
Natalie Portman graced the screen as Padmé Amidala in all three "Star Wars" prequel films. She fell madly in love with Jedi Anakin Skywalker — and died of a broken heart after he turned to the dark side.
In 2005, the same year she said goodbye to the "Star Wars" franchise, Natalie Portman earned her first Academy Award nomination for her work in "Closer." Six years later, she took home her first Oscar for her performance in "Black Swan." The film also marked a major win in her personal life: She fell in love with choreographer Benjamin Millepied, whom she married in 2012. Their son, Aleph, was born in 2011, and their daughter, Amalia, arrived in 2017. The former child star — who made her feature film debut with 2015's "A Tale of Love and Darkness" — earned her third Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Jackie Kennedy in 2016's "Jackie." Her other biggest hits include "V for Vendetta," "The Other Boleyn Girl" and "Annihilation." She's also known for her work as Jane Foster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — she's set to portray Lady Thor in 2021's "Thor: Love and Thunder." Most recently, Natalie starred in 2019's "Lucy in the Sky."
Peter Mayhew — whose height was the result of Marfan Syndrome — was the perfect choice to play Han Solo's tall, furry companion Chewbacca in the first six "Star Wars" films. He didn't provide Chewie's iconic voice, though. That was the work of sound designer Ben Burtt, who created the Wookiee's distinctive roar by mixing the growls of different animals.
Peter Mayhew didn't act much outside of the "Star Wars" franchise. He starred on the short-lived 1981 series "Dark Towers," voiced a character in a 1997 "Dragon Ball" movie, portrayed a version of himself on an episode of the 2012 series "Breaking In" and had small roles in the indie films "Killer Ink" and "Yesterday Was a Lie." The English actor reportedly married his wife, Angelique, in 1999 and moved to her native Texas, where they raised three daughters and he eventually became a U.S. citizen. Peter also wrote two children's books: "Growing Up Giant" and "My Favorite Giant." He retired from the role of Chewbacca due to health issues following 2015's "The Force Awakens" and died of a heart attack at 74 in April 2019.
In what seems like an impossible feat — considering his speech consists of only electronic tones — R2-D2 easily became one of the most beloved characters in the "Star Wars" franchise. Actor Kenny Baker, who has dwarfism, brought life to the feisty and spirited droid in the first six films in the franchise.
Kenny Baker's biggest hits outside of the "Star Wars" franchise are "Flash Gordon," "The Elephant Man," "Time Bandits," "Amadeus," "Labyrinth" and "Willow." He also appeared in the 1982 made-for-TV movies "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Ivanhoe," starred on the BBC miniseries "Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader," tried his hand at stand-up comedy in the late '90s and released a 2009 memoir, "From Tiny Acorns: The Kenny Baker Story." He portrayed R2-D2 in the first six "Star Wars" films — through "Revenge of the Sith" — and served as a consultant on 2015's "The Force Awakens." The English actor, who was married to actress Eileen Baker for more than two decades until her death in the early '90s, died at 81 in 2016. He had two sons with his wife and an alleged third child with another woman before he and Eileen tied the knot. He did not recognize his oldest son as his own.
English actor Anthony Daniels is both the body and the voice of C-3PO in all nine installments in the "Star Wars" saga — from "A New Hope" to "The Rise of Skywalker."
Anthony Daniels has voiced C-3PO in various "Star Wars" animated series and video games over the years, as well as in "Ralph Breaks the Internet" and "The Lego Movie." He also portrayed the protocol droid in 2016's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and played a new character, Tak, in 2018's "Solo: A Star Wars Story," making him the only actor to appear in every major live-action "Star Wars" movie so far! The last project he worked on outside of the "Star Wars" universe was the 2012 web series "Dirigible Days," which he narrated. He also reportedly serves as an adjunct professor for Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center and released his memoir, "I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story," in 2019.
Yoda was voiced and puppeteered by Jim Henson veteran Frank Oz, who also voiced beloved Muppets Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Animal, Grover, Cookie Monster and Bert, to name a few! The actor-directed continued voicing the Jedi Master after the beloved character went CGI.
In addition to his work as Yoda and with The Muppets, Frank Oz — who performed on "Sesame Street" between 1969 and 2014 — popped up in "The Blues Brothers" and "Blues Brothers 2000," "An American Werewolf in London," "The Dark Crystal," which he co-directed with Jim Henson, "Trading Places" and "Labyrinth." He also voiced Subconscious Guard Dave in 2015's "Inside Out" and most recently appeared in 2019's "Knives Out." On top of all that, he's an accomplished director: He helmed "The Muppets Take Manhattan," "Little Shop of Horrors," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "HouseSitter," "The Indian in the Cupboard," "In & Out," "Bowfinger," "The Score," the 2004 remake of "The Stepford Wives," "Death at a Funeral," "What About Bob?" and more. He married motivational speaker Victoria Labalme in 2011 after his marriage of more than 25 years to first wife Robin Oz came to an end in 2005. He has four children.