Star Wars isn’t exactly known for its stellar display of acting prowess. Sure, many of those involved — especially in the first trilogy — give completely convincing, well-regarded performances that reflect the franchise’s melodramatic space opera aesthetic perfectly. That being said, not everyone can be in the same league as a Harrison Ford or Ewan McGregor. Miscasting happens all the time in movies and Star Wars is no exception.
While there are not many examples of obvious miscasts in the Star Wars franchise, the ones that do exist stick out like a sore thumb. Admittedly, the blame can’t be solely placed on these actors, as they were often given material of suspect quality to work with in the first place and it isn’t exactly easy to turn garbage into gold. None of the following actors are necessarily “bad” at acting (In fact, half of them are extremely well-regarded in their field), but for whatever reason, they just weren’t right for Star Wars and arguably should have been replaced long before the final cuts were sent to theaters.
You’ll notice that this list doesn’t include any actors from the original trilogy. We didn’t intend to only single out the prequels, but there aren’t really any casting choices we would want to change in the early Star Wars films. Maybe David Prowse (have you heard how awful his Darth Vader voice is?) but James Earl Jones’ iconic voiceover improvements make make even that a moot point.
7. Liam Neeson
You’re probably surprised to see Neeson here, considering his presence is one of The Phantom Menace‘s few saving graces. If you think about it though, what distiguishing characteristic does Qui-Gon Jinn have other than the fact that Liam Neeson played him? Qui-Gon is completely devoid of charisma or even a clearly-defined belief system, recklessly undermining those around him at every turn. The simple truth of the matter is that Qui-Gon was a poorly-written character and Neeson was much too overqualified to play him. While it’s still neat to think that Liam Neeson actually appeared in Star Wars, his character was so poorly-realized that any middle-aged bloke could have played him. At least Neeson only had to suffer for one film.
6. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman is a talented actor who has turned in mesmerizing performances in films such as Black Swan and V For Vendetta, but even she admits that appearing as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequels was almost an act of career suicide. “Star Wars had come out around the time of Seagull, and everyone thought I was a horrible actress,” said Portman in an interview with New York Magazine last year. “I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me.” Of course, Portman is a well-regarded actor today, but if you look at her performance in Star Wars, there’s little resemblance to the woman who would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. While it’s unreasonable to lay the blame squarely at Portman’s feet (the material she had to work with was largely atrocious), she did no favors for herself by giving a wooden, disinterested performance in three separate Star Wars films.
5. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson generally improves any movie he’s in, which is why it’s still so surprising just how much of a dud his character was in Star Wars. Jackson played Mace Windu, the Jedi Master with the distinctive purple lightsaber and pretty much no other distinguishing features. George Lucas and co. seemed to forget that if you’re going to cast Samuel L. Jackson in your movie, you let him be Samuel L. Jackson. Instead, the usually cool and charismatic actor was largely wasted on a character who really didn’t contribute much to the prequel trilogy besides taking out Jango Fett and nearly taking out Emperor Palpatine (with a poorly executed plan of attack to boot). Mace Windu had all the right ingredients for an interesting character but unfortunately, not even Samuel L. Jackson could make it a reality.
4. Daniel Logan
It’s a bit unfair to pick on child actors for being miscast in a role, but when they’re as annoying and obtrusive as Daniel Logan’s turn as a young Boba Fett, a little criticism is warranted. To be fair to Logan, inserting a young Boba Fett into Attack of the Clones was a terrible decision to begin with. Fett’s popularity largely stemmed from him being such an enigmatic badass; showing him as a pouty, obstinate child almost tarnished that perception entirely. If Lucas was adamament that a young Fett needed to turn up, he probably should have aged the character a bit to at least give the impression that he one day grows up to become the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunter. Instead, they chose Daniel Logan, who unfortunately just came across as really annoying. He could have been cut from the movie and it wouldn’t have made a difference (unless you count witnessing his dad get his head chopped off by Mace Windu as important, but the film never did anything with that traumatic moment anyway to warrant its inclusion).
3. Jake Lloyd
The Phantom Menace had a great opportunity to introduce a young Anakin Skywalker to the audience who they could identify with in a similar way to his son Luke in Star Wars. Instead, we got a little annoying kid played by Jake Lloyd. Lloyd is perhaps the most unfortunate victim of the prequels, as the pressure of being the central character in a new Star Wars film at the age of eight turned the actor’s life into a “living hell” and made him quit acting altogether. Lloyd’s performance isn’t even that bad considering how young he was; it’s just hard to take an eight-year-old boy seriously as the central protagonist of any film, let alone Star Wars. Anakin should have been aged up in The Phantom Menace with a different actor in place of Lloyd; at the very least it would have made his scenes with Natalie Portman’s character — aka his future wife — a lot less awkward.
2. Ahmed Best
While it’s hard to fault Ahmed Best for being the unfortunate soul who had to voice Jar Jar Binks, his performance was so universally despised (except by the very young and ignorant) that he is probably just as eager as anyone to forget he ever had anything to do with it. We’re not making the argument that another actor could have done a better job with Jar-Jar because, let’s be honest, nobody could. Still, casting Best was a poor decision because his line delivery still haunts our dreams and even worse, it tainted his acting career, as Jar Jar remains his biggest role to date. And people say that Jar Jar isn’t evil…
1. Hayden Christensen
It feels wrong to continually heap criticism on Hayden Christensen for his turn as Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith (lord knows he’s received enough of it already) but it’s hard to deny that he was the biggest miscasting in Star Wars history. A fair portion of the blame can be attributed to the poor scripts the actor had to deal with, but considering co-stars such as Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid had little trouble in rising above the script problems and turning in memorable performances for their respective roles, it’s hard not to think that there was room for considerable improvement had Christensen only been able to rise to the occasion. It’s a shame that his performance was so reviled because it arguably tarnished his reputation considerably; it would have been nice to see the actor get more opportunities to prove he’s a more capable talent than this compilation would suggest: