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Star Wars' Ian McDiarmid Enjoyed Playing The Emperor Most In Revenge Of The Sith

In 1983, Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid first breathed life into one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history – portraying Emperor Palpatine in "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" — and in the process, terrified an entire generation of moviegoers with his sadistic and powerful Sith abilities.

More than 15 years after the release of "Return of the Jedi," McDiarmid would reprise this role in the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy, playing the then-chancellor Palpatine as the secret Sith Lord slowly masterminded his way to the top of the Galactic Republic. Later, he would return a third time in "Rise of Skywalker," which finally ended with Palpatine's (permanent?) demise.

At the April 2023 Star Wars Celebration, when asked which of these different iterations of the character was his favorite, McDiarmand revealed that he actually prefers the Palpatine we saw in "Revenge of the Sith" over any others. "When I get asked that question about other things, I usually say the most recent one... although when the fans ask me... I usually say 'Revenge of the Sith,'" McDiarmand explained, to massive applause. 

McDiarmand went on to say he particularly enjoys the word "Sith" (which is actually not said aloud in the original trilogy) and made it clear he is still very enthusiastic about prequel Palpatine, despite the infamously poor reception those films received.

McDiarmid also praised the revived Palpatine from Rise of Skywalker

Although Ian McDiarmid might enjoy "Revenge of the Sith"-era Palpatine over other iterations of the character, it's worth noting that he also went on to praise the third iteration of his character in "Rise of Skywalker" — in which he returned from his apparent death after the events of "Return of the Jedi."

"I like the last one too because that was a big surprise, not least to me," McDiarmid said. "And it was nice to be reconstituted and swing around the enormous studio on this sort of giant crane thing." 

In spite of the early outrage over Palpatine's return, fans have seemed to generally agree with McDiarmid that this latest iteration has plenty of strengths over other versions of the Emperor, not the least of which is how terrifying his revived form truly is. On Reddit, user u/DittoDat wrote as much: "He's genuinely terrifying and scary as he should be," elevating this version of Palpatine above his incarnations in prior movies. Others like u/torts92 compared him to an "eldritch horror" as opposed to the cocky villain of the prequels. 

McDiarmid's comments make it clear that, although his personal favorite version of Palpatine came in "Revenge of the Sith," he still holds a soft spot for the terrifying, zombie-like Sith lord we met in the sequels, whom plenty of fans seem to love as well.