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Star Wars Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

The first Star Wars film came out over four decades ago, and it probably seemed unlikely at the time that stories about the Skywalkers and the Jedi would only be growing in popularity this far down the line. But the franchise hasn't only survived — it's thrived, changing everything from the cinematic landscape to the world of merchandising. But with as long as the series has been around, it's a sad reality that we've lost many of our favorite actors who've appeared in a galaxy far, far away.

In 2016, Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60. The Guardian praised the actress for her "mix of candor, sweetness, and wit," going on to say that, "No matter how hard her life was, or how poor some of her personal choices had been, her wry observations always seemed suffused with hope." However, Fisher isn't the only Star Wars actor who's passed away. Today, we'll be taking a look at some of the lesser-known names from the franchise who've died. They may not have all played as big a role in the series as Princess Leia, but each of these actors helped bring the magical world of Star Wars to life.

Kenny Baker was the man inside everybody's favorite droid

You never saw Kenny Baker's face or heard his voice in a Star Wars film, but in the first six movies, he portrayed one of the franchise's most iconic characters: R2-D2. 

That's right. R2-D2 wasn't a puppet or animatronic like so many creatures in the Star Wars universe. There was an actor inside that droid. Baker was only 3'8", and he's responsible for creating much of R2-D2's "personality." When Baker passed away in 2016 at the age of 81, StarWars.com wrote, "Whether it was the slow turn of Artoo's dome to convey suspicion or nervous wobbles signifying fear, Baker made a robotic being seem very human."

Baker played the droid in all three original films, and he also played an Ewok in Return of the Jedi (the one who steals the Imperial speeder bike). He even returned for the prequel trilogy, where he once again portrayed R2-D2. Baker was a prolific actor, as he appeared in many other films in the '70s and '80s. Some of his other credits include Time Bandits and Willow.

Erik Bauersfeld was famous for an iconic Star Wars line

Admiral Ackbar had a small role in the original Star Wars trilogy. He only appeared in Return of the Jedi, and even then, he only had a few minutes of screen time. Even still, the character's appearance and iconic line — "It's a trap!" — made him a fan favorite, leading many to mourn the passing of voice actor Erik Bauersfeld.

In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Bauersfeld, who also did work on films like A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Crimson Peak, died at the age of 93. Interestingly, he argued that his movie voice work was always a secondary career that he stumbled into, as opposed to his work as a radio producer. He wrote, "The voice work I did in movies was accidental. I was working with Randy Thom on radio dramas at his technical quarters at Lucasfilm. One day Ben Burtt, sound designer for Star Wars, came by and asked if I would audition for a voice in the movie."

Bauersfeld also voiced Bib Fortuna, one of Jabba the Hutt's associates. And he returned to the role of Admiral Ackbar in The Force Awakens, which released just months before he passed away.

Phil Brown faced hardships before winding up in Star Wars

As he dies in the opening hour of the film, Uncle Owen is a small Star Wars character in the grand scheme of things, but his death is a launching point for Luke Skywalker, the hero of the original trilogy. So in a weird way, Owen is a super important character, meaning that actor Phil Brown was a pivotal player in Star Wars lore.

Sadly, Brown passed away in 2006 at the age of 89. Even though he was quite well-known when Star Wars was made, he'd faced quite a bit of hardship as an actor. In the 1950s, Brown was caught up in Senator Joseph McCarthy's communist trials, and he was actually blacklisted because he refused to comply with the House Un-American Activities Committee's demands to name communists in Hollywood. He denied being a communist himself, and he actually moved to London afterwards to continue acting.

As it so happens, when it came time to make Star Wars, George Lucas was filming in London and needed a local actor with an American accent, which brought Brown on board. Not long after, Brown was with Lucas in Tunisia, filming A New Hope's early scenes on Tatooine.

Peter Cushing was a legend of British cinema

One of the more famous entries on this list, Peter Cushing was a massive star when he was cast as Grand Moff Tarkin in A New Hope. He brought an immediate gravitas to the film, oozing menace and calm. He somehow came off as every bit as intimidating as Darth Vader himself, despite Vader being one of the all-time greats in the world of movie villains.

Before appearing in A New Hope, Cushing was actually an icon in horror. He appeared in many of the Dracula and Frankenstein films of the '50s and '60s, and he also portrayed Sherlock Holmes in a few movies. Cushing passed away in 1994 at the age of 81. Despite this, he actually reprised his role as Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, even though the film came out over 20 years after his death. Cushing was recreated in the film with state of the art CGI, nearly defeating the uncanny valley (but not quite).

Peter Diamond played multiple parts in the Star Wars universe

Peter Diamond was more of a stuntman and a coordinator than an actor. On his IMDb page, he's credited with nearly 250 roles in the "stunts" category. However, the man had a variety of small roles in the original Star Wars trilogy, and he had a large impact on several memorable scenes.

Some of the Star Wars roles Diamond appeared in include A'Koba, the Tuskan Raider who attacks Luke Skywalker, and Garouf Lafoe, the guy who rats out Luke and Obi-Wan to the storm troopers at the Mos Eisley cantina. He also appeared as various helmeted or background characters in the film, often when those roles called for dangerous stunts.

His other contribution to the original trilogy came from his role as the stunt coordinator. He actually created two different styles of lightsaber combat used by Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Diamond passed away in March 2004, at the age of 74.

Shelagh Fraser was the beloved Aunt Beru

A powerhouse English actress, Shelagh Fraser died in 2000 at the age of 79. She was in a small but memorable role in A New Hope, as Luke's aunt, Beru. The character dies very early in the film, so Fraser was unable to contribute a ton to the film. However, Beru's murder spurs Luke into action, driving his character arc through much of the trilogy.

Fraser was mostly known as a stage actress in England, although she had several notable television and film roles that brought her quite a bit of fame. And even though her role in Star Wars is small, some would argue that she's indirectly responsible for Luke becoming the hero he winds up being. At a New York Comic-Con panel, author Meg Cabot argued that very thing, saying Aunt Beru's kindness and caring for Luke helped him overcome the Dark Side and defeat the Empire. It also helped him find the compassion to look for the good left in Darth Vader, without whom he never would have stopped Emperor Palpatine.

So yeah, nice work, Aunt Beru.

Alec Guinness was one of the greatest Jedi of all time

Sir Alec Guinness, the original Obi-Wan Kenobi, passed away in the year 2000 at the age of 86. Even though Guinness' character died in A New Hope, he actually appeared in the other films of the original trilogy, thanks to the power of the Force. His casting lent some immediate gravitas to the film, but he also infamously viewed the story as "fairy tale rubbish."

Guinness was a huge actor when he signed on for George Lucas' space opera. After all, he'd won an Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai and had starred in classics like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. And while many of the leading actors in Star Wars are big names now, they weren't at the time, making Guinness the biggest star in the movie in 1977. But why did he join the project if he hated the material? Well, there were a couple of reasons. First, he thought the moral of the story was good. Second, he wouldn't have to do any publicity for the film. And third, the studio offered him a massive salary. Despite the money, he ignored fan mail about Star Wars, and he hated discussing his role as Obi-Wan.

The role was eventually passed along to Ewan McGregor, who portrayed Kenobi in the prequel trilogy and will reprise the role in the Disney+ spinoff. For those who grew up on the original trilogy, however, Guinness will always be Old Ben.

Drewe Henley played a small but memorable part in A New Hope

Drewe Henley appeared in the Star Wars franchise as Red Leader, the pilot who led Luke's squadron in the strike against the Death Star at the climax of A New Hope. Sadly, he was accidentally credited as "Drewe Hemley" at the end of the film, but hey, at least he appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story through archival footage and unused audio clips, as it was filmed shortly after his death.

In the film, Red Leader nearly destroys the Death Star. He launches his torpedoes at the exhaust port, but his aim is slightly off. Not long after his miss, his ship is destroyed, and the poor guy is killed. Henley, on the other hand, was a well-respected actor when he was cast in A New Hope, but he had to retire not long after the film released due to his struggles with bipolar disorder. After working through his mental illness, he apparently settled down to run a bed and breakfast with his wife.

Henley died in 2016 at the age of 75.

John Hollis passed away after a successful career

According to the actual Star Wars credits, John Hollis played "Lando's Aide," as he's not actually given a name in the film. However, many Star Wars fans know him as Lobot, the cyborg who helps Lando Calrissian fight back against the stormtroopers so the heroes can escape Cloud City.

According to some of the deeper Star Wars lore, Lobot originally used his cybernetic enhancements just to augment his intelligence. However, during a mission gone wrong with Lando, Lobot was injured and lost the aspects of his mind that made him human. So now, he's essentially a computer operating a human body. However, his unique cybernetics allow him to have a direct connection with Cloud City's computer system.

As for the actor, Hollis appeared in several other popular films, including most of the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, Flash Gordon, and For Your Eyes Only. After a 40-year acting career, Hollis passed away in 2005 at 77 years old.

William Hootkins was in some of the most famous movies ever made

William Hootkins is one of those actors that you just know you've seen before. He had a very definitive look, and he often appeared as significant background characters in movies. Besides his role as Porkins in A New Hope, he also had roles in movies like Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Superman IV. Outside of Star Wars, his most well-known role probably came in 1989's Batman, where he played corrupt Gotham Police Lieutenant Max Eckhardt. He was also a prolific voice actor, as he frequently lent his voice to radio plays and audio books.

In A New Hope, Porkins was a part of Luke's Red Squadron during the assault on the Death Star. He flew as Red 6, and unfortunately, he couldn't contribute much to the battle. His ship malfunctioned early in the fight, and unable to maneuver, he was quickly shot down by Imperial forces. As for the actor, Hootkins died from pancreatic cancer in 2005. He was 57 years old.

Christopher Lee was an icon of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror

One of the most prolific actors in the Star Wars franchise, Christopher Lee's IMDb page has him credited with a whopping 281 acting roles. Lee is absolutely one of the gods of geekdom, as he graced several of Hollywood's most notable franchises, and he portrayed Count Dooku in two of the prequel films, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

Lee became a huge star due to his many appearances in the Hammer Horror Dracula franchise, where he frequently collaborated with another Star Wars alum, Peter Cushing. Lee's imposing figure (he was 6'5") and commanding voice made him a perfect villain, which helped him a great deal in another massive film role: Saruman in The Lord of the Rings.

A man of many talents, Christopher Lee also released heavy metal albums when he was in his 80s and 90s. Plus, he was knighted, and he retired from the Royal Air Force with the rank of flight lieutenant. Basically, Christopher Lee was cooler than any of us will ever be. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 93.

Peter Mayhew was one of the most lovable Star Wars characters

Peter Mayhew is an actor who, despite never showing his face, became one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars franchise. He played Chewbacca, Han Solo's friend and companion, and he helped bring humanity to a character where many other actors could've disappeared.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mayhew was a hospital orderly when he auditioned for the role. He even kept that job until after Return of the Jedi was released, and the 7'3" actor essentially made his living off of the one role for the rest of his life, going to conventions as a fan favorite for decades. He even reprised the role in 2015's The Force Awakens.

Nearly everyone who worked with Mayhew on the Star Wars franchise had nothing but kind things to say about him. For example, on Twitter, Mark Hamill wrote that Mayhew "was the gentlest of giants" and "a big man with an even bigger heart," adding that, "I'm a better man for just having known him." Mayhew died in April 2019 at the age of 74.

Alex McCrindle was the first to say a famous Star Wars line

Alex McCrindle played a very small role in A New Hope, but he was actually the first actor to speak one of Star Wars' most famous quotes. McCrindle played General Dodonna, who tells the Rebels their plan of attack when the Death Star is approaching. After explaining that the Death Star's only weak point is a tiny exhaust port, some of the Rebel pilots express concern. Luke Skywalker speaks up that the target isn't impossible, which prompts this line from Dodonna: "Man your ships, and may the Force be with you."

The quote is often mistakenly attributed to Obi-Wan Kenobi, who never actually says that line in A New Hope. Han Solo says it later on, when Luke is about to take off, but Dodonna is the first character to say it in a Star Wars film. As for the actor, McCrindle was known for television more for film, and A New Hope is one of the only big name films to his credit. He died in 1990 at the age of 78.

Jack Purvis showed up in all three films in the original trilogy

With its many alien races of all sizes, the Star Wars films have often had unique casting requirements. Jack Purvis was one of Hollywood's most well-known little person actors, so it's no surprise that George Lucas cast him in more significant roles across his original trilogy. Interestingly, Purvis actually played three different characters in each of the three original Star Wars films.

He played the head Jawa in A New Hope, the chief Ugnaught in The Empire Strikes Back, and Teebo the Ewok in Return of the Jedi. He was no stranger to the entertainment scene when he was cast in the film, as Purvis had been in a touring musical group with fellow Star Wars actor Kenny Baker (R2-D2). The duo traveled to many bars and clubs with their musical-comedy show.

Purvis also appeared in several other memorable films, mostly in the 1980s, such as Time Bandits, Willow, Brazil, and Labyrinth. Purvis died at the age of 60 in 1997.

Sebastian Shaw played one of cinema's greatest bad guys

Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker has been played by multiple actors, but when his deformed, old man face is revealed in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, that's classically trained actor Sebastian Shaw. He also portrayed Anakin's Force ghost at the end of ROTJ, appearing to Luke alongside Obi-Wan and Yoda. (However, in more recent versions, George Lucas digitally replaced the Shaw version of Anakin with Hayden Christensen, who played Anakin in the prequel trilogy.)

Shaw was mostly known as a stage actor outside of Star Wars fandom. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he often played lead or featured roles. He was a Broadway veteran, and he was well known for taking on parts in daring and controversial plays. One theater he was acting in, where he was performing a play called A Patriot For Me , actually had to change their classification to a nightclub in order to escape censorship laws.

Lucas choosing to digitally replace Shaw with Christensen sparked some controversy, but many a Star Wars fan won't forget the reveal of Darth Vader's face. Shaw passed away in 1994 at the age of 89.

Larry Ward voiced two of the most memorable Star Wars villains

Larry Ward might not be the most famous Star Wars actor. In fact, the man only has two movies to his credit: A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. But he loaned his voice to two of Star Wars' most memorable baddies. In the original film, he played the notorious bounty hunter, Greedo. And in ROTJ, he provided the dialogue for everybody's favorite space gangster, Jabba the Hutt.

Even more important than giving the giant slug his voice, however, was helping to develop the entire language he spoke. The foundation for "Huttese" (yes, that's what it's called) was laid down by sound designer Ben Burtt. He based the language on Quechua, the language of a group of indigenous Peruvians. Burtt played Quechua recordings for Ward, then told the actor to improvise dialogue that sounded like it. Thus, Huttese was born. Sadly, Ward passed away in 2007 at the age of 63.

Jason Wingreen gave his voice to a fan-favorite character

Jason Wingreen didn't actually appear in the Star Wars films, but his voice brought life to a fan-favorite villain. Wingreen was the original voice of Boba Fett, the intergalactic bounty hunter who tracks down Han Solo.

Wingreen was a well-known television actor when he auditioned for Star Wars. He appeared in many different shows, and if you've ever watched television from the '60s, '70s, or '80s, then you've probably seen Wingreen without even realizing that he voiced the most feared bounty hunger in the galaxy. In the world of TV, Wingreen was probably best known for The Untouchables and All in the Family. He originally auditioned for the role of Yoda, but Frank Oz got the part. It's a testament to Wingreen's talent that Boba Fett became such a massively popular character. He only recorded four lines for the role and went uncredited. In fact, it wasn't until the year 2000 that the public even knew who voiced the villain.

Wingreen passed away in 2016 at the age of 95.

Andrew Jack was a Resistance leader and a behind-the-scenes specialist

The year 2020 was a hard one for people around the globe, including the Star Wars community. In March, TMZ reported that Andrew Jack — a veteran actor and dialect coach for over 30 years — had passed away from complications due to COVID-19 on the morning of the 31st.

Andrew Jack contributed to the Star Wars franchise in multiple ways. Fans might recognize him as Caluan Ematt, a major in the Resistance forces in The Force Awakens and a general in The Last Jedi. He was also the voice of Moloch in Solo: A Star Wars Story. However, Jack's real contribution to Star Wars (and cinema in general) came as a dialect coach.

Jack helped many of the actors in the later Star Wars films perfect their accents. As TMZ noted, it's very likely that Jack taught John Boyega how to hide his British accent for the part of Finn. He also helped the actors learn to speak fictional languages. As original Solo director Christopher Miller explained (via USA Today), he and Phil Lord "asked [Jack] to teach Alden [Ehrenreich] to speak Shyriiwook," and Miller said he'd "always remember listening to them gargle-roar at each other back and forth."

Outside of the Star Wars franchise, Jack worked on accents in some of the biggest films ever made, including Avengers: Endgame and The Lord of the Rings series. He leaves behind quite a legacy, and our condolences go out to his friends and family.