A cameo in a movie is when someone of note has a short appearance in the film. This might be a well known actor, or a real life celebrity playing themselves, or perhaps the art director of the movie. I mention this because I see the term misused a lot these days. For example, several actors from the Game of Thrones series had parts in the newest Star Wars film, but these were not cameos. They were parts they were cast for.
I’m not going to talk about cameos here, but about actors that you may not have realized appeared in one of the Star Wars films. These were usually early roles for them, before they gained any fame of their own. Heck, most of the main cast were far from famous at the time. Plus I’ll give you some recommendations for later movies they were more prominently featured in.
Richard Armitage (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
This was his first movie role, playing a Naboo fighter pilot. He would go on to find a lot of success on British television before making his way back into movies.
He starred as Thorin Oakenshield in the recent Hobbit films.
Rose Byrne (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones)
Now here is someone who has been in a wide range of movies! One of her early roles was that of Dormé, one of Senator Amidala’s handmaidens.
It is hard to pick just one, but hey, I like zombies, so 28 Weeks Later. And if don’t think that is a zombie movie, we need to talk.
Sofia Coppola (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
The daughter of esteemed director Francis For Coppola is an esteemed director herself, being the third woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for directing. She appears as Saché, one of Queen Amidala’s handmaidens. (Her brother Roman also appears as a security officer.) Sure, she was a known commodity before Star Wars, but not as an actress.
She wrote and directed Lost in Translation, winning an Oscar for the screenplay.
Tony Cox (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi)
I liked him in Oz the Great and Powerful.
Joel Edgerton (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones)
Something that sets him apart a bit from the rest on this list is that he played a known character, that being the younger version of Luke’s Uncle Owen. Owen was played by Phil Brown in the original Star Wars. Brown had a very interesting career, notably to having been blacklisted.
He was also in 2015’s The Gift, a movie I dismissed after not being impressed by the trailer, but one that received positive reviews and is now on my list to watch.
Sally Hawkins (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
Hmm, her character doesn’t even rate a name, simply being listed a “villager”. This was her first movie, and since then she has had quite a career. I suspect it has been a better one than you might realize.
She earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
She played Sabé, a decoy of Queen Amidala. She was cast (it was her second movie ever) due to a physical similarity to Natalie Portman. Being a decoy, they often wore the same outfits, and the word from the set is that their own mother’s had trouble telling them apart at times. I would put forth that she has had the most success of anyone on this list post Star Wars, both commercially and critically.
John Ratzenberger (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
A few years before making it big on television he had a small part as Major Bren Derlin, a rebel officer. He has a couple of lines, and that moustache is easy to spot once you know to look for it.
Peter Serafinowicz (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
For the most part I haven’t taken voice acting into consideration, but I’m making an exception here for two reasons. One, he voiced (amongst other characters) Darth Maul, which is noteworthy. Two, he was in Shaun of the Dead. Unrelated, I tend to confuse him with Peter Sarsgaard for no discernible reason.
Dominic West (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
Yes, I realize most of these come from one movie, but that is just the way the casting went. You all can deal with it. West played a palace guard, so not too exciting there.
His best claim to fame may have come from playing a detective on The Wire, but I am going to mention 300 instead. Just because. And before you get excited about seeing his abs, he played Theron, the treacherous politician. Sorry.
Treat Williams (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
I think this is a prime example of what I am talking about. He had two minor roles in the movie, as a rebel trooper and a Cloud City guard. He might now have the most credits to his of anyone in this post (so far), with over 115.
One of the more celebrated movies he was in is Once Upon a Time in America.
And now for some bonus listings, ones that didn’t really fit in but I still think are nifty.
Daniel Craig (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens)
His was a true cameo role, although it initially went largely unnoticed since you never see his face. He plays the stormtrooper that Rey Jedi mind tricks.
He has had some noteworthy films since then. The first one I remember seeing his in was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. I have a story about his shower scene in that one.
James Earl Jones (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
What is there to say about the voice of Darth Vader? What is interesting is that his initial work only took a few hours. Lucas offered him points, but Jones insisted on being paid in cash. He wasn’t alone in doubting in this film, but the $7000 he got then pales in comparison to what he could have received in the long run.
He was in several Jack Ryan movies, like the The Hunt for Red October, opposite a couple different Jack Ryan’s.
Billie Lourd (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
She played Lieutenant Connix, appearing in several scenes and getting some dialogue. In time she may well fit right into this list, as this was her first movie. You may also have seen her on the wickedly delightful show Scream Queens. In that show her character always wore earmuffs. Which makes sense once you learn that she is Carrie Fisher’s daughter.
Well, that brings us to the end. I won’t asked if you learned anything, because that wasn’t the point. The point was to entertain, and to maybe help you find some new good films to watch, or old favorites to revisit. Your feedback is appreciated. Oh, and if you haven’t already, check out my post about Star Wars books.