In the original Star Wars, the leader of the fascist Empire is little more than a shadowy background figure, the faceless power behind Darth Vader’s monolithic malevolence. Even in The Empire Strikes Back, he’s barely seen, not truly taking the stage until Ian McDiarmid was cast in the role for Return Of The Jedi. Now, after three prequel films about Emperor Palpatine’s rise to galactic power—and a highly successful sequel in which he’s already gone to that big Death Star power pit in the sky—it looks like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be following in the original film’s footsteps, at least vis a vis the visibility of its primary villains.
Speaking at Amsterdam’s Comic Con last weekend, McDiarmid confirmed that he won’t be taking part in the film, which takes place before Episode IV, and centers on a desperate effort to steal the plans for the still-in-the-works Death Star. McDiarmid noted that, as previously confirmed—and teasingly shown in the film’s latest trailer—Darth Vader will act as evil’s murderous middle manager yet again, on hand to check Director Orson Krennic’s work as the battle station continues to be built. For his own part, McDiarmid seemed a little wistful about his character’s death, and his lack of ongoing Imperial power: “Watching Episode VII,” he told reporters, “I did have a little nostalgia for myself, knowing that I’m long gone, been ejected into Universe Hell, or wherever it was when I went down that chute…Of course, Rogue One’s on its way, when I was in charge of things.” “I mean The Emperor,” he added, hopefully for our benefit, and not his own. “Not me.”