Star Wars: What The Original Voice Of Emperor Palpatine Sounds Like

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star wars: what the original voice of emperor palpatine sounds like
Lucasfilm

Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) may be the villainous face of the "Star Wars" franchise, but Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has been the one pulling the strings throughout the Skywalker Saga. It's hard to imagine ominous lines like "Strike me down" in any other cadence than McDiarmid's iconic growl, but the actor wasn't always the one leading the galaxy toward the Dark Side of the Force. Anyone who watched "Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back" in theaters in 1980 may remember Palpatine had a different look and was voiced by someone else entirely.

When Darth Vader speaks with Palpatine via hologram, the villain's played by Marjorie Eaton with a chimpanzee's eyes superimposed on her face. However, the voice, which is rather calm and collected, is provided by Clive Revill, who's had a litany of other voiceover roles, from "Batman: The Animated Series" to "Pinky and the Brain." Revill's performance is more proper-sounding in stark contrast to the gravelly nature of McDiarmid's voice.

While this amalgamation was fine for a hologram, it was decided to recast Emperor Palpatine for "Return of the Jedi" with Alan Webb getting the part. Sadly, Webb got sick, so McDiarmid was brought in, and he continued portraying the character in the prequel trilogy as well as 2019's "Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker."

Ian McDiarmid played Emperor Palpatine for an Empire Strikes Back re-release

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Landing the part of Emperor Palpatine in "Return of the Jedi" would prove to be one of the most lucrative roles of Ian McDiarmid's career, as the character would go on to become an integral figure in Rey's family tree, as fans infamously know all too well at this point. In fact, McDiarmid was even brought on to eventually redo the hologram scene from "The Empire Strikes Back" for the 2004 re-release of the film. The quality of the hologram is significantly improved with advancements in visual effects, and for many viewers, they may only ever know the Emperor as McDiarmid.

In either case, Emperor Palpatine's introduction is downright chilling regardless of who's playing him. Darth Vader has been set up as this prime threat, so the fact he offers deference to this other figure, who can only be bothered to talk to him through a hologram, makes it clear that he is the main obstacle for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to overcome. The original version comes across as more alien, particularly with the inclusion of chimpanzee eyes, while McDiarmid's iteration simply screams "Sith" more with sunken eyes and withered skin.

While Clive Revill was replaced, he still stayed within the "Star Wars" franchise to a degree. He had voiceover roles in various "Star Wars" video games, like 2011's "Star Wars: The Old Republic." But he'll at least always have the fun fact of being the first voice of Palpatine in the "Star Wars" universe.

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