Nobody is more excited about the upcoming Star Wars sequel trilogy, not to mention all the offshoots and sidequels (a word I hate) than me. In fact, all of us here at Nerdist feel that way. (Watch Dan Casey talk about the five spinoff movies he wants.) However, I can’t help but feel a little bit sad that we never got to see movies based on Timothy Zahn’s awesome and influential novel trilogy from the early ’90s, known collectively as The Thrawn Trilogy. Those books basically redefined the idea of an Expanded Universe and introduced some really complex and interesting characters who deserved their chance to shine on the silver screen.
And so, friends whom I’ve mostly never met, I’ve decided to play casting director yet again and lay out who I think would have been the best or ideal choices to play these characters, should the trilogy been made between 1994 and 2000 (like the prequel trilogy never happened, or happened later).
Now, of course, they all three (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) would have been directed by Irvin Kershner, who directed the best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. He had basically retired after 1990’s RoboCop 2 (the poor man) but I think the prospect of directing these would have brought him back. The other great thing is that, being only a decade or so after the release of Return of the Jedi, the main cast would all still be around and look the same, since the books take place 5 years post-Jedi. Hell, they’re all back for Abrams’ trilogy, so why not for this one?
So, what we’re looking for here is casting the new and pivotal roles that were invented for these novels and let’s start with the big bad baddie of the whole thing, the cerulean-hued poster boy for the new Galactic Empire.
Thrawn art by Joe Corroney
Grand Admiral Thrawn played by Charles Dance – Is there a better villain than Charles Dance? Anybody who watches Game of Thrones knows how commanding his onscreen presence is and how calmly his evil comes across. That’s the sign of a good actor. In the 1990s, he was also a villain, playing the one-eyed gangster-turned-real-world-demigod in Last Action Hero. Paint this fella blue and slap a black wig on him and he’s the perfect choice to portray Imperial warlord Mitth’raw’nuruodo, better known as Thrawn, the last real hope for the Emperor-less Empire to reestablish itself as a power in the galaxy. He’d have to be a compelling presence considering his name is given to the whole trilogy, and Dance, in any decade, could easily fill those shoes.
Pellaeon art by John Van Fleet
Captain Gilad Pellaeon played by David Jason – One of the best parts of the original Star Wars trilogy was getting British character actors in to be the various Imperial officers, often short-lived and usually in constant fear of the throat-squeezy whims of Darth Vader. Captain Pellaeon was around through the whole of the rebellion and by the time of this series, five years later, he’s a bit hopeless, looking for someone in whom he can ascribe the hope of bringing back the Empire. He sees that in the ruthless and hyper-intelligent Thrawn, but he also worries Thrawn is repeating too many of Emperor Palpatine’s mistakes. The actor who portrays Pellaeon would have to be able to convey all his uncertainties on his face but also follow orders as a military man. Jason was known, among other things, for playing Inspector Frost on the popular British crime drama. Looks the part to me.
Bel Iblis art by Edvin Biukovic
Garm Bel Iblis played by Powers Boothe – A former senator for the Republic who carried over into the Galactic Empire, Bel Iblis was nevertheless an outspoken detractor for Palpatine’s continued power-grab. He is eventually ousted and forced to go on the run, becoming a general in his own army, not joining up with the Alliance. In the novels, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian go to recruit him to their cause but the General refuses on account of his personal problems with Mon Mothma. They do eventually bury the hatchet, with the help of Leia, and Bel Iblis agrees to take out Thrawn. For this role, I chose Powers Boothe because he can portray stately and rough-and-tumble in equal measure, something Garm Bel Iblis certainly needs.
Karrde art by Brian Rood
Talon Karrde played by Antonio Banderas – A smuggler and information trader, Talon Karrde’s business and domination of the galaxy’s underworld really took off after the death of Jabba the Hutt, when Karrde and his group could swoop in and pick up the pieces. Though he remained neutral in the years of the Rebellion, he was forced to join sides when he rescued Luke Skywalker and refused to hand him over to Grand Admiral Thrawn, who subsequently put a bounty on his head for retribution. Karrde then fully sided with the New Republic, forming the Smuggler’s Alliance to aid the anti-Thrawn campaign. Banderas seems a natural choice to me being that he, especially in the ’90s, was suave and charming but could also be intense and unwavering if he had to. Plus, anyone who’s seen him rock the Zorro look knows he can wear the hell out of a cape.
Jade art by Mike Vilardi
Mara Jade played by Gillian Anderson – Perhaps the most pivotal role in the trilogy would need to be played by an actress who can convey the anger and intensity of someone who used to be Emperor Palpatine’s Hand and blames Luke Skywalker for his death, but also someone who can express doubt and turmoil with what she thought she believed, with an air of innocence as someone who was deceived by the Dark Side. Anderson has all of those traits and in the mid-’90s she was showing them off with her role as Agent Scully on The X-Files. Mara Jade would also, eventually, become Mrs. Luke Skywalker and if you don’t think people would write the hell out of fan fic about Luke and Scully, then you are the wrongest dummy to ever live.
C’baoth art by Topps
Joruus C’baoth played by John Hurt – A Dark Jedi who was clone of the Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth (apparently an extra vowel means you’re a clone), Joruus C’baoth was created by Palpatine as the protector of the all-important Imperial storehouse on Wayland. Once Grand Admiral Thrawn learned of his existence, the Imperial leader wanted to use his prowess with the force to help him succeed in destroying the New Republic. The trouble is, C’baoth was completely out of his mind and wanted to control the Empire himself, as well as corrupt Luke and Leia to become his new dark apprentices. Luke agrees to be trained by him, but he can’t be overtaken. Hurt seems the perfect choice to me because A) he can wear a beard like nobody’s business, 2) he has a very wise and powerful way of speaking, and d) you’re never sure if he’s crazy or not in his roles.
These are but six of the main characters from The Thrawn Trilogy; if you have any more you’d like to add, or if you think I really missed a trick with my list, let me know in the comments below!
Featured image art by Tom Jung from the original cover of Heir to the Empire.