The Star Wars original trilogy is more than just a series of movies. It’s a cultural phenomenon that has captivated generations of fans with its epic story, memorable characters and groundbreaking effects. But behind the scenes, there is also a story of loss and grief, as many of the actors who brought these iconic roles to life have passed away over the years. Some died young, some died old, some died tragically and some died peacefully. But all of them left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten by those who love Star Wars.
In this video, we will pay tribute to some of the major and minor cast members who have died from the classic original Star Wars trilogy. We will also celebrate the ones who are still with us, such as Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo), who have had to mourn their friends and co-stars as they watch them reach the ends of their lives. Join us as we remember the fallen stars who made Star Wars what it is today.
Facts Verse Presents: After These Original Star Wars Cast Deaths, Few Actors are Still Alive
Peter Cushing – Grand Moff Tarkin
Peter Cushing was an English actor who achieved worldwide fame for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, the ruthless commander of the Death Star who ordered the destruction of Alderaan. Cushing had a long and distinguished career in horror films, especially with Hammer Productions, where he played iconic characters such as Baron Frankenstein, Doctor Van Helsing, and Sherlock Holmes. He also appeared in two films based on the Doctor Who franchise playing the Doctor. Cushing died of prostate cancer on 11 August 1994 at the age of 81.
Cushing’s likeness recreates for 2016s Rogue One, a prequel to Star Wars that features Tarkin as one of the main antagonists. The filmmakers used archival footage, CGI technology, and actor Guy Henry’s performance to bring Cushing back to life on screen.
Alec Guiness – Obi-Wan Kenobi
Alec Guinness was an English actor who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, a wise and powerful Jedi Master who mentored Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Force, in the original Star Wars trilogy. Guinness was already a renowned actor before Star Wars, having starred in several films by director David Lean, such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago.
Guinness had a complex relationship with his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi, which brought him worldwide fame but also typecast him as a science fiction actor. He once described the dialogue as “lamentable” and admitted that he threw away all his fan mail from Star Wars fans without reading it. Even so, he also expressed appreciation for George Lucas’ vision and creativity, and enjoyed working with his co-stars Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.
Guiness died of liver cancer on the 5th of August, 2000 at the age of 86.
Phil Brown – Uncle Owen Lars
Phil Brown was an American actor who played Uncle Owen Lars, the adoptive uncle of Luke Skywalker who raised him on Tatooine. Brown had a long and varied career on stage and screen, starting in New York’s Group Theatre in the 1930s. He moved to Hollywood and appeared in films such as 1946s The Killers and 195s State Fair.
Brown was blacklisted in 1952 for his involvement with the Actors’ Laboratory Theatre, a progressive group that was accused of communist sympathies. He relocated to England, where he continued to work as an actor and director for TV and theater, before returning to the U.S. in the 1990s where he attended several Star Wars conventions. He died of pneumonia on February 9, 2006 at the age of 89.
Shelagh Fraser – Aunt Beru Lars
Shelagh Fraser was a British actress who played Aunt Beru Lars, the adoptive aunt of Luke Skywalker who helped raise him on Tatooine alongside Uncle Owen. For her role as Aunt Beru, she altered her accent to sound more American. Much like many other cast members of the original Star Wars trilogy, Fraser too had a long and varied career on stage and screen, starting in 1944 at the Comedy Theatre in London’s West End.
She appeared in many plays by renowned playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter, and Alan Ayckbourn. She also had roles in films such as The Witches, Till Death Us Do Part, and Hope and Glory. Fraser is famous, however for her role as Jean Ashton, the mother of a wartime family in Liverpool in the television serial A Family at War which aired on iTV from 1971 to 1972. She died on August 29, 2000 at the age of 79.
Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia
Carrie Fisher was an iconic American actress and writer who played Princess Leia in both the original Star Wars trilogy and its sequel trilogy. She made her film debut in 1975s Shampoo and went on to appear in other films such as The Blues Brothers, Hannah and Her Sisters, When Harry Met Sall, and The Burbs. She also wrote several semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge , which she later adapted into a screenplay for the movie of the same name starring Meryl Streep.
Fisher was always remarkably open and candid about her struggles with bipolar disorder and drug addiction, often using humor and honesty to raise awareness about mental health issues. She wrote a one-woman play based on her life called Wishful Drinking, which she later turned into a book and a TV special. She also wrote two memoirs, Shockaholic and The Princess Diarist, which revealed her affair with co-star Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars.
Fisher died of cardiac arrest on December 27, 2016 at the age of 60, four days after suffering a medical emergency on a flight from London to Los Angeles. Her mother Debbie Reynolds died the next day from a stroke.
David Prowse – Darth Vader’s Body Double
David Prowse was an English actor, bodybuilder, strongman, and weightlifter who played Darth Vader’s body double in the original Star Wars trilogy. He chooses for that iconic role of his imposing physique of 6 ft 6 in and his experience as a former British heavyweight weightlifting champion. He also represented England in the 1962 Commonwealth Games.
While he gets the looks and builds to play Vader, Prowse’s West Country accent deems unsuitable for the Sith Lord, and his lines translate over by American actor James Earl Jones.
Aside from his role as Vader, Prowse had a diverse and lengthy career on the stage and screen, appearing in films such as A Clockwork Orange, Up Pompeii, Jabberwocky, and Casino. He also played Frankenstein’s monster in three different films.
Prior to his role as Lord Vader, Prowse is famous in the UK as the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero-like figure who promotes road safety for children in a series of public information films from 1975 to 1990.
Prowse died on November 28, 2020 at the age of 85 after a short illness. He diagnoses with prostate cancer in 2018 and suffers from arthritis and dementia.
Peter Mayhew – Chewbacca
Peter Mayhew was a British-American actor who played Chewbacca, the loyal Wookiee companion of Han Solo, in the original trilogy and its sequels. Mayhew was born with gigantism, which made him 7 ft 3 in tall. He works as a hospital orderly before he discovers by producer Charles H. Schneer, who cast him as a minotaur in 1977s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.
Mayhew chooses by George Lucas to play Chewbacca after he stood up to greet him at their first meeting. As Chewy, Mayhew wore a furry costume and mask that covered his entire body and face, and based his performance on the movements of bears, monkeys and gorillas that he studied at London Zoo. His voice was created by sound designer Ben Burtt using recordings of various animals.
Mayhew became a fan favorite for his portrayal of Chewbacca, who was known for his loyalty, courage and sense of humor. He also appeared in other films and TV shows, such as The Muppet Show, Dark Towers, Terror and Yesterday Was a Lie. Additionally, he wrote two books for children: Growing Up Giant and My Favorite Giant.
Mayhew died on April 30, 2019 at the age of 74 after suffering a heart attack at his home in Texas.
Kenny Baker – R2-D2
Kenny Baker was an English actor, comedian and musician who played R2-D2, the brave and loyal astromech droid, in the original Star Wars trilogy and its prequels. He was born with dwarfism, which resulted in him being 3 ft 8 in tall. Baker started his career as a circus and cabaret performer with his friend Jack Purvis, who also appeared in several Star Wars films. He also acted in other films such as The Elephant Man, Time Bandits, Flash Gordon, Amadeus and Labyrinth.
Baker was chosen by George Lucas to play R2-D2 after he met him at a casting call for little people. In his role, Baker wore a metal costume that fitted inside the droid’s shell. He operated R2-D2’s head movements and body gestures using levers and pedals. His voice was created by sound designer Ben Burtt using synthesizers and recordings of various machines.
Baker became a fan favorite for his portrayal of R2-D2, who was known for his intelligence, courage and humor. He also appeared as Paploo, an Ewok who steals a speeder bike in Return of the Jedi. He had a cameo role as R2-D2’s operator in The Force Awakens, which was his final film appearance.
Baker died on August 13, 2016 at the age of 81 after a long illness.
Paul Grant – Ewok
The most recent Star Wars alum to pass away was Paul Grant, a British actor and stuntman who played an Ewok, one of the furry creatures who helped the rebels defeat the Empire on Endor, in Return of the Jedi. Like Kenny Baker, Grant was born with dwarfism, which made him 4 ft 4 in tall. He started his career as a circus performer and later appeared in other films such as Labyrinth, Legend, Willow and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
While playing an Ewok in Return of the Jedi, Grant wore a furry costume and mask that covered his entire body and face. He did not have any lines, but he made noises that were later dubbed by sound designer Ben Burtt using altered recordings of various animals.
Grant died on March 20, 2023 at the age of 56 after suffering a heart attack outside King’s Cross Station in London.
With that, we’ll go ahead and wrap this video up. Who was your favorite cast member of the original Star Wars Trilogy and do you think the sequel and prequel trilogies lived up to the legacy of the original? Let us know in the comments. And as always, thanks for watching!