Star Wars Needs to Recast Its Original Heroes

The ‘Star Wars ‘universe is a big place, and since the original trilogy was released more than forty years ago, it’s grown beyond all expectations. Such a large world needs a huge cast to inhabit it, and the number of characters has also increased immensely, with big names who return to the story again and again.

At the center of it all is the golden trio of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa from the original trilogy. For many people, they’re the heroes of their childhoods, and it’s no different in-universe, where they’re regarded as the central players in the destruction of the Empire. Any attempt to ignore their existence is always going to end badly.


This is why it’s such a bad decision for Disney to set much of their ‘Star Wars’ content in the new post-Imperial era. Shows like ‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘Ahsoka’ take place in a time period a few years after the deaths of Palpatine and Vader. It’s a time filled with intriguing stories as the galaxy tries to rebuild after a quarter-century of tyranny, and the New Republic tries to make some order from the chaos. This makes it all the more crucial that the original trilogy characters are included. Their influence on galactic events is simply too important to be ignored. It’s easy to imagine characters like Boba Fett and Din Djarin never meeting them, as they live and work mostly in the Outer Rim, but things such as the ‘Ahsoka’ series show Hera Syndulla meeting with Chancellor Mothma, and regularly feature stories that involve the New Republic as they move towards some kind of retelling of the ‘Heir to the Empire trilogy’. Clearly Han, Luke and Leia are too important to ignore. It’s not so much the elephant in the room, more like a giant hole in the wall and a missing elephant.

This inevitably brings the question of how best to bring these characters back to the screen? It’s a hard task with characters who are as well loved and universally recognised as the original trio, but it’s not impossible, and if enough effort is put in and they are handled in a respectful way, it’s definitely doable. And the only real way to accomplish it is by recasting them.

It might seem like the hardest thing to do to recast such icons, but it’s not without precedent. In 1999, Ewan McGregor took on the role of Obi Wan Kenobi which had previously been embodied by Alec Guinness in episodes IV, V and VI. He delivered an excellent performance as a younger version of the great Jedi, eventually becoming more associated with the part than the original actor.

There’s also a precedent in Disney’s own work since it acquired ‘Star Wars’, as all three original leads have been brought back one way or another. Luke was reimagined using a body double and digital technology for ‘The Mandalorian’, Leia was portrayed as a child by Vivien Lyra Blair in ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’, while Alden Ehrenreich played a youthful Han Solo in the origin movie ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’. While these projects have come in for criticism in one form or another, they’ve been largely accepted by the ‘Star Wars’ fanbase.


There’s the question of using other methods like digital face replacement instead of straight up recasting, but these have their own problems. For a start, no matter how good the technology, it still struggles to capture the look of a proper human being, giving an uncanny valley effect that quickly gets tiring. It’s also only been used for flashbacks and cameos, trying to make an entire movie using it would be hugely expensive. Secondly, it’s not a real performance, and struggles to capture all the expression and nuance of a real person. It would be hard to make your three main leads using this technology and get a good result.

There has to be a point where you realize that there’s a divide between film and reality, where practical considerations have to come into the mix, and that includes recasting actors who can’t play a part anymore. It’s been done in franchises like ‘Harry Potter’, where Michael Gambon replaced the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore after the latter’s unexpected death. Sometimes it’s just necessary, and what’s more important than a character looking exactly like they used to is their performance. You need an actor who understands the role, can embody the character, and will do justice to what fans expect. A good example of this is Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian from ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’. He’s not a perfect match for a young Billy Dee Williams, but he plays the smooth gambler with such charisma and dedication that you can believe this is exactly what Lando would act like.


It might have been better for the original characters to be left alone completely. If Disney had placed them in a glass case, they might have been fine, but they’ve taken them out and started to play with them, and now there’s no going back. For better or worse, Disney set shows like ‘The Mandalorian’ in the immediate aftermath of the original trilogy, and put Luke in the finale of season two, meaning their existence can no longer be ignored. They are legends in their time, a source of hope and inspiration for everyone who suffered under the Empire, and they have to be acknowledged. Things like the weak reference to Leia in Ahsoka, where she’s mentioned but isn’t shown on screen, is simply too much or else too little. The galaxy is being threatened and it needs its heroes.

So much that’s being done now feels too safe, not wanting to risk using these characters and turning away the fans who are already upset by how they were treated in the sequels. But if Disney really wants to make the post-Imperial era a success, they need to bite this particularly hard bullet and reestablish these characters using new actors. It would have been better if they’d started sooner, but there’s still time.

They could be introduced as minor players in a show like ‘Ahsoka’ season two, to get audiences used to them without the whole project hinging on them. Maybe also use an animated show along the lines of ‘Tales of the Rebellion’ or ‘Tales of the New Republic’ to put them back in peoples’ minds as living characters within the ‘Star Wars’ galaxy, not just artefacts from another era.

While it will always be difficult to have these characters played by anyone other than Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, the truth is things have gone too far for Disney to turn back and avoid telling any stories in this period. The alternative option of ignoring them altogether or relegating them to cameos and passing mentions is even more unpalatable. They need to take this Bantha by the horns and go through whatever steps needed to recast them and bring these legends back to the big screen with a movie that will do them justice.

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