Last Updated: August 13, 2020
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is chock full of surprise cameos ranging from shocking reprisals to famous faces in introductory roles. After writing and directing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams jumped back into the director’s chair to officially close out the Skywalker saga. To fully celebrate the end of a story that spanned over four decades, Abrams threw in a slew of nostalgic nods and callbacks to truly tie together the fantasy saga.
As the galaxy still suffers from the violent reign of the First Order, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and the Resistance are faced with an even larger threat after Emperor Palpatine resurfaces. Rey and Kylo Ren (Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, respectively) set their sights on the Sith Lord as they subsequently battle with their internal struggles. Those who paid attention to the various trailers were well aware of Ian McDiarmid’s return as Palpatine. It was also no secret that Mark Hamill would return in some capacity as Luke Skywalker while Billy Dee Williams was set to reprise his role as Lando Calrissian.
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Some of the cameos in The Rise of Skywalker are expected while others are completely shocking. There may have been a few that were completely missed due to the fast-paced narrative. That said, here are all the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cameos.
With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker marking the true end of the Skywalker saga, viewers were curious to see if Abrams would incorporate figures that were gone but not forgotten. Not only did Abrams deliver on that notion, but he also went beyond expectations by including voice cameos that stemmed from outside of the movies. As Rey tries to harness her strength for her final confrontation with Emperor Palpatine, she puts out one more request by saying “be with me…”, and this time, she gets a response.
The Force speaks back to Rey by sending voices from various Jedi to strengthen her powers. First is Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, whose voice also spoke to Rey in The Force Awakens. The sequence also cuts together some of McGregor’s dialogue with Alec Guinness, the first man to portray Obi-Wan. Frank Oz can be heard as Yoda telling Rey that she’s not alone and needs to “rise in the Force.” Then Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker is heard saying “the Force will be with you. Always.”
Three figures from the prequel trilogy are the next Jedi to encourage Rey to get back up and fight. Hayden Christensen reprises his role as Anakin Skywalker to tell Rey she needs to bring balance to the Force, as he did. Lines from Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) are interweaved with other sound clips. Most surprising, however, are the voice cameos from cast members of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Ahsoka Tano finally makes her film debut in some capacity, something that fans had hoped to see for years. The other Jedi voice cameos include Aayla Secura (Jennifer Hale), Adi Gallia (Angelique Perrin), Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.), and Luminara Unduli (Olivia D’Abo).
James Earl Jones As Darth Vader
Darth Vader was best known for playing a major protagonist from the original Star Wars trilogy. Considering he wasn’t seen without his mask until the end of Return of the Jedi, his voice was his distinguishable aspect. That voice was provided by James Earl Jones who reprised his role as the Dark Lord of the Sith for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars Rebels.
Just as Rey hears voices from prominent Jedi, Kylo Ren has a history of hearing voices of the dark side of the Force. This time, Kylo hears his grandfather’s raspy voice while confronting Palpatine on Exegol. The Emperor reveals that he’s the mastermind behind the First Order and is responsible for pulling Ben Solo to the dark side. Vader’s burnt helmet is one of Kylo’s most treasured possessions as he uses it for motivation, so it’s only fitting that the saga has one last Jones voice cameo.
Andy Serkis As Snoke
Andy Serkis is no stranger to memorable roles in major franchises. Not only did the actor portray Gollum for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but he also worked on King Kong, Planet of the Apes, and multiple MCU films. Serkis made his Star Wars debut as Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars: The Force Awakens where he did motion capture acting and voice work.
Snoke returned for Star Wars: The Last Jedi as the leader of the First Order but was later killed by Kylo Ren since he had opposing views for the future of the galaxy. When Kylo Ren visits Exegol in the opening scene, he learns that Snoke was someone who was created by Palpatine as a way to pull the strings to reclaim the galaxy and bring back the Sith. The snarling voice of Snoke can be heard when Kylo Ren walks past the tanks full of other Snoke clones.
Lin-Manuel Miranda As A Resistance Fighter
Abrams must have liked what he saw from Lin-Manuel Miranda in The Force Awakens because the director asked the actor and performer to return for a special part. The Hamilton veteran wrote the song that played in Maz Kanata’s cantina in the first installment of the sequel trilogy. The music was meant to pay tribute to the iconic tunes from the Mos Eisley cantina. Miranda also provided the voice for the character, Shag Kava.
This time around, Miranda makes his on-screen debut as a Resistance fighter. His quick cameo can be found at the end of the film during the Resistance celebration following Palpatine’s defeat. Behind-the-scenes footage suggests that he’s in proximity to Jannah and Rose during the scene. In addition, Miranda was a composer on The Rise of Skywalker. What he contributed has not been specified but it’s safe to assume that he created the music heard during the village celebration on Pasaana.
J.J. Abrams As D-O
After serving as a producer on The Last Jedi, J.J. Abrams was back in the director’s chair for the end of the Skywalker saga. This marked his first directing gig since 2015’s The Force Awakens but he was busy enough with producing 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Cloverfield Paradox, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and Overlord. The writer and director is no stranger to cameos and often appears as himself but that wasn’t the case with this mega project.
Abrams provides his voice for D-O, the small droid found by BB-8 on the ship once owned by Ochi. BB-8 reactivates the droid and takes him under his wing. D-O is a cute droid with a conehead that resembles a hairdryer and he talks basic language with a stutter. He’s timid at first but starts to gain more of a personality when he realizes the Resistance isn’t a threat. Abram’s voice work was originally meant to be temporary but his colleagues convinced him to embrace being the tiny droid.
Chris Terrio As Aftab Ackbar
Abrams wasn’t the only writer to make a cameo as a supporting character in The Rise of Skywalker. His co-writer, Chris Terrio, similarly provided his voice in the early stages of development until he fully took over the role. Terrio is best known for his Oscar-winning screenplay work on Argo as well as co-writing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League.
Terrio plays Col. Aftab Ackbar, the son of Admiral Gial Ackbar, a key figure in the Galactic Civil War and the Resistance’s fight against the First Order. The Admiral was, sadly, killed in The Last Jedi, so Abrams and Terrio decided to carry on his legacy by bringing the Mon Calamari’s son to the big screen. Aftab Ackbar can be seen and heard during the Resistance’s meeting at their base. He also pilots one of the fighter ships in the movie’s epic finale.
John Williams As Oma Tres
Legendary Star Wars composer, John Williams, made an on-screen appearance for the very first time. Williams’ work is revered by the industry and his influence on the Star Wars franchise is nothing short of prolific. The 87-year-old has hundreds of credits to his name including Jaws, Schindler’s List, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and many others.
Williams worked with Abrams on The Force Awakens and returned for The Last Jedi. For the final installment of the saga, Abrams gave Williams an amusing role in the film alongside his role as the composer. Williams plays the one-eyed bartender in Kijimi and according to the credits, the character is named Oma Tres. The name happens to be an anagram for “maestro.” Some eagle-eyed viewers noticed that objects from Williams’ past movies can be seen on the shelves behind the bar.
Denis Lawson As Wedge Antilles
With the return of Lando Calrissian, it was great to see another key member responsible for taking down the second Death Star during the Battle of Endor. Denis Lawson’s role as Wedge Antilles was prominent in the original trilogy since he served as a member of a number of X-wing squadrons. Lawson also happens to be the uncle of fellow Star Wars actor, Ewan McGregor. Lawson briefly reprises his role as Wedge Antilles during the climactic battle scene on Exegol. The pilot arrives just moments after Snap Wexley (Greg Grunberg) met his tragic death after being shot down by Palpatine’s fleet. Wedge is notably married to Norra Wexley, the mother of Snap.
Warwick Davis As Wicket W. Warrick
Warwick Davis is a staple to the Star Wars franchise and he’s best known for portraying everyone’s favorite Ewok, Wicket. Davis first played Wicket in Return of the Jedi when he was just 11 years old. He went on to appear in several other Star Wars titles, including The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, as various aliens and creatures. Following Palpatine’s defeat at the hands of Rey and the Resistance, the First Order’s fall is witnessed across the galaxy. During the celebratory sequence, Wicket watches alongside another Ewok from the forests of Endor. It was a touching moment considering Wicket’s involvement in the Empire’s defeat.
Harry Styles And Ed Sheeran As Stormtroopers
To carry on the tradition of putting big-named figures under the helmets of stormtroopers, musicians Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran reportedly had cameos in The Rise of Skywalker. Both critically-acclaimed singers have acting experience. Styles appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk whereas Sheeran had a cameo on Game of Thrones. There’s no word yet regarding when Styles appeared on-screen during the film. Sheeran, on the other hand, was supposedly present during a scene on Kijimi. The snowy mountainous planet is overrun with troopers so it’s highly possible he portrayed a member of the First Order during that sequence.
Karl Urban As A Stormtrooper
New Zealand actor Karl Urban cameos in Star Wars 9 as another stormtrooper, and his voice can be heard saying “Knights of Ren.” Urban is best known for playing the title character in 2012’s Dredd, Leonard “Bones” McCoy in Abrams’ Star Trek movies, and Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok, among many other high profile roles. He currently stars in Amazon’s superhero series The Boys.
Kevin Smith as a Kijimi Local
Geek-friendly director Kevin Smith revealed that he cameos as a “bundled-up local” walking next to a cyborg on the planet Kijimi in The Rise of Skywalker. Poe passes by him while trying to avoid stormtroopers. Smith says Abrams promised him a part in the film after his heart attack a few years back, as long as he survived to see production. Smith previously made a vocal cameo in The Force Awakens.
Harrison Ford As Han Solo
It only felt right that Harrison Ford would make one more reprisal in his iconic role of Han Solo. The character is one of the most beloved figures to come out of the Star Wars universe and seeing as The Rise of Skywalker served as the end, it was fitting that Han had one more moment. After being Force healed by Rey, Kylo Ren struggles with his identity. He is then met by his father who inspires him to do what he hasn’t yet found the courage to do. The former Supreme Leader then throws his lightsaber and reclaims his past as Ben. The cameo also pays homage to Han’s famous “I know” line, but this time, it was with his son.
Other Unconfirmed Cameos
Aside from all of the surprising character cameos in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, there are a number of rumored cameos that have not been confirmed. Actor and comedian Jeff Garlin has hinted he plays a role in the film, and reports claim Star Wars creator George Lucas makes a vocal cameo. There were also rampant rumors that Doctor Who alum, Matt Smith, was cast in an unspecified role but the actor later denied the news. There have been conflicting reports about his involvement, but so far, his presence has not been determined.