Making his stage acting debut in Hamlet in 1972, McDiarmid joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1974, and has since starred in a number of Shakespearean plays including Macbeth, The Tempest, and King Lear. Ian has still maintained a strong presence in the theatre and notably received an Oliver Award for Best Actor and a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his stage performances.
After a smaller role in the movie Dragonslayer, Ian was cast as the role of the Sith Emperor Palpatine by George Lucas for “The Return of the Jedi” film in 1983. With this casting…His destiny was sealed! After an amazing performance as the iconic villain, Ian would forever be linked to Star Wars mythos.
Sixteen years after Return of the Jedi, he reprised the role as the character’s younger incarnation of Senator (and later Chancellor) Palpatine and Sith Lord Darth Sidious in the “Prequel” films: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. The prequels had him play two faces to his character; he re-created his diabolical interpretation of the Emperor from Return of the Jedi when playing Darth Sidious, the Chancellor’s Sith alter ego, but created a pleasant, charming character in Sidious’ public persona. McDiarmid returned to the role of Palpatine on screen for the first time since Revenge of the Sith in the 2019 film The Rise of Skywalker. This was the third film in the sequel trilogy, and the ninth and final episode in the Skywalker saga.
Since this time, Ian McDiarmid has also reprised his cannon role of Palpatine/Sideous in Disney+’s hit shows Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Bad Batch, and Tales of the Jedi. He is truly an icon of both stage and screen.