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Star Wars Celebration Ian McDiarmid: An Audience with The Emperor - Live Coverage!

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Ian McDiarmid
Lucasfilm

The Popverse team is at Star Wars Celebration, and we're having an incredible time roaming the convention floor, peeking into panels, and checking out all the amazing experiences that Celebration has to offer.

Join us as we sit in on a panel spotlighting Ian McDiarmid, the Emperor Palpatine himself, as he chats all about his experience portraying Palpatine throughout each trilogy of the Skywalker saga.

The official panel description from the Star Wars Celebration website reads, “I am all the Sith.” Join Ian McDiarmid, who portrayed Chancellor and then Emperor Palpatine in all three trilogies of the Skywalker saga, for a discussion that is sure to reveal rare insights and behind-the-scenes stories from the celebrated actor who provided some of the most resonant, bone-chilling performances in all of the Star Wars saga.

Popverse will be liveblogging the entire panel as it happens, so keep an eye on this page to follow along with what's happening at An Audience with the Emperor live, or come back later to this page to read a moment-by-moment breakdown of all of the best bits of the panel.

If you want to follow along with Popverse as we run around Star Wars Celebration and share the coolest stuff, check out the roundup of our Star Wars Celebration 2022 coverage.

Our live coverage of this event has finished.

Coverage

We're getting a seat early. Come back at 1:30pm Pacific Time for when the panel begins.
Grabbed my seat up front. Can't wait to get started!
Host Amy Ratcliffe has taken the stage!
The panel has started with a short video of clips of Emperor Palpatine throughout Star Wars history.
The emperor himself has taken the stage to a standing ovation!
Amy and Ian McDiarmid talk about McDiarmid's childhood when, in his class, he (though a shy boy) volunteering to sing. "I realized that there was something inside me that needed to do it"
To McDiarmid, villains are the most interesting characters to play. "I always wanted to play the baddie." When told that he should be the sherrif then, he responded, after doing his research, "No, it's King John-- he's even worse."
Return of the Jedi was shooting principle photography 40 years ago. McDiarmid had been playing the aging Howard Hughes in the play Seduced, when the casting director Mary Vernieu saw him and related to George Lucas that he would be able to convincingly play an older character.
"You know the saying third time lucky, I like to say that I've been lucky three times" McDiarmid says about being able to return to Star Wars for three trilogies.
"Even when I was much younger, I always seemed to be the oldest person in the room," McDiarmid says about spending time with the younger cast members he's worked with in the newer movies.
Amy asks if Palpatine has a special tea after a long day of using that Emperor voice
McDiarmid tells a story of filming on the Revenge of the Sith with Hayden Christiansen and Samuel Jackson in the excessive force of fan-made wind on set. "Even though studios are kept very very clean these days-- even cleaner than before. That dust goes everywhere." Including in his throat! Sore throats are hard to film with!
Lucas said that the sore throat was fine, because the Emperor was "in transition" into his more monstrous form. Though McDiarmid still sometimes wishes for another take.
McDiarmid mentions telling Lucas, "Surely the power of the Emperor comes from his fingers," but still having to train how to wield a saber anyway. He also, at one point, accidentally hit Samuel Jackson with a saber.
The conversation has moved on to Christopher Lee, who McDiarmid had met on the set. McDiarmid was in awe of Lee, whose "Dracula will never be surpassed. If you want lessons in evil, look at the films of Christopher Lee."
McDiarmid could hear, through the dressing room walls, Lee warm up by singing arias in the morning.
The conversation has moved on to director Alfred Marquand and McDiarmid's experience filming with him. "I had a really good time." McDiarmid mentions jeeps driving through crowds of Stormtroopers between takes asking them to "take off those glasses" and "put that camera away!"
About filming Star Wars films, "There's a marvelous sense of absurity about it all. You just think--- this cannot be. This is just mad."
The panel is opening up to fan questions.
On filming in the new trilogy, McDiarmid shares, "Bringing him back from the dead, originally I looked even worse than I did in the last film. I had a bad arm and tubes coming out of my head." But then it was decided to pull back from that visual drama.
"And then they took my eyes away, and I didn't know about that!" McDiarmid exclaims. But then, once he did get his eyes back, "I had the biggest yellow eyes that were ever devised for a movie.. Yeah, old yellow eyes is back."
"You hear the word 'action' and you take your deep breath," McDiarmid responds to a question about any acting methods he has used to prepare for the role of the Emperor.
"That is a discgraceful question, and one which I have no intention of answering," McDiarmid responds cheekily to a question on whether or not he will appear in the Obi-Wan Kenobi show. "All I would say about future speculation is, if you're expecting the Emperor to appear, soon in flesh and blood-- don't get your hopes up."
In response to a question about fun stories about working with Samuel Jackson who is "totally charming." "I remember celebrating with him on the opening of The Avengers on the steps-- you know the red carpet at Cannes."
"He just wanted absolute power, and he could never get enough of it... he was the absolute authoritarian," McDiarmid reponds to a question about what the Emperor's true goals were.
A fan asks, "If you could go back and play any other character in the Star Wars universe-- if you had the chance who would it be?" McDiarmid responds, "When you're Mr. Evil, you should probably search out Mr. Good. I wouldn't do that. I'll tell you my favorite character... that little creature that gave Anthony Daniels his life back."
When asked about his favorite cut Palpatine line, McDiarmid remembers, "I love democracy."
Amy Ratcliffe asks, "Do you think [the emperor] eats desserts?" "No," McDiarmid replies, "he eats ewoks."
Ian McDiarmid is a fan of Breaking Bad and the "even better" Better Call Saul. Who would have guessed?
When asked how McDiarmid prepared to go back in time when it came to filming earlier movies after the "later" ones, McDiarmid responds, "I didn't know, at the time, that I was going to be Darth Sidious."
"It's interesting because purple is really an Imperial color," McDiarmid notes when someone mentions Samuel L. Jackson picking out a purple lightsaber. "I was in a hotel room recently, and most of it was purple, and I felt entirely at home."
A fan asks what McDiarmid likes to listen to when it comes to music, "I'm fairly eclectic in my tastes, Stevie Wonder, yes. I like classical. And I like lots of John Williams' other music too. If I can get involved in a piece of music, then I like it."
A fan asks McDiarmid what he thinks of the rumor that Disney might be putting together a prequel focusing on Palpatine's story. McDiarmid responds, "I think it's a really good rumor."
McDiarmid mentions that it will probably be better to have a younger actor take over the role in a potential sequel, but jokes-- "Have you seen what they can do with faces?"
"It's nice to sit down and talk," McDiarmid says about the converation Palpatine has with Anakin about coming over the the dark side.
In response to a question about the duel between Palpatine and Mace (And whether or not Palpatine threw the fight), "There was some debate about that scene. George thought about doing it in a number of ways. But the one he ended up with, I think was the best. Beacuse he wanted to compromise Anakin in a way, and destroy Mace in a way." Palpatine remains in control, "He gets what he wants absolutely."
Another standing ovation for the emperor as the panel ends (and a little bit of Palpatine voice too)
Thank you so much for following along with our coverage of the Ian McDiarmid spotlight panel. Continue to follow along with us throughout this Celebration weekend by keeping an eye on our coverage roundup page. There's more to come!

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About the Author

Tiffany Babb avatar

Tiffany Babb

Deputy Editor

Tiffany Babb is Popverse's deputy editor and resident Sondheim enthusiast. Before she came to PopVerse, she wrote for cool places like Paste Magazine, The Comics Journal, and The AV Club. She currently also serves as the co-editor of PanelxPanel Magazine. Tiffany likes stories that understand genre conventions (whether they play into them or against them), and she cries very easily at the movies— but rarely at the moments that are meant to be tearjerkers.

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