One of the most charming elements of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the strong character performances, made all the more impressive by the relative lack of well-known talent. With the exception of actors from the older films, many casual viewers may not recognize the faces on the screen. That is not to say that these actors are inexperienced, but the bulk of them are far from being household names.
Except, as it turns out, for a few names out of more than a dozen celebrities filling roles as bit parts and featured extras.
It was already known that at least a couple of cameo appearances would be made in this film. Simon Pegg had revealed quite some time ago that he would be playing a minor character in the film. His character turned out to be a junk dealer named Unkar Plutt, although you might not recognize him in his rather extensive costume. In revealing his cameo, however, he had also revealed a cameo by Daniel Craig.
When initially asked about his rumored cameo as a stormtrooper, Craig was quick to deny it. In fact, he made it out to be one of the more ludicrous ideas he had ever heard:
“Why would I ever bother doing something like that? F—ing hell! Pffft. Play an extra in another movie.”
His outrage made the denial seem plausible, but apparently he does appear in the film. Furthermore, it turns out that he wasn’t completely dishonest. He is not so much an extra, although his role is nothing major. Much like Pegg, you don’t even get to see his face. Still, you can hear his voice from beneath a stormtrooper helmet as he refuses to remove Rey’s restraints after she is taken captive.
The above actors are far from alone, as the film includes numerous other cameos. Director J.J. Abrams had a couple of his former colleagues from Lost join him on the film, including actors Greg Grunberg and Ken Leung. Grunberg plays a Resistance fighter named Snap Wexley, while Leung plays Admiral Statura.
A few of the film’s cameos include family members of current and former franchise stars. Fans of Downton Abbey may have recognized Dame Harriet Walter portraying Dr. Kalonia in a scene with Chewbacca. For those who don’t know, her uncle is famed actor Sir Christopher Lee, the actor who played Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Other familial cameos include Billie Lourde (Carrie Fisher’s daughter) as an officer named Lieutenant Connix and Gerry Abrams (J.J. Abrams’ father) as Count Cypress. Even one of the main characters, Poe Dameron, is named after a real person—Morgan Dameron, Abrams’ former personal assistant. The real Dameron appears in the film himself, humorously named Commodore Meta.
Speaking of main characters, BB-8’s “voice” may sound vaguely familiar to comedy fans. This is because two comedic actors—credited as “BB-8 Voice Consultants”—lent their talents to the film. The first is well-known comedic actor Bill Hader, who is accustomed to voiceover cameos after his work on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. He is assisted by Ben Schwartz, who played Jean-Ralphio on the hit series Parks and Recreation.
Those who have seen Gareth Evans’ The Raid and its sequel will want to pay close attention to a sequence in which Han Solo and Chewbacca are facing off against rival gangs. Indonesian star Yayan Ruhian plays Tasu Leech, the Kanjaklub leader, while Razoo Quin-Fee is played by Iko Uwais. These two also acted as the scene’s fight choreographers. Appearing in the same scene is Cecep A. Rahman, who appeared in The Raid 2.
Gwendoline Christie, who plays the villainous Captain Phasma, was already known for her role as Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones. She is joined in The Force Awakens by many of her co-stars, who cameo in much more minor roles. These include a First Order officer portrayed by Thomas Brodie-Sangster (who also appeared in The Maze Runner), a Resistance pilot played by Jessica Henwick, a disciple of Kylo Ren portrayed by Mark Stanley, and a patron at Maz Kanata’s pub portrayed by Miltos Yerolemou. Well-known actor Max von Sydow, who will be joining the Game of Thrones cast in season 6, appears in the film’s opening scene.
Several people have also been said to contribute background voices to the film. Aside from director Kevin Smith, these include many names from the popular animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Among them are director Dave Filoni alongside voice actors Tom Kane, Matt Lanter, Meredith Salenger, Catherine Taber, James Arnold Taylor, and Sam Witwer.
Finally, there are a few musical cameos in the film. Abrams has a longstanding professional relationship with composer Michael Giacchino, and the composer appears as a stormtrooper by the name of FN-3181. Fellow stormtrooper FN-9330 is portrayed by Nigel Godrich, a recording producer for Radiohead. If you’re wondering who sings the Huttese songs playing in the pirate bar, look no further than Abrams himself. He is joined by freestyler Lin-Manuel Miranda. Gustavo Dudamel, music director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, appears behind the scenes as a guest conductor on the score by John Williams.
That concludes the list of people who arrived just for this movie, with one possible exception. There is a vision sequence that contains voice clips of Yoda and Luke Skywalker from The Empire Strikes Back. It also contains a clip of Alec Guinness portraying Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope. But Guinness is reportedly not the only incarnation of Obi-Wan in the film. James Arnold Taylor, who voiced Obi-Wan in The Clone Wars, is also listed in the credits, however, he claims that the voice is actually provided by Ewan McGregor.
@maxreborules it was me originally but they replaced me with some guy named Ewan McSomething… ?
— James Arnold Taylor (@JATactor) December 19, 2015
With this being the first Star Wars film in quite some time, it isn’t surprising that Abrams would include so many cameos. Even in these small roles, getting to join the cast of such a beloved franchise was probably a dream come true for many of the above names. It should be interesting to see who makes it into the next installment.