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SYFY WIRE Matt Smith

Matt Smith says scrapped 'Rise of Skywalker' role would've been 'transformative' to Star Wars - was he young Palpatine?

Matt Smith describes his axed Star Wars role, and fans have some theories.

By Josh Weiss
Matt Smith Rise Of Skywalker Header

Remember when Matt Smith was cast in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in late 2018 to much fanfare, but never showed up in the finished movie that hit theaters over a year later? After all this time, the actor has gotten a bit more candid about the reportedly juicy part, though he refused to give up specific details. 

“We were close to being in it, but it never quite happened," Smith recently told Josh Horowitz of MTV's Happy Sad Confused podcast. "I think the thing they were thinking of before…eventually, the part became obsolete and they didn’t need it. So, I never got to be in Star Wars."

When asked by Horowitz if the character was the son of Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Palpatine, Smith clammed up like the Sarlacc after a filling meal served off of Jabba's barge. “I could not possibly say, but it was a pretty groovy thing," he said. "It was a really groovy part and concept. It was a big thing, a big story detail. A transformative Star Wars story detail. But it never quite got over the line … It was a big shift in the history of the franchise."

Sadly, his involvement with Episode IX (directed and co-written by the returning J.J. Abrams) did not move past “a couple of meetings to talk about it.” No costume fittings or chemistry screen tests ever took place, making this mystery character one of many unused elements for the final chapter in the sequel trilogy. However, Smith isn't ruling out the possibility of Lucasfilm pulling the role out of storage down the line. “Maybe I can come back — you never know…”

Fans latched on to the tease with plenty of thoughts about the mystery role, with the prevailing theory that Smith was set to potentially play a version of Palpatine, which could've given the film a charismatic young star as the Big Bad while still connecting back to the OG trilogy canon. 

Chatting with Phil Szostak (a Lucasfilm creative executive and author behind the official making-of book for The Rise of Skywalker), Abrams' co-screenwriter Chris Terrio admitted that the screenplay went through more changes than any he'd worked on previously. 

"I've never rewritten a film as much as this one," he said. "We're course-correcting as we go — we're trying things, and some things don't work and some things aren't ambitious enough. Some things are overly ambitious. Some things are too dense. Some things are too simple. Some things are too nostalgic. Some things are too out-of-left-field. We're finding our balance."

Smith can currently be seen in Edgar Wright's Last Night in Soho (currently playing in theaters).

The Doctor Who vet will appear as the Marvel antagonist known as Loxias Crown, aka Hunger, in January's Morbius opposite Jared Leto, Tyrese Gibson, Jared Harris, and Adria Arjona. His impressive genre resume also features a starring role as Daemon Targaryen in HBO's Game of Thrones spinoff, House of the Dragon, which is scheduled to premiere in 2022.