Would you like to have a cameo role in a Star Wars movie? Based on the assortment of actors we saw pop up in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you’ll need some solid sci-fi or fantasy credentials on your acting resumé.
Let’s take a look at the surprising backgrounds of the familiar faces who appeared in the Force Awakens or contributed voices to characters. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, there are (light) spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.
Simon Pegg (Unkar Plutt)
Pegg is well known as a sci-fi enthusiast whose successful career lets him live out every fanboy’s dream: He’s Scotty in the rebooted Star Trek films, he saves the world alongside Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible franchise, and he battled zombies in Shaun of the Dead. But let’s not forget his British TV series Spaced, which Pegg both wrote and starred in, where we see Pegg’s character acting out the disappointment many longtime Star Wars fans felt after watching Episode I.
Daniel Craig (Stormtrooper)
Listen close and you might recognize Daniel Craig’s voice as one of the faceless stormtroopers in The Force Awakens. Of course, Craig is best known right now as James Bond (IMDb says his stormtrooper is designated “JB-007”), and he appeared opposite Harrison Ford in the graphic-novel-inspired Cowboys & Aliens. One of Craig’s first big screen roles was as Angelina Jolie’s love interest in 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
Greg Grunberg (“Snap” Wexley)
Grunberg is a childhood friend of Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams and has played both major and minor on-screen roles in just about everything Abrams has been involved with, including Alias, Mission: Impossible III and the pilot episode of Lost. Grunberg’s biggest geek cred (prior to Force Awakens) was his ongoing role as telepath Matt Parkman in Heroes and the followup miniseries Heroes: Reborn. In The Force Awakens, Grunberg is also your link to the recent post-Return of the Jedi novel Star Wars: Aftermath. His X-Wing pilot is a grown-up Temmin Wexley, the young scamp who's estranged from his A-Wing pilot mother.
Ken Leung (Admiral Statura)
Following roles in Steven Spielberg’s A.I. and in X-Men: The Last Stand, Leung scored a regular role on Lost as Miles, one of the scientists who come to the island at the end of Season 3. Miles also happens to talk to the dead. What’s more, the Season 5 episode that reveals Miles’ backstory was titled “Some Like it Hoth.” The Star Wars connection? In that episode, Hurley (Jorge Garcia), realizing that he’s been sent back in time to 1977 just after the release of A New Hope, decides to help George Lucas and earn some money by writing the script for The Empire Strikes Back from memory.
Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka)
The veteran Swedish actor’s C.V. stretches back to the iconic scene where played chess with Death in Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal. With that long a career, it would be hard not to appear in a science fiction or fantasy film. You might remember Von Sydow as the king in Conan the Barbarian, Doctor Kynes in Dune, or as the voice of Esbern in the video game Skyrim. But it’s worth noting that von Sydow also portrayed Ming the Merciless in 1980’s Flash Gordon. After all, George Lucas drew many elements in Star Wars — including the opening text crawl, the episodic format, and the laser-guns-in-space theme — from the 1930s Flash Gordon serials.
Bill Hader (voice of BB-8)
Before he found fame by joining the cast of Saturday Night Live, Hader spent several years kicking around Hollywood working as a production assistant on movies like The Scorpion King. According to IMDB, Hader also worked on Empire of Dreams, the documentary about the making of the original trilogy first released as a bonus disc with the 2004 DVD set. The documentary is worth watching for its casting footage and rediscovered cut scenes — some of which give the impression that A New Hope was almost a terrible movie before it was saved in the editing.
Warwick Davis (Wollivan)
Davis was just 11 years old when he was cast as Wicket, the diminutive Ewok who first encounters Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi. Playing Wollivan, Davis is again hidden behind an alien mask. Even as Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter films he again dons some significant prosthetics. Davis’s most recognizable role (other than the HBO mockumentary Life’s Too Short) was probably as the titular sorcerer in George Lucas’s foray into medieval fantasy, Willow.
Jessica Henwick (Jess Testor) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (First Order Officer)
Gwendolyn Christie never removes her chromed Stormtooper helmet as Captain Phasma, but if she did you’d probably instantly recognize her as Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones. She’s far from the only Game of Thrones actor in The Force Awakens. They can probably thank Nina Gold, who was casting director on both Episode VII and the HBO fantasy series. Miltos Yerolemou, who trained Arya Stark in swordsmanship as Syrio Florel, is credited as a "bar patron." You might also spot Henwick, who played one of the Dornish Sand Snakes (the one with the whip) and is an X-wing pilot in this film. Brodie-Sangster, on the other hand, played Jojen Reed, part of the brother-sister duo who helped Bran Stark cross beyond the Wall and find the Three-Eyed Raven. (Bonus: That Three-Eyed Raven will reportedly be played by Max von Sydow this upcoming season.)
Andrew Jack (Major Ematt) - Jack has a handful of prior screen appearances to his name, but the bulk of the Englishman’s career has been as a dialect coach. In fact, he was responsible for teaching the proper pronunciation of Elvish and the Black Speech of Mordor to the cast of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix)
The 23-year-old actress made her screen debut earlier this year as Chanel #3 in FOX’s horror series Scream Queens. But if we were to guess how she scored a coveted role in The Force Awakens, we’d say it may have had something to do with the fact that she’s also Carrie Fisher’s daughter.
Michael Giacchino (FN-3181) and Nigel Godrich (FN-9330)
These composers are hard to spot in The Force Awakens, since they both play helmeted Stormtroopers. Giacchino, a frequent Abrams collaborator, wrote the music for Lost, 2009’s Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible III. He’s also responsible for the brassy James Bond-esque score to The Incredibles, and plus the music for several Call of Duty and Medal of Honor video games. Godrich is best known for being Radiohead’s producer on seven albums, but he also composed the music for Edgar Wright’s movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
Kevin Smith (uncredited voices)
We don’t know yet which character was voiced by Mallrats director and Comic Book Men star Kevin Smith in The Force Awakens, but his dream-come-true role was confirmed to Entertainment Weekly. For 1994’s Clerks, Smith penned the memorable scene pointing out the injustice done to the innocent construction workers who were killed as collateral damage when the second, not-quite-finished Death Star blew up in Return of the Jedi. And in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, if the Episode V reference wasn’t obvious from the title, Smith also cast Carrie Fisher as a nun and Mark Hamill as the villain. Admit it: If you were suddenly given the reins of a Hollywood movie, wouldn’t you script yourself having a lightsaber duel with Luke Skywalker himself?