|Known for||Sheev Palpatine in Star Wars|
Ian McDiarmid (//; born 11 August 1944) is a Scottish actor and director of stage and screen, best known for portraying the villain Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars film series. Making his stage debut in Hamlet in 1972, McDiarmid joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1974, and has since starred in a number of Shakespeare's plays. He has received an Olivier Award for Best Actor and a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his stage performances.
McDiarmid was born in Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland, on 11 August 1944. He became a theatre aficionado when he was five years old, when his father took him to see an act named Tommy Morgan at a theatre in Dundee. In 2004, he stated, "It sort of fascinated me, and it also scared me. All those lights, all that make-up. I said to myself, 'I don't know what this is, but I want it.'"
However, fearing his father's disapproval, McDiarmid attended Queen's College, Dundee (now the University of Dundee, but then a constituent part of the University of St Andrews), where he received a Master of Arts in psychology. Soon after, he decided to pursue a career in the theatre instead, and took acting training courses at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.
In 1968, McDiarmid received a gold medal for his work from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the first of many recognitions given to him for his work in the theatre. McDiarmid claimed he became its recipient "by doing all the boring jobs you have to do when you are young, to eke out an existence."
McDiarmid has worked as an actor and director in British theatre. He has starred in several Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet (1972), The Tempest (1974, 2000), Much Ado About Nothing (1976), Trevor Nunn's 1976 Macbeth (television 1978), The Merchant of Venice (1984), and King Lear (2005). He played Ivanov in Tom Stoppard's play Every Good Boy Deserves Favour at the Mermaid Theatre in 1978.
From 1990, McDiarmid and Jonathan Kent served as the artistic directors of the Almeida Theatre in Islington, London, gaining the commitment of prominent actresses such as Glenda Jackson and Claire Bloom for their productions. The two men resigned in 2001 with the venue in good shape. Their tenure was marked by a string of highly successful performances involving actors such as Kevin Spacey and Ralph Fiennes. While connected with the Almeida, McDiarmid directed plays such as Venice Preserv'd (1986) and Hippolytus (1991). In 2002, McDiarmid won Almeida Theatre's Critic's Circle Award for Best Actor for his role as Teddy in a revival of Brian Friel's Faith Healer. Five years later in 2006, he reprised this role in his debut on Broadway. Directed by Kent, he performed alongside Ralph Fiennes and Cherry Jones, and won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play. From April to June 2012, he played the title role in Timon of Athens at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
He portrayed Harry Hackamore in Sam Shepard's play Seduced. McDiarmid described Hackamore as a Howard Hughes-type character. To play the part, he was made up in prosthetics, including a false beard and long fingernails. McDiarmid was only 37 at the time, and this convinced George Lucas and Richard Marquand that he could convincingly play a much older character in extreme cinematic close-up, which helped him land the role of Palpatine.
Further information: Palpatine § Portrayal
After a minor part in the film Dragonslayer (1981), McDiarmid was cast by George Lucas in Return of the Jedi (1983) as Emperor Palpatine, the main villain. CNN named McDiarmid fourth in their top 10 British villains, stating it was his "darkly seductive voice" that "stole the show", and it was a "masterclass in ruling through fear and manipulation." 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 Palpatine from Return of the Jedi when playing Darth Sidious, the Chancellor's Sith alter ego, but created a pleasant, charming character in Palpatine's 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, the third film in the sequel trilogy, and the ninth and final episode in the Skywalker saga.
In the 2004 re-release of The Empire Strikes Back, a brief scene between Darth Vader and a hologram of Emperor Palpatine was updated to include McDiarmid. The Emperor was originally voiced by Clive Revill for that scene, and visually portrayed by Marjorie Eaton. With this addition to The Empire Strikes Back, McDiarmid has now appeared in every live-action film version in which Palpatine appears.
He has also worked with the Star Wars expanded universe as the voice of Palpatine in the video game adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi: Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. McDiarmid made a small appearance during Celebration Europe. From 23 to 26 August 2012, he attended Celebration VI in Orlando, Florida, and had his own show titled The Phantom Menace: Ian McDiarmid, hosted by James Arnold Taylor, in which he talked about his experience working on Star Wars and how he landed the role of Palpatine. McDiarmid also voiced a pig version of Palpatine for a promo video on Angry Birds Star Wars II, entitled "Join the Pork Side". McDiarmid appeared as Emperor Palpatine in the 2022 TV series Obi-Wan Kenobi, in both new scenes and archive material from the prequel trilogy.
McDiarmid took an early role as Mickey Hamilton, a killer intent on avenging the death of his wife and child in The Professionals (Season 2, Episode 13) for London Weekend Television. In 1990, he starred in the Central Independent Television series Inspector Morse's episode "Masonic Mysteries" as the psychopathic con man Hugo DeVries. In 1997, McDiarmid played the villain, Ronald Hinks, in the Touching Evil two-part episode "Through the Clouds/The Lost Boys". He played the role of police detective Porfiry Petrovich in the BBC's 2002 adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. In 2003, McDiarmid took the role of the Stuart statesman Edward Hyde, in the BBC series Charles II: The Power and The Passion.
In 2005, he portrayed Satan in the 41-part BBC Radio 4 drama based on John Milton's Paradise Lost, which was subsequently re-broadcast on BBC 7. Recently, he played the writer and pioneer of policing, Henry Fielding, in the Channel 4 historical drama series City of Vice and Denis Thatcher in 2009's Margaret.
McDiarmid played intelligence chief LeClerc in a 2009 BBC Radio dramatization of John le Carré's The Looking Glass War. In 2014, he played a leading role as British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey in the BBC television drama 37 Days, which is about the diplomatic crisis preceding the First World War. He also had a recurring role on series 2 of Utopia, playing the role of Anton. In September 2016, McDiarmid starred in the audio podcast drama series Akiha Den Den. He played Cuttings, a ham radio buff who picks up a mysterious voice (Joy McAvoy) coming from an abandoned amusement park and Prospero in a BBC Radio 3 "new, environmentally-inflected production of The Tempest to coincide with COP26 in Glasgow", 7 Nov. 2021.
|1976||The Likely Lads||Vicar|
|1980||Sir Henry at Rawlinson End||Reg Smeeton|
|The Awakening||Dr. Richter|
|1983||Star Wars Episode VI - Return of the Jedi||The Emperor|
|Gorky Park||Professor Andreev|
|1988||Dirty Rotten Scoundrels||Arthur|
|1999||Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace||Senator Palpatine / Darth Sidious|
|Sleepy Hollow||Dr. Thomas Lancaster|
|2002||Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones||Supreme Chancellor Palpatine / Darth Sidious|
|2004||Star Wars Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back DVD Special Edition||The Emperor||DVD re-release; played by Marjorie Eaton and voiced by Clive Revill in original 1980 film.|
|2005||Star Wars: A Musical Journey||Host||Musical anthology for DVD|
|Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith||Supreme Chancellor Palpatine / Darth Sidious|
|2009||The Odds||Gambler||Short film|
|2015||Star Wars: The Force Awakens||Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious (voice)||Archive recording|
|2016||The Lost City of Z||Sir George Goldie|
|2019||Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker||Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious|
|1976||Red Letter Day||Blade||Episode: "Amazing Stories"|
|1979||Macbeth||Ross / The Porter||Television film|
|The Professionals||Mickey Hamilton||Episode: "The Madness of Mickey Hamilton"|
|1981||ITV Playhouse||Fedka||Episode: "Last Night Another Dissident..."|
|1983||The Nation's Health||Doctor Vernon Davis||4 episodes|
|1985||Pity in History||Murgatroyd||Television film|
|1988||The Modern World: Ten Great Writers||Fyodor Dostoyevsky||Episode: "Crime and Punishment"|
|1990||Inspector Morse||Hugo De Vries||Episode: "Masonic Mysteries"|
|1991||Chernobyl: The Final Warning||Dr. Vatisenko||Television film|
|1993||The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles||Professor Levi||Episode: "Paris, October 1916"|
|Heart of Darkness||Doctor||Television film|
|Selected Exits||George Devine|
|1995||Annie: A Royal Adventure!||Dr. Eli Eon|
|1996||Karaoke||Oliver Morse||4 episodes|
|Cold Lazarus||Oliver Morse||Episode #1.3|
|Hillsborough||Dr. Popper||Television film|
|1997||An Unsuitable Job for a Woman||Ronald Callender||Episode: "Sacrifice"|
|Touching Evil||Ronald Hinks||2 episodes|
|1999||Great Expectations||Jaggers||Television film|
|All the King's Men||Rev. Pierrepoint Edwards|
|2002||Crime and Punishment||Porfiry Petrovich|
|2003||Charles II: The Power and The Passion||Sir Edward Hyde|
|2004||Spooks||Prof. Fred Roberts||Episode #3.2|
|2005||Our Hidden Lives||B. Charles||Television film|
|Elizabeth I||Lord Burghley||2 episodes|
|2008||City of Vice||Henry Fielding||5 episodes|
|2009||Margaret||Denis Thatcher||Television film|
|2014||37 Days||Sir Edward Grey||3 episodes|
|Utopia||Anton / Phillip Carvel||5 episodes|
|2018||Britannia||King Pellenor||9 episodes|
|Star Wars Rebels||Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious (voice)||3 episodes; earlier (2015) in episode "The Siege of Lothal" voiced by Sam Witwer|
|2020||Star Wars: The Clone Wars||Darth Sidious (voice)||Episode: "Shattered" (archive recording)|
|2021–22||Star Wars: The Bad Batch||Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious (voice)||Episode: "Aftermath" (archive recording)|
Original recording for season 2
|2022||Obi-Wan Kenobi||Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious||2 episodes; also archive material|
|1968||Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama Gold Medal||—||Won|
|1982||Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a New Play||Insignificance||Won|
|1985||Time Out Comedy Awards for Directing||Scenes from an Execution||Won|
|1990||Time Out Comedy Awards for Directing||Volpone||Won|
|1991||Observer Awards for Outstanding Achievement for Ten Years of Presenting Irish Drama (nominated)||Volpone, The Rehearsal, and Betrayal Field||Won|
|1995||Manchester Evening News Award for Best Actor||Hated Nightfall||Won|
|1998||Special Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Achievement of the Year (shared with Jonathan Kent)||—||Won|
|2001||Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Theatre Actor||Faith Healer||Won|
|2002||Clarence Derwent Award for Best Supporting Actor||Faith Healer||Won|
|2004||Manchester Evening News Award for Best Actor||Henry IV||Won|
|2004||Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best Actor||Henry IV||Won|
|2005||Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best Actor||King Lear||Won|
|2005||Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor||Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith||Nominated|
|2005||Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Villain||Nominated|
|2006||Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance||Faith Healer||Nominated|
|2006||Outer Critics' Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play||Nominated|
|2006||Theatre World Award for Outstanding Debut Performance||Won|
|2006||Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play||Won|
|2021||Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor||Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker||Nominated|