Star Wars: Matt Smith Reveals His Axed Rise of Skywalker Character Was Major Game-Changer

By Tom Drew Updated:
Matt Smith, Star Wars, Palpatine

The Rise of Skywalker was not the Star Wars finale that many expected, proving to be one of the franchise's most divisive installments.

A troubled production led to several story decisions that fans found dissatisfying, one of which was the Emperor's confusing plan that has now received a bit more clarification in a new novel. Rey's parentage was also an ever-changing concept, with actress Daisy Ridley being told that "she was no one" prior to the Palpatine reveal in Episode 9.

Many fans have looked at what could have been, such as by examining the original story conceived by The Rise of Skywalker's initial director, Colin Trevorrow. Doctor Who actor Matt Smith was also reported to have a key role in the film, though an appearance from the actor never came to be.

Rumors pointed toward the idea of Smith playing Palpatine's son or assuming the role of a beloved character like Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Now, Smith addressed his Star Wars role and the impact it would have had on the galaxy far, far away.

Matt Smith Addresses Rise of Skywalker Rumors

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine
Star Wars

In an interview with Happy Sad Confused podcast host Joshua Horowitz, Doctor Who and Last Night in Soho actor Matt Smith was asked about his rumored role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

When asked whether he filmed any scenes for Episode 9, Smith denied having shot anything for the film but that he did get "close to...being in it:"

"No, I didnt... We were close to me being in it but then it just never ever quite happened... I think the thing they were thinking of before eventually the part became, y'know, it became obsolete and they didn't need it and so I never got to be in Star Wars."

Smith was then probed about his possible role in The Rise of Skywalker, specifically whether he was set to play the son of Palpatine. Looking around the room with a smirk, Smith replied that he "could not possibly say" but did go on to mention that it was a "really groovy part and concept:"

"It was a pretty groovy thing, like it was a really groovy part and concept... It was a big thing. Yeah, it was like a big story detail, like a, you know, transformative Star Wars story detail. It never quite got over the line."

The Last Night in Soho actor continued to elaborate on the size of his role, saying that it would mark "a big shift in the history of the [Star Wars] franchise." Returning to how far Smith got into the casting process, the actor stated that there were "no costume" fittings, only "a couple of meetings to talk about it." 

The topic of potentially still having the opportunity to appear in the galaxy far, far away also came up, with the actor saying "maybe I can come back, you never know." Smith then pondered the possibility further, wondering "God, to come back as that guy" while holding his hand up in a potentially telling manner.

Who Was Matt Smith Supposed to Play in Star Wars?

As Matt Smith was reported to join the cast of Episode 9 around the time J.J. Abrams' leadership on the project, it is safe to assume that the actor would have had a role in Abrams' version of the film rather than Trevorrow's

The most popular theory/rumor is that Smith was set to play a son of Palpatine or a young Palpatine clone to tie in with the ongoing story of Rey's parents. This would certainly fit in with the "big shift" that Smith mentioned.

If this were originally the case, perhaps Lucasfilm opted to change this story beat in order to retain more of The Last Jedi's establishment of Rey's parents being nobodies. Ian McDiarmid's return was also announced almost a year after the reports of Smith's involvement, so it is possible that Lucasfilm may have decided to opt for an actor that Star Wars fans were already familiar with in-universe.

Smith's hand gesture while thinking about his character also suspiciously resembled a dark side Force power like Palpatine's Force lightning or a Force choke. Could this have been a sly hint toward Smith's original role?

The Rise of Skywalker is now streaming on Disney+.

- About The Author: Tom Drew
Tom Drew is the Executive Editor at The Direct. Tom writes for The Direct's Marvel, Star Wars, and DC branches while specializing in all things movies, from blockbuster to indie darlings.