In the original Star Wars series was it intentional that most of the antagonists were British, while the main protagonists (Luke, Leia and Han) are American - was this intentional?

Just to give some examples:

  1. David Prowse (Bristol, England) - Darth Vader
  2. Kenneth Colley (Manchester, England) - Admiral Piett
  3. Michael Sheard (Aberdeen, Scotland) - Admiral Ozzel
  4. Ian McDiarmid (Carnoustie, Scotland) - Emperor Palpatine
  5. Peter Cushing (Kenley, England) - Grand Moff Tarkin
  • 32
    The trilogy was filmed in England, hence older actors of a certain quality (and within budget) are going to be locally based.
    – Valorum
    Feb 17, 2018 at 20:27
  • 14
    This has now been in-universe retconned by saying how the Empire's senior officers were from Coruscant and other core worlds that were more "refined" and this was reflected in their posh British accents - while our scruffy heroes hail from the outer rim: with American accents and casual attitudes.
    – Dai
    Feb 18, 2018 at 2:56
  • 13
    To be fair the "actor" we know of as Darth Vader is the voice of James Earl Jones, not David Prowse, even though he was in the suit.
    – TylerH
    Feb 18, 2018 at 6:26
  • 4
    Relevant: TV Tropes is well aware that (in USA media) a British accent is often used to show that a character is evil: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EvilBrit Feb 18, 2018 at 9:48
  • 19
    Although he did crush a planet, his name is Cushing, not Crushing.
    – Turion
    Feb 18, 2018 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


According to a BBC interview with LucasFilm's UK production executive Peter Beale, casting senior British actors in seeming title roles was instrumental in helping to get Fisher, Hamill and Ford work permits from the British Home Office which required letters of support from Equity, the actors union (without which the film couldn't have been made).

In short, they told the government and Equity that the film would be headed up by Prowse, Guinness and Cushing with Fisher, Hamill and Ford as supporting actors. Employing a number of British actors (along with local production staff and crew) allowed them to access cheap filming facilities at Elstree Studios and certain government tax incentives that were on offer at the time to encourage foreign companies to film in the UK.

Director George Lucas had cast a trio of young unknown American actors in the lead roles of his space adventure and was gearing up to shoot in Britain. But his UK production executive Peter Beale knew Britain probably wouldn't let them.

"Equity was trying to look after the British actors; there was no work around and they didn't want foreign actors coming in and taking midsize roles or big roles that the British actors could do," he said.

But Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill needed work permits. So Beale, like others involved in the blockbuster's production, had to get creative.

He drew up an alternative cast list showing the film's British actors, including Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing and David Prowse at the top, and Ford, Fisher and Hamill in apparently minor roles.

"I went to Equity and said 'Look, the English have got the best parts in this, but the director wants three little Americans for the smaller parts' and I also went to the Home Office and told them the truth... and they supported it because they wanted the work and they recognised it."

What did Equity say? "By the time they realised, I think they had forgiven me."

Star Wars: The blockbuster made in Borehamwood

Note that Lucas was keen not to cast British actors if at all possible so the pressure on him (to do so) was largely external rather than a desire to meet stereotypes about British actors playing villains well.

Whenever there was a break in the recording, Lucas would run to London to loop Alec Guinness, Mark Hamill, et al.—though at least a couple of actors read their lines at Anvil. Anthony Daniels arrived for voice-over work despite the fact that dozens of others had auditioned for the speaking role of C-3PO. “It was primarily because of the fact that it was a British voice,” Lucas says. “I really wanted to keep the whole thing American. Tony had the most British accent, so I said, ‘No, I want to make him American because he is one of the lead characters.’ I wanted Threepio’s voice to be slightly more used-car-dealer-ish, a little more oily. More of a con man, which is the way it was written, and not really a fussy British robot butler. So I tried and tried, but because Tony was Threepio inside, he really got into the role. We went through thirty people that I actually tested, but none of the voices were as good as Tony’s, so we kept him.”

The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film

  • 3
    That's not what the quote says, "I also went to the Home Office and told them the truth". Feb 17, 2018 at 23:55
  • 25
    Maybe it was true... From a certain point of view... Feb 18, 2018 at 0:49
  • 9
    "I wanted Threepio’s voice to be slightly more used-car-dealer-ish, a little more oily. More of a con man" Yet more proof of Lucas' incompetence.
    – RonJohn
    Feb 18, 2018 at 19:14
  • 3
    @RonJohn I agree, they definitely should have put you in charge of filming the trilogy.
    – sgf
    Feb 18, 2018 at 19:30
  • 4
    You tell Home Office the truth because Home Office's usual reaction when you lie to them is to refuse to allow you to enter Britain on your next visit, and send you back on the very next airplane home, full retail at your own expense. Yeah, Home Office can do that. Feb 18, 2018 at 22:48

You list a load of bad-guy characters as being British to support your case.

Of course, the counter argument is that Alec Guiness (Obi Wan), Kenny Baker (R2D2) and Anthony Daniels (C3P0) are all British as well.

I think it's more the case that the lead characters were American actors, because even though it was filmed in England, it was an American-owned film made primarily for an American audience. But the bulk of the rest of the cast were locally sourced.

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