- ‘Star Wars’ has been a beloved film franchise since it debuted in 1977.
- A number of actors who have starred in the series have passed away since starring in the films, including Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Alec Guinness, and Ed Asner.
- Paul Grant, who played an Ewok, died after collapsing at London’s King’s Cross station on March 20, 2023.
- Fans all over the globe celebrated the film franchise on ‘Star Wars’ day, May the 4th.
May The 4th Be With You! Since its very inception in 1977, it was clear that Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope would constitute a cinematic classic. Through over forty years, the legendary franchise has continued to bring joy to legions of fans and completely reshaped moviegoing and pop culture. May 4th has become a special day for fans to celebrate their love for the franchise, given how similar the date sounds to the signature catchphrase “May the force be with you.” Unfortunately, some of the original actors have been lost to death along the way.
May The 4th is a great occasion to celebrate fandom for the iconic film franchise, and even some of the film’s stars have gotten in on the fun. Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, has made jokes about it on social media, including creating a full calendar in 2018 of “May The” dates for fans to follow along with, which he’s tweeted and posted on his Instagram. Besides looking back on the classic movies, it’s also a great opportunity to pay tribute to the stars who have been lost.
May The Fourth Be With [YOUR NAME HERE]
— Mark Hamill (@MarkHamill) May 4, 2018
After the first installment, the franchise endured and then some, spawning two sequels Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) in the immediate aftermath. Years later, a prequel trilogy hit theaters with Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005).
Fans were nowhere near done with the franchise, and it continued with the sequel trilogy, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017), and Star Wars: Episode IX (2019). Finally, the anthology includes Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). That’s not to mention its offshoots, including the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) and the popular Disney + series The Mandalorian, beginning in 2019.
The memory of the actors who lost their lives after filming this iconic series of movies continues to this day. Here is our definitive list of the most beloved actors from the Star Wars franchise who have gone on to new frontiers.
Paul Grant was a beloved actor, appearing in a wide variety of movies throughout his career. In the Star Wars franchise, he played one of the most beloved characters, as an Ewok in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi. While the Ewoks are a smaller role than some of the main series, they’re still some of the most iconic characters in the film. Aside from his work in Star Wars, Paul also had roles in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone (2001). He also appeared in Labyrinth (1986) and did stunts for Willow (1988) and Legend (1985), per IMDb.
Paul collapsed outside King’s Cross station in London on March 20, 2023. He died shortly after, and no cause of death has been revealed, per The Guardian. He was 56. He is survived by his girlfriend Maria Dwyer as well as his son, two daughters, stepchildren, and grandkids.
Alex McCrindle famously appeared in the 1977 Star Wars as General Jan Dodonna. The Scottish actor, born in 1911, appeared in other films and TV series, (including All Creatures Great & Small), but his career was largely defined by George Lucas‘ brilliant movie. According to his Wikipedia page, he had three daughters. He died at the age of 78 on April 28, 1990, in Edinburgh, Scotland.
English actor Harry Fielder, born in 1940 in London, was a mainstay of British television and movies throughout the decades of 1960-1990. He played the smaller role of Corporal Grenwick in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. While he never played a major starring role, he worked continuously for years on end, appearing in major studio films including 101 Dalmatians and The Man Who Knew Too Little, among others. He died only a year and a half ago on February 6, 2021, at the age of 80.
English actor Alec Guiness became nothing less than a legend when he played Obi-Wan-Kenobi in the 1977 original Star Wars. The actor, 62 when he took on the role, was honored with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role that year. It would prove to be the only Oscar acting nomination throughout the entire original trilogy. Alec was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2000, and tragically died months later on August 5, 2000. He was also diagnosed with liver cancer just days before his death at age 86.
Alec, a father of one son named Matthew Guiness, (also an actor), was buried in the UK.
British film actor Jack Purvis appeared in A New Hope as Chief Jawa and as Chief Ugnaught in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Jack had dwarfism, standing at just over 4 feet, 2 inches tall, and was cast in iconic movies including The Dark Crystal, Time Bandits, Willow, and Labyrinth. He became a quadriplegic in 1990 after an auto repair accident tragically left his neck broken, and he died on Nov 21, 1997, in England. He was just 60 years old.
Born in 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, Jason played one of The Empire Strikes Back’s most indelible and memorable characters — without ever showing his face. He was the voice of bounty hunter Boba Fett in the 1980 megahit. He was a prolific actor of stage, film, and television, known well for his role as Harry Snowden on 1970s sitcom All In The Family.
Jason died on Christmas day in 2015 at the age of 95 in the entertainment capital of the world — Los Angeles, California.
Peter Cushing, yet another British actor, appeared in A New Hope in 1977 as Grand Moff Tarkin. He was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor, but his career overall speaks for itself. It spanned across the Hammer Frankenstein and Dracula films, among many others, and when he appeared on the1976 set of A New Hope, he was actually one of the cast’s better known and more established actors. In 1982, the venerable actor was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He pushed through, and ultimately died on August 11, 1994, in England at the age of 81. He had appeared in over 100 films.
It’s likely that Carrie Fisher is among the Star Wars franchise’s most beloved, and most heavily mourned, losses. The daughter of Hollywood legends Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher made her definitive career move as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, and reprised her role in 2015 with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and again posthumously in 2017’s The Last Jedi. Unreleased footage of her also appeared in The Rise of Skywalker in 2019.
Carrie’s tragic death came unexpectedly as she was on flight from London to LA on December 23, 2016, and suffered a medical emergency. CPR was performed and she was transported to UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in LA to be placed on a ventilator. She died at the age of 60 on December 27. Costar Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo, released a statement following the sad news. “Carrie was one-of-a-kind… brilliant, original. Funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life, bravely,” he said at the time, per Billboard. “My thoughts are with her daughter Billie, her mother Debbie, her brother Todd, and her many friends. We will all miss her.”
Carrie’s mother Debbie, heartbroken by her daughter’s death, famously died of a stroke one day later on December 28. Carrie’s daughter Billie Lourd, 30, has continued the family legacy in starring roles in Scream Queens and American Horror Story, among others. Carrie’s cause of death was determined to be cardiac arrest.
British actor Christopher Lee is an icon many times over. He appeared as the Hammer Dracula, as Saruman in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and of course, as Sith Lord Count Dooku in Attack Of The Clones, Revenge Of The Sith, and The Clone Wars. His voice work in animated projects and video games was as renowned as his physical presence, and his intimidating stature lent gravitas to roles like that of Willy Wonka’s stern dentist father in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.
Christopher experienced heart failure shortly after his 93rd birthday and died at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on June 7, 2015.
John Hollis played Lobot in The Empire Strikes Back, but he’s plenty experienced in legendary film franchises. Born in 1927 in England, he also appeared in the original Superman franchise with Christopher Reeve, and in the James Bond franchise, circa the Roger Moore years. He died at the age of 77 in England on October 18, 2005.
Felix Silla, an Italian stuntman and actor, played a Hang Glider Ewok in Return Of The Jedi. He also played Cousin Itt on The Adams Family and appeared on Battlestar Galactica. He died of pancreatic cancer on April 16, 2021, in Las Vegas, NV. He was 84 years old.
Ed Asner has played no shortage of iconic roles, including Santa Clause in Elf. Ed also provided the voice for Jabba The Hutt in the radio adaption of Return of the Jedi. He additionally lent his voice to a Jedi master character in two Star Wars games. He was 91 when he died at his home in Tarzana, Los Angeles of natural causes on August 29, 2021.
Irish actor Gerald Home played Tessek in Captain Verrack in Return of the Jedi, though sadly both roles remain uncredited. He was also a puppeteer on the 1986 cult classic Little Shop Of Horrors. Gerald died of liver cancer on October 6, 2021. He was only 70 years old.
Peter Mayhew memorably played one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, Wookiee Chewbacca, in the original trilogy. He would reprise the iconic role numerous times, including in Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens in 2015, which would prove to be his final film role. He died of a heart attack at the age of 74 on April 30, 2019, in Texas. Per CBS News, his family made the announcement. “The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away,” they said in an official statement. “He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home.”
Kenneth George Baker was another of director George Lucas’ favored British actors. Born in England in 1934 with dwarfism, he rose the ranks in acting to become the famed R2-D2 in the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies At a reported 3 feet, 8 inches tall, he magnified the role and catapulted it into cinematic history.
Kenny died on August 13, 2016, in Lancashire, England, at the age of 81. Per CNN, his niece Abigail Shield explained at the time that he was not expected to “live past his teenage years because he was a ‘little person,’ so it is pretty amazing he lived this long.”
In Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Australian born actress Trisha Noble played Jopbal Naberrie, Padme Amidala’s mother. She had originally appeared in the role in Attack of the Clones, but it only showed up on the DVD release after being cut from the final film.
While she had plenty of roles in film and television, she was also well known for her singing career — as a teen sensation in the 1960s, she was known as Patsy Ann Noble. She died on January 23, 2021, at the age of 76 after an 18-month battle with mesothelioma.
Phil Eason was a British puppeteer who controlled the character Yaddle in The Phantom Menace in 1999. Per Looper, he also worked on Muppet Treasure Island, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and cult horror flick Little Shop of Horrors. At the time of his death in 2021, he had most recently worked on Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. He died on April 5, 2021, at age 60. His collaborator, Darrel Worbey, announced the sad news on Twitter. “Saddened to share the tragic news that our long-term collaborator and friend Philip Eason passed this weekend,” he wrote. “Phil was an amazing puppeteer and designer – his untimely death leaves a huge void in our industry. His body of work however leaves a remarkable legacy ”
Shelagh Fraser memorably played Luke Skywalker’s Aunt Beru in Star Wars. Beyond the history-making role, she was known for TV series A Family At War, though she was prolific as an actress in both film and television. Shelagh died in London on August 29, 2000, at the age of 79.