A little while ago, I wrote a piece about my experience as a kid on the day that Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace premiered. It got me to thinking: what's the cast been up to?
Natalie Portman - Padmé Amidala
Alongside a massively successful acting career, Natalie Portman attended Harvard University and graduated with an A.B. in Psychology in 2003. She went on to study neurosciences and continue her acting career at the same time, even bringing her love of science to the big screen as Jane Foster in Thor and Thor: The Dark World. Only a scientist can sling Jargon like Portman did.
Liam Neeson - Qui-Gon Jinn
Despite being a predictable death, Qui-Gon Jinn's passing at the end of The Phantom Menace was truly heartbreaking. Luckily, Liam Neeson went on to be an action movie franchise king with films like Taken and striking performances as baddies in movies like Batman Begins. And let's not forget:
Ewan McGregor - Obi-Wan Kenobi
Throughout the past decade and change, Ewan McGregor found success a diverse lineup of films. Who knew Obi-Wan could sing? But he did - bringing the story of Phillip Morris to the big screen alongside Jim Carrey and sending audiences into a frenzy of laughter in the weird in-joke movie, Men Who Stare at Goats (which, by the way, was great). He has a ton of projects lined up through 2016, and with a rumored Obi-Wan spinoff, we may well see him weild a lightsaber again soon.
Samuel L. Jackson - Mace Windu
What can I say about this BAMF that can't be sensed by looking at him? His career is explosive, I can't even begin to track the films he's been rocking, and he's currently on set filming the next in his recurring roles as espionage badass superhero wrangler Nick Fury for [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035). I hear he kept the lightsaber, as he rightly should have.
Jake Lloyd - Anakin Skywalker
The young star of The Phantom Menace and Jingle All the Way promptly dropped out of Hollywood after the film's release. Getting cast as one of the most pivotal characters in a highly beloved franchise can be, at the same time, the best and worst thing to happen to a kid: Sure, he played an iconic character, but reviews detailed much higher expectations of the young Lloyd's performance, calling him "Mannequin Skywalker" and laying a good amount of the critique on the trilogy's failure on the kid. What's more, he was bullied by his classmates after the film's release, and has since developed a pretty heavy chip on his shoulder because of it.
I get the bitterness. Taking on a huge responsibility and suddenly having Star Wars fans breathing down your neck about your portrayal of a character they've known for longer than you've been born is daunting as heck. What's more, an actor can get pigeonholed by a role like this. Heck, Harrison Ford felt something similar after playing Han Solo. The difference between Ford and Lloyd, though, is that the former went out and made an effort to destroy the one-hit wonder aspect of that character.
Keira Knightley - Sabé
Padme Amidala's faithful decoy Queen was none other than Keira Knightley - star of [Laggies](movie:908876) and show-stealer of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. According to fan lore, both actresses' mothers could not tell them apart on set. The role wasn't a massive one, but lovers of the books that went along with The Phantom Menace know that Padmé and Sabé were very close friends.
Ahmed Best - Jar Jar Binks
The faithful Gungan's voice actor seemingly decided to ride the wave of Star Wars into the world of voicework - he appeared in several episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and also guest starred on assorted shows as the character, including The Colbert Report and the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials. His IMDb profile shows no new projects since 2013.
Ray Park - Darth Maul
Ray Park's career is a quiet success story: just one year after The Phantom Menace debuted, he was on the big screen once more as Toad in 2000's X-Men. He found major success on Heroes as Edgar, Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and even played Chuck Norris in The Legend of Bruce Lee. He has two upcoming projects, though neither currently have release dates.
Ian McDiarmid - Palpatine
Senator, Chancellor, and Emperor Palpatine has been quite busy as of late: at present, he's starring as Anton in Utopia, but other notable roles post-Phantom Menace include his portrayal of Denis Thatcher in Margaret, and his role as Edward Grey in 37 Days. While he is often relegated to the stereotypical Wise old British Guy role, it's nice to see the diversity of his acting capabilities on display. Rumors (that I don't believe) insist that Palaptine is making a return in Episode VII, so if that's true, we might see McDiarmid again soon.
Silas Carson - Nute Gunray/Ki-Adi-Mundi/Lott Dodd
Silas Carson may not be a Hollywood leading man, but for any supergeek or fan of SciFi, he's a very recognizable name. Outside of bringing the most annoying villains of Star Wars to life, Carson is also primarily responsible for over five years of Doctor Who baddies, voicing The Ood in the series from 2005-2010. He also appeared in the spinoff, The Sarah Jane Adventures, as Kudlak and the Emperor.
Lewis MacLeod - Sebulba
MacLeod has led a long and successful career as a voice actor, especially for video games. He's been the video game voice counterpart for Obi-Wan Kenobi, Harry Potter's Albus Dumbledore, and Lord of the Rings' Sharku, to name a few. You can hear him on Cartoon Network's hit show, The Amazing World of Gumball, and in [The Boxtrolls](movie:862414) as well!
Richard Armitage - Uncredited Naboo Fighter Pilot
And finally, a not-so-well-known actor who wasn't even credited in the original theatrical cut of the film: THORIN. FREAKIN'. OAKENSHIELD! Just like Keira Knightley, Richard Armitage served as a practically lineless background character meant to silently advance the plot. This was one of his earliest roles - other great performances of his can be found in Captain America: The First Avenger, MI-5, and the upcoming movie-musical Into the Woods.