Ian McDiarmid - Rotten Tomatoes

Ian McDiarmid



Known to millions of Star Wars fans as the scabby and nefarious Emperor Palpatine, Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid also happens to have built a career as one of the London theatre's most acclaimed and influential figures. The co-artistic director (along with Jonathan Kent) of Islington's Almeida Theatre since 1990, McDiarmid has been, in large part, responsible for the Almeida's transformation from obscure fringe theatre to one of London's most respected playhouses. Alongside Kent, he was named by one theatre critic as one of the "capital's prime impresarios."



Born in Carnoustie, Scotland, on April 17, 1947, McDiarmid grew up in Dundee, Tayside. Although he nurtured an interest in the theatre from a young age, he put aside his stage inclinations to study social sciences at St. Andrews University. Ultimately deciding that he was not suited for a career as a clinical psychologist, McDiarmid decided to take the plunge into acting, working for a year to support his training courses at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. After completing his study, he performed with various fringe theatres throughout Scotland and England, and eventually joined the vaunted Royal Shakespeare Company.



McDiarmid began moving into television and film in the late 1970s with his casting in a supporting role in the TV series The Professionals. He made his film debut in 1980, but did not have his first major -- or memorable -- role until he was cast as the Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi (1983). Like so many other actors in the Star Wars trilogy who traded in recognizable facial/bodily/vocal features for the demands of their often heavily made-up or computerized characters, McDiarmid did earn a certain amount of fame for his work in the film, but it was largely confined to the realm of enthusiastic Star Wars fans.



While the actor continued to appear onscreen in such features as Gorky Park (1983) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), his first love was the theatre, and it was in his capacity as a stage actor and director that he made and continues to make his greatest impact. In 1998, McDiarmid and Kent won the Evening Standard's Theatrical Achievement of the Year award. The following year, McDiarmid appeared in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow and reprised the role of Emporer Palpatine -- albeit a younger, less made-up version of the character -- for the hugely-hyped Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, which succeeded in introducing him to a new generation of Star Wars fans. After appearing in the World War I drama All the Kings Men the same year, McDiarmid returned to the role of Palpatine in 2002's Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones and again in the franchise-closer Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet City of Vice
  • Actor
2008
No Score Yet The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Demons of Deception
  • Actor
2007
79% Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
  • Supreme Chancellor Palpatine
2005
65% Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
  • Supreme Chancellor Palpatine
2002
No Score Yet All the King's Men
  • Rev. Pierrepoint Edwards
2000
67% Sleepy Hollow
  • Doc Lancaster
1999
No Score Yet Great Expectations
  • Jaggers
1999
55% Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
  • Sen.Palpatine/Darth Sidious
1999
No Score Yet Rebecca
  • Actor
1997
No Score Yet Annie: A Royal Adventure
  • Prof. Eli Eon
1995
40% Heart of Darkness
  • Doctor
1994
No Score Yet Selected Exits
  • Actor
1993
No Score Yet Final Warning
  • Dr. Vatisenko
1990
88% Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Arthur
1988
78% Gorky Park
  • Prof. Andreev
1983
80% Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
  • Emperor Palpatine
1983
86% Dragonslayer
  • Brother Jacopus
1981
No Score Yet The Awakening
  • Dr. Richter
1980
No Score Yet A Performance of Macbeth
  • The porter
1978

TV

RATING TITLE CREDIT
No Score Yet MI-5
2003-2011
  • Fred Roberts
No Score Yet Masterpiece
1971-2015
  • Jaggers Rev. Pierrepont Edwards

Quotes from Ian McDiarmid's Characters