Ian McDiarmid says George Lucas told him Palpatine was definitely dead after Return of the Jedi, making his return in The Rise of Skywalker a total surprise. Disney and Lucasfilm did a top-notch job keeping the news about Palpatine under-wraps throughout production on The Rise of Skywalker. It wasn’t until the movie’s title and teaser reveal at Star Wars Celebration Chicago in April anyone had any real inkling the evil Sith lord was coming back. And even then, it wasn’t at all clear how Palpatine would fit into the conclusion to the Skywalker saga.

In many ways, his return was fitting. Palpatine was the big bad throughout both the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies, so it only makes sense for him to play a key role in the sequel trilogy too. And for all the complaints people have raised about Star Wars over the decades, McDiarmid’s performance as the character has never been anything but revered. But as logical and well-received as the news of him coming back might be, McDiarmid has admitted he never expected it.

During an interview with Digital Spy, McDiarmid confirmed Lucas told him Palpatine was dead as a doornail after Return of the Jedi. And while he didn’t know he would be coming back for the prequel trilogy at the time, he indicated his return for The Rise of Skywalker was an even bigger shock for that very reason.

It’s still not entirely clear when the decision was made to revive Palpatine for The Rise of Skywalker. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has said it was always the plan to bring him back for the final movie in the sequel trilogy, even when the “how” behind his return was up in the air. However, The Rise of Skywalker’s original director, Colin Trevorrow, said J.J. Abrams came up with the idea to resurrect Palpatine after he replaced Trevorrow at the helm. Similarly, Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: The Aftermath novel trilogy hinted Palpatine devised contingency plans to bring him back to life in the event of his death, but it’s difficult to tell how much of that was intended to feed into The Rise of Skywalker. Whatever the case, McDiarmid clearly hasn’t been sitting on this secret the way Ewan McGregor has been lying about his upcoming return as Obi-Wan Kenobi for the last four years.

I thought I was dead! I thought he was dead. Because when we did Return of the Jedi, and I was thrown down that chute to Galactic Hell, [he was dead]. And I said, ‘Oh, does he come back?’ And [George] said, ‘No, he’s dead.’ [Laughs] So I just accepted that. But then, of course, I didn’t know I was going to be doing the prequels, so in a sense he wasn’t dead, because we went back to revisit him when he was a young man. But I was totally surprised by this.

Unfortunately, the lack of planning for Palpatine’s return shows in The Rise of Skywalker. The first two films in the sequel trilogy (The Force Awakens and Last Jedi) did little to nothing to set up Palpatine’s resurrection, and his subplot in The Rise of Skywalker feels all the more half-baked for it. That goes double for the big relevations about Palpatine’s personal history in the movie, and the role he plays in bringing both Rey and Kylo Ren’s arcs to a close. The Rise of Skywalker co-writer Chris Terrio has argued Palpatine had to be part of the story here, and he has a fair point. It’s just too bad the movie’s creatives couldn’t figure out a less clumsy way to reverse his (not so final) demise in Return of the Jedi to begin with.

Source: Digital Spy