Before he was Han Solo, Harrison Ford was a carpenter who happened to make a cabinet for George Lucas. Lucas cast Ford in a small role in his American Graffiti (1973). In 1975, Lucas paid Ford to read lines from Star Wars, and the aspiring actor eventually landed the part of the space rogue. Ford’s decades-spanning career had included the Indiana Jones franchise and a number of other successful films.
Recently, Ford starred in the 2011 nonstarter Cowboys & Aliens, but has another potential sci-fi franchise on the horizon. He’ll play the Colonel Hyrum Graff in Ender’s Game, which is slated for November 2013.
Before playing the iconic Jedi Knight, Hamill was an unknown actor who tried out for the role of Luke Skywalker at the suggestion of a friend. Though not known for starring in blockbusters since Star Wars, Hamill has enjoyed a second act by voicing The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and other dark knight animated projects. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he appeared on Current TV to stump for President Obama several times.
Fisher appeared in the 1975 Warren Beatty political satire Shampoo, but was virtually unknown when cast in Star Wars. Fisher, who in recent years has spoken about battling drugs and bipolar disorder, has a recurring role voicing Angela on Fox's Family Guy.
James Earl Jones
The man with the voice of Darth Vader was already an accomplished actor with Emmy and Oscar nominations (as well as a Tony win) under his belt when he was called upon to dub lines for David Prowse, who portrayed the Jedi physically.
Since Star Wars, he has appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, with the indie drama Gimme Shelter coming out in November 2012.
Hollywood’s favorite protocol droid was a stage actor with the National Theatre of Great Britain when he was called to audition for George Lucas.Daniels was an avowed science fiction skeptic and had walked out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, his only experience with the genre.
Doubts aside, he went on to work on all six Star Wars theatrical releases, as well as a number of spinoffs in other media. He currently lives in London, according to his official website, and is also a visiting scholar at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
The man behind Yoda and other beloved characters from the Muppets and Sesame Street, Frank Oz had a hit on his hands with 1979’s The Muppet Movie before the world was introduced to Yoda the following year in The Empire Strikes Back.
Oz has ended his Muppet days (he did not work on 2011’s TheMuppets), but he is slated to do voice work on Pixar’s Monster’s University, coming in June 2013.
Before he was Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew worked as an orderly at King's College Hospital in London. (See a picture here). He went on to be a favorite at fan conventions, and revived Chewie for a small role in Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).
He also appeared in character on an episode of Fox’s Glee last year. There is currently a biopic about Mayhew in the works titled Chewie, about the 7-foot-three-inch actor balancing his hospital job with the shooting of 1977’s Star Wars. Mayhew lives in Boyd, Texas, a small town of about 1,200 people.
British actor Kenny Baker had performed in comedy acts before George Lucas cast him as the lovable R2D2. In 2009 he published his biography, From Tiny Acorns: The Kenny Baker Story. He currently lives in the United Kingdom, where he says he enjoys tending to his garden.
Ian McDiarmid was actually in his 40s when he first portrayed the ancient-looking emperor in Episode V. The Scottish actor was already an accomplished dramatic performer on the stage when he joined the Star Wars universe, and he continues to perform today. The year after taking over the galaxy in Revenge of the Sith (2005), McDiarmid took home a Tony for his work in “Faith Healer.” In 2012 he performed the obscure play “Timon of Athens” with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Billy Dee Williams
Billy Dee Williams had acted on Broadway and appeared in a number of well-known films, including the Oscar-nominated Lady Sings the Blues (1972) when he was cast as Lando Calrissian. In recent year’s he’s had guest spots on TV shows, including CBS’ NCIS.
Hayden Christensen enjoyed critical acclaim and a Golden Globe nomination for his work in 2001’s Life as a House, a drama that failed to find commercial success.
After playing Anakin Skywalker in Atack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, he starred in the sci-fi flick Jumper (2008) and the limited release horror film Vanashing on Seventh Street (2010), among other films. He has several films in pre-production, including Outcast, set in 10th century China and costarring Nicholas Cage.
Known as the dynamic young star of acclaimed assassin flick The Professional, Natalie Portman took her profile to the next level when she appeared in Phantom Menace and its immediate sequels. After enjoying an Oscar win for Black Swan in 2011, she is poised to star in 2013’s Thor: Dark World.
McGregor was best known for playing a heroin addict in Danny Boyle’s 1996 drama Trainspotting when he was cast to fill the shoes of Sir Alec Guinness in Phantom Menace. The young Obi-Wan Kenobi has become an internationally recognized star, and appears this year in awards season contender The Impossible, set amid the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
After a small role in the Arnold Schwarzenegger / Sinbad holiday comedy Jingle All the Way, Jake Lloyd landed the role of young Anakin Skywalker. Soon after he quit acting, and in 2012 said playing the part resulted in schoolyard taunting. He recently studied film at Columbia College Chicago.