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Star Wars

Where are they now? Star Wars actors whose careers took off, and tailed off

Some who’ve acted in the space franchise were already established stars; for others, such as Harrison Ford, it was the making of their career. But for Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, roles as Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker were the high points

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 5:48pm

Appearing in Star Wars has been a blessing for some, and a curse for others. The intergalactic space saga turned Harrison Ford into a major star, but Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher struggled to emerge from Luke and Leia's towering shadows.

Ford, who portrays the seductive, intrepid smuggler Han Solo, rocketed to fame after the initial film and is arguably the franchise's biggest star. Shortly after first piloting the Millennium Falcon, the actor – a pilot in real life – fronted another massive franchise, the Indiana Jones films, and starred in sci-fi hit Blade Runner.

Other career highlights for the Hollywood A-lister, now aged 73, include two turns as Tom Clancy's hero Jack Ryan in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. He earned an Oscar nomination for best actor in 1986 for Witness.

Fisher, the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, was only 20 years old when Star Wars hit cinema screens, making her an international star as Princess Leia. After her turn in the original Star Wars trilogy, the actress notably appeared in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters and When Harry Met Sally.

Fisher, now 59, who struggled with addiction, didn't score roles on a par with her turn as Leia. She wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards From The Edge, as well as a screenplay for the film version starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.

As with Fisher, the success of Star Wars did not translate into decades of fame for the now 64-year-old Hamill, who played the Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker. He has, though, built a successful career mainly as a voice actor for animated films and video games, including a turn as The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series.

James Earl Jones is perhaps best known for providing the deep, menacing voice of the villainous Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. The 84-year-old stage and screen actor, who was nominated for a best actor Oscar in 1971 for The Great White Hope, has since made dozens of film and television appearances. The Tony and Emmy award winner is currently starring on Broadway opposite Cicely Tyson in a revival of The Gin Game.

Natalie Portman, who made her debut in Luc Besson's 1994 film The Professional, had already worked for directors Woody Allen, Michael Mann and Tim Burton before taking on the role of Queen Amidala /Padme in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 1999. She has since become a Hollywood heavyweight, winning an Oscar for best actress in 2011 for her turn as a troubled ballerina in Black Swan. She has branched into directing, with this year's A Tale of Love and Darkness.

The 44-year-old Scot Ewan McGregor had made a name for himself with Trainspotting and Velvet Goldmine when he was tapped to play a young Obi-Wan Kenobi – a role first played by Alec Guinness – in The Phantom Menace. He won acclaim for his turn opposite Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge and has since notably starred in Beginners and The Impossible about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. He has just directed his first film, American Pastoral, an adaptation of a Philip Roth novel.

Liam Neeson had already achieved international renown as the star of Schindler's List when he was tapped to play Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. The 63-year-old from Northern Ireland has since transformed himself into an action film star, with the Taken series, The Grey and Non-Stop.

Jake Lloyd, now 26, seemed destined for greater things when he was chosen to play young Anakin Skywalker (the future Darth Vader) in The Phantom Menace. But his career stalled, apart from a role a decade ago in the little-seen feature film Madison and some voice work for Star Wars video games. He has complained in interviews of being bullied in school over his childhood fame.

Lloyd had a run-in with the law earlier this year, when he was arrested in the US state of South Carolina after leading police on a wild high-speed car chase. He was charged with reckless driving, failure to stop and resisting arrest.