- Emperor Palpatine in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" looks grotesque, with missing fingers and vials puncturing his neck.
- Insider spoke with the movie's creature and special makeup effects creative supervisor, Neal Scanlan, about creating Palpatine's new look.
- Scanlan said that they designed even more "horrific" versions of Palpatine, in which the character was "dismembered or disjointed."
- The makeup and art departments wanted to honor the character's design in the original movies, and Scanlan worked with director J.J. Abrams to show his decay and eventual re-emergence.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
One of the most surprising reveals in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" was that the original "Star Wars" villain Emperor Palpatine was somehow alive. According to the man behind the character's look in the reboot, he almost looked much, much worse.
The character was previously thought to be dead after Darth Vader threw him down the reactor shaft of the second Death Star in "Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi." He seemingly died in the subsequent explosion.
Although it was never mentioned in the movie, both Ian McDiarmid (who plays Palpatine) and the official novelization confirmed that Palpatine survived by transferring his consciousness to a new clone body. As a result, he now appears grotesque, with milky eyes, missing fingers, and vials puncturing his neck.
But according to "TROS" creature and special makeup effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan, Palpatine could have looked even more mangled in the final version of the film.
While designing Palpatine, the special makeup effects department wanted to honor the character's look in the original 'Star Wars' movies
"To be honest, we went to almost the horrific, as you always do," Scanlan told Insider of creating the character's new look. "You kind of push the goalposts either direction, and we looked at the idea of him being dismembered or disjointed."
Scanlan said ultimately, they went with a less horrific version of the character's appearance in order to honor the original "Star Wars" films.
"What we very quickly realized is that what we wanted to do was to be very, very respectful, and very truthful to the makeup that [makeup effects artist] Nick Dudman had done in the original film," Scanlan said. "Again, like, recreating Chewie, or recreating Yoda, the work that those guys had done, and Nick's work, was stunning. And there was a feeling about it that if we moved away from that, somehow, we would have lost something special about it."
Scanlan then worked with director J.J. Abrams to design what he calls 'pre-Emperor' makeup
While speaking to Insider, Scanlan discussed the process the team went through when creating the new version of Emperor Palpatine.
"What did the clone of him look like? What was the physical evidence of his time in waiting, as it were? And then, when he finally triumphs and is able to sort of re-emerge, we knew that we could use, say, Nick Dudman and the original vision of Palpatine as that end goal," Scanlan said. "So we kind of reverse-engineered it and went backwards and approached it that way."
Scanlan also said they worked with the art department on the concept work, so fans may one day get to see what a more horrific version of Palpatine would have looked like.
"Whether any of that will come out in any post-artwork that may get publicized might be interesting, but it certainly was explored," he said.
It's not uncommon for there to be multiple character designs for a major film like this. In "Avengers: Endgame," for instance, Insider reporter Kirsten Acuna learned Tony Stark/Iron Man was almost missing an eye in the final scenes of the movie's huge battle.
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