Ian McDiarmid (AKA Emperor Palpatine) recently spoke with the Times Online while promoting his role as Denis Thatcher for the upcoming UK TV movie Margaret, and of course Star Wars was mentioned...
"Then, of course, came Star Wars. He was cast in Return of the Jedi (1983), he says, after being spotted playing the ancient Harry Hackamore in Sam Shepard's Seduced, and was invited for a lunchtime meeting with George Lucas. “We chatted about nothing for ten minutes, then I went home and found out I'd got the part, even though I didn't know what it was.”
His life changed. He became the Emperor, in the movie and in its later three prequels, and in the consciousness of cinema-goers everywhere. “I still get looks when I'm out, when people suddenly recognise me, and I can tell that they're going to come over. I hate signing autographs, but I don't want to be a p****, so you have to get used to it.”
Despite the unwanted attention, McDiarmid is, in fact, the perfect ambassador for the franchise. He robustly defends the movies, the wooden performances of his fellow actors (“To be fair to the younger cast, all of whom I'm extremely fond of, they have a lot of action, whereas mine is much easier”) and the abilities of his director (“It's only the people who grew up with the originals that were disappointed by the prequels - the kids today prefer them!”).
He adds, of course, that he has been well rewarded for his services. “George is generous to the people he works with,” he says. “You get a relatively straightforward and not hugely exciting up-front deal. Then if the film does well and he thinks your contribution has enhanced that, he'll give you something. He's been nice to me.” '