It may come as no surprise to you that many characters in the Star Wars franchise have elaborate backstories that have been explored in various books, comics, and animated series. If someone has a single line, they get a backstory! If someone pulls focus, they get a backstory! It’s part of what makes the franchise so immersive, knowing that everyone and everything you see on-screen has a history.
But what about those characters that don’t pull focus and don’t get to speak? Those that remain firmly in the background. They also have stories to tell, and many of them are surprisingly fun and interesting. So in this list, we’ll explore a few of the Star Wars background characters that you never even noticed!
1. Willrow Hood
Ah, Willrow Hood. It’s mind-boggling how people latched onto such a small background character that appears for less than a single second during one shot in The Empire Strikes Back. Want to spot him? Well, you need to find the scene where the charismatic Lando Calrissian warns the citizens of Cloud City about an impending Imperial occupation. The very next shot is Lando, Leia, and Chewbacca fleeing toward the landing platform containing the Millennium Falcon, and the very last person they run past—the guy carrying an ice cream maker as a prop—is our man.
And what a way to start our list! Willrow is the gold standard of background characters: He has an action figure, a fan club, and an entire story around him and his Rebel sympathizer life. Indeed, every single year, hundreds of people don an orange jumpsuit, pick up an ice cream maker, and cosplay as him at him at various conventions and gatherings around the world. All from less than a second’s worth of screen time.
But despite his popularity, one huge mystery remains: Who played Willrow Hood? Star Wars fans are renowned for their tenacity and relentlessness in their quest for knowledge and lore concerning the franchise, but despite their best efforts over the years, the original actor has never been found.
Everyone knows Yoda—small, green, pointy ears, and pretty wise, even though he talks in a funny, backwards kind of way. But did you know that not only was there another of Yoda’s species featured in The Phantom Menace, but this time, it was a female? At only around 500 years of age (as opposed to Yoda’s nearly 900) Yaddle holds a seat on the Jedi High Council, and while she’s in quite a few scenes, she says and does nothing, and there is invariably another character in the foreground pulling focus.
Brought to life by British puppeteer Phil Eason, Yaddle was originally designed and intended to be a young Yoda, which, had it come to pass, would have just gone to show that even grand master Jedi go through that “long hair, don’t care” phase.
That’s right—don’t adjust your eyes! E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial actually made it onto this list! Everyone knows the little guy from the classic 1982 Steven Spielberg movie, but did you know that he (or at least members of his species) made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in The Phantom Menace?
That’s right, in the gripping scene where Senator Amidala calls for a vote of no confidence in the chancellor (thus inadvertently maneuvering the evil Palpatine into power), there are cries of “Vote now!” around the Senate building. As a resigned chancellor slumps down in his seat, the camera cuts to a shot of shouting senators—including a few Asogians, E.T.’s species.
This little cameo was George Lucas returning the favor for Spielberg including Yoda (or rather someone dressed as him) in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. That’ll explain why E.T. recognized the Jedi grand master and chased after him shouting, “Home!”
Women supposedly love the strong, silent type, and in the Star Wars universe, no one does that better than Lobot. Portrayed by John Hollis in The Empire Strikes Back, Lobot is probably the most prevalent character in this list. Working as an aide to Lando Calrissian, he is present in the scene where Han Solo and the gang arrive at Cloud City. He later leads a team that frees Lando, Leia, and Chewbacca from Imperial capture and even has his own deleted scene in which he himself is caught for his role in their escape.
Okay, so maybe they could have come up with a better name—shortening the word “lobotomy” doesn’t quite scream creativity, but he’s a character that has endeared himself to fans. He was originally meant to have plenty of lines, but the filmmakers decided against it, instead taking the view that the mechanical implant around his head had somehow rendered him voiceless.
While canon materials reveal that Lobot went on to have many post-movie adventures, there was very nearly another deleted scene included in The Empire Strikes Back that hinted at the character’s grisly and decidedly more permanent fate. Talk about a close shave!
5. Sim Aloo
What’s more creepy than a creepy old guy with intentions to take over the galaxy? I’ll tell you: the extra creepy silent adviser that the creepy old guy consults with. So much creepy! Sim Aloo holds the title of adviser to Emperor Palpatine and can be seen very briefly in the throng accompanying the Sith lord as he arrives on the Death Star II in Return of the Jedi. He also makes a silent appearance in a later scene in which the emperor meets with his apprentice, Darth Vader.
Played by Anthony Lang, Sim Aloo was a skeletal human who dressed in dark, purple robes with a large, purple hat. So the next time you’re watching Return of the Jedi, keep your eyes peeled for him. Because despite sharing a name with a delicious Indian food, there’s nothing more unsettling than someone who has the ear of the most evil guy in the galaxy.
6. Beezer Fortuna
The first Star Wars spinoff Rogue One brought with it a whole slew of new, interesting, and intriguing background characters. But one that caught many people’s attention was Beezer Fortuna. You might know his cousin Bib Fortuna, the pasty, bi-tentacled Twi’lek majordomo to Jabba The Hutt in Return of the Jedi. Well, despite his wholly unappealing looks, Beezer was more selfless than his cousin, instead choosing to fight the good fight against the Empire as part of a partisan group.
While the actor who played Beezer remains as-yet uncredited, he can be seen briefly during a wide shot as Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor arrive at rebel extremist Saw Gerrera’s hideout. Is it fan-service that we bump into the cousin of a long-established character, thus making the galaxy seem that little bit smaller? In a way, yes, but it’s the kind of connective tissue that fans love!
7. Sarco Plank
Okay, so this one really is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it character. Less of a background character and more of a background blur, Sarco Plank is a male Melitto who makes his minuscule appearance in The Force Awakens as Finn, Rey, and BB-8 flee the dusty Jakku village from pursuing Stormtroopers. But despite featuring in only a handful of frames, does that stop him from having his own backstory? Nope! He was a foil to Luke Skywalker during his early Jedi training days in the post-A New Hope book The Weapon of a Jedi.
Because of his cool design (senior sculptor Martin Rezard described it as having “a bit of a lobster feel”), toy company Hasbro jumped on Sarco Plank and produced an action figure of the character that was released prior to the film. This, of course, led many fans to question where he was in the final cut, but he’s in there. And if you can spot him—well done!
8. Yarael Poof
We’re jumping back to The Phantom Menace now, and we’re going to talk about Jedi master Yarael Poof. Operated by puppeteer Michelle Taylor, he can be seen in many of the shots inside the Jedi Council chamber. Unlike the previously mentioned Jedi master Yaddle, Yarael Poof is a somewhat more conspicuous character. With his long neck and being seated almost directly opposite Yoda, he can be seen in the background of many shots as Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn and Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi consult with the council.
His exclusion from subsequent films was only down to the fact that his design too closely resembled that of the cloners from Kamino, which were featured prominently in Attack of the Clones. So, unfortunately, it was Yarael Poof’s rather long neck that ended up on the chopping block.
Perhaps the most widely recognized (by hard-core Star Wars fans, anyway) character on this list, IG-88 can be found during the scene in The Empire Strikes Back in which Darth Vader is ordering bounty hunters to find and capture the Millennium Falcon. Vader grants them permission to use any methods necessary but warns fan favorite Boba Fett not to disintegrate anyone.
To the left of the screen as Fett acknowledges the command is IG-88. The IG-series assassin droid does nothing in the scene other than stand completely still and turn his head slightly. He also appears later as deactivated junk in a Cloud City junk room. Nevertheless, he became a thing of obsession for fans, with countless stories—both canon and non-canon—written about him. And of course, he has an action figure.
And as an extra fun fact, during production, IG-88’s head was built using a part from a jet engine—the same piece that was used as set dressing behind the bar in the famous cantina scene in A New Hope! So even in a galaxy far, far away, they recycle.
10. Nik Sant
We’re going to end this list with a fairly controversial character: Nik Sant. He can be seen during Return of the Jedi in the scene where Han Solo gets an unwitting Scout Trooper to chase him around the corner to be met by the Rebel strike team. The bearded man at the front of the group is Nik Sant.
For the longest time, the bearded guy in that one shot where Han and the Scout Trooper are the focal point was just referred to as Nik, but over 30 years later, we found out that a completely separate character, the aging clone commander Rex (who featured heavily in the animated series The Clone Wars and Rebels) has not only survived but was present during the attack on Endor and may well have been the person we know as Nik Sant. Such confusion!
Speaking about the possible retcon, Dave Flloni, the animation producer and director of the animated series, said, “The one thing I have really thought about is I really do think that Rex is that guy on Endor. I really do. Why else is there a bearded old guy on Endor?” However, several years later, he backtracked, saying he didn’t want to overwrite a preexisting character and would leave it up to the hard-core fans to decide whether this one miss-able background character is indeed Commander Rex.
So there you have it: a list of ten background characters you never even noticed. And this list barely even scratches the surface! Be sure to head over to the official Star Wars Databank or the Lucasfilm-maintained Wookieepedia and discover more hidden characters for yourself! Alternatively, there are a whole range of reference books available that you can delve into to find out more about the good, the bad, and the forgotten of the wonderful Star Wars universe!