The STAR WARS franchise is full of spectacular characters who have ignited the imaginations of millions for over forty years, but not all of those characters have appeared on the big-screen. One of the most popular characters in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, now known as Star Wars Legends, is Grand Admiral Thrawn, the brilliant strategist who took command of the Galactic Empire’s remaining forces several years after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI and very nearly brought the New Republic to its knees.
The character was first introduced in what became known as Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, which consisted of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. Although there had been previous STAR WARS novels, the Thrawn trilogy is largely credited with jump-starting the Expanded Universe and bringing renewed interest back to the entire series. When Disney took over the franchise and rebranded the Expanded Universe as Legends, Thrawn became non-canon, but he was soon re-introduced in the third season of Star Wars: Rebels and has since become the focus of a new canon series of novels (once again written by Timothy Zahn) which explore his early years and rise to power within the Empire.
Although some would describe him as ruthless, Thrawn was quite unlike most of the Imperial officers who had come before him. Rather than use brute force and intimidation, Thrawn meticulously researched his enemies, learning about their culture and history in order to exploit their weaknesses. He also didn’t rule his over his subordinates by fear, choosing instead to reward creativity and take suggestions from his crew. “Most of the Imperial leaders we see in the movies rule through a combination of fear and manipulation. I wanted to create something different: a commander who could lead through loyalty,” said Timothy Zahn in an 2017 interview with USA Today. “The result was Thrawn, a tactical genius whose troops follow him willingly, and who will fight for him whether or not he’s watching over their shoulders.“
As I mentioned above, Thrawn re-entered canon thanks to his role in Star Wars: Rebels, and series creator Dave Filoni has said that bringing Thrawn to life was “definitely something that had been thought about for a long time at Lucasfilm.” In fact, when development first began on Rebels and they were brainstorming potential villains, “Thrawn was always on the list.” Thrawn became a significant threat throughout the remainder of Star Wars: Rebels, and the series finale found Thrawn and Ezra Bridger being dragged through hyperspace by a bunch of space whales to parts unknown. Filoni later confirmed that both Thrawn and Ezra survived this trip, meaning that the Grand Admiral is out there, somewhere, perhaps plotting his return.
Lars Mikkelsen (House of Cards) voiced Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars: Rebels, and honestly, he’d probably be a good fit for the live-action Thrawn as well, but for the purposes of this column, I’ll toss out some other suggestions for the role. In addition to his fearsome intellect, Thrawn is also quite adept at unarmed combat, making him a force to be reckoned with in all aspects. For my first pick, I’ll go with Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), who certainly has experience playing cool, calculating characters. Chiwetel Ejiofor (THE LION KING) would be another fine choice, and for my final suggestion, let’s go with Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery), who already has his foot in the franchise after voicing the Grand Inquisitor in Star Wars: Rebels.
Remember, you’re free to suggest anyone in the comments, so let your inner casting director run wild!
Previously on Cast This, you were asked to fill the roles of The Fantastic Four. As usual, you came through with plenty of great suggestions, with the favourites for Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), John Krasinski (Jack Ryan), and Kyle Chandler (GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS). As for Sue Storm/Invisible Woman, we’ve got Vanessa Kirby (HOBBS & SHAW), Sarah Gadon (True Detective), and Emily Blunt (MARY POPPINS RETURNS). Turning to Johnny Storm/Human Torch, you picked Lucas Hedges (BEN IS BACK), Joe Keery (Stranger Things), and Zac Efron (THE BEACH BUM). Finally, for Ben Grimm/The Thing, we’ve got Jon Bernthal (The Punisher), Joel Edgerton (BOY ERASED), and John Cena (BUMBLEBEE).