THEN AND NOW: The cast of the 'Star Wars' prequels almost 16 years later

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Bryn Gelbart
·9 min read
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star wars prequels
Natalie Portman starred in the "Star Wars" prequel series. Lucasfilm; Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
  • "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" came out nearly 16 years ago.

  • Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, from the prequel trilogy, have gone on to successful careers.

  • Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher Lee had thriving careers before and after the films.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Hayden Christensen was a child actor on Canadian TV before starring in "Attack of the Clones" (2002).

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Hayden Christensen in "Revenge of the Sith." Lucasfilm

Hayden Christensen is best known for his performance as Anakin Skywalker in the "Star Wars" prequels, but he started his career on television.

Christensen's first role was in the German-Canadian series "Family Passions" (1993). He went on to appear on Canadian kids shows like YTV's "Goosebumps" and "Are You Afraid of the Dark" as well as Fox Family's Canadian-American drama "Higher Ground."

In between the release of "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" (2005), Christensen received critical acclaim for playing Stephen Glass in the biographical drama "Shattered Glass" (2003).

Christensen has continued his film career.

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Hayden Christensen at Disneyland's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Richard Harbaugh/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

Christensen has continued to act in movies such as "Jumper" (2008) and "American Heist" (2014).

More recently, he appeared in the rom-com "Little Italy" (2018) opposite Emma Roberts and starred in "The Last Man" (2019).

He also made brief voice cameos in the latest "Star Wars" film, "The Rise of Skywalker" (2019) and on a 2020 episode of Disney Plus' "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

The actor is set to play Darth Vader on the upcoming Disney Plus miniseries, "Obi-Wan Kenobi."

The "Star Wars" prequels helped boost Ewan McGregor to international fame.

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Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi. 20th Century Fox

Ewan McGregor is a Scottish actor who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the "Star Wars" prequels.

His first role was on the British TV mini-series "Lipstick on Your Collar" in 1993.

Other early work included his breakout film role in "Trainspotting" (1996) and his starring role in "Emma" (1996).

McGregor played Obi-Wan in all three prequels, starting with "The Phantom Menace" (1999). During that time, he was also nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in "Moulin Rouge" (2001) and starred in Tim Burton's "Big Fish" (2003).

McGregor has continued acting in films and on TV shows - and he's also done some directing.

ewan mcgregor
Ewan McGregor is an actor and director. Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

McGregor has found continued success in film. Among other credits, he starred in and made his directorial debut in "American Pastoral" (2016).

McGregor's most recent roles include Christopher Robin in "Christopher Robin" (2018), Danny Torrance in "Doctor Sleep" (2019), and Black Mask in "Birds of Prey" (2020). He also had a voice cameo in "The Rise of Skywalker."

On TV, McGregor played twin brothers on FX's "Fargo" in 2017, and he is currently set to reprise his role as Obi-Wan on the upcoming Disney Plus series based on the character.

Natalie Portman was a teenager when "The Phantom Menace" was filmed.

natalie portman star wars
Natalie Portman in "Attack of the Clones." 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

Before playing Padmé Amidala in "The Phantom Menace" (1999), Natalie Portman appeared in a few films, including her breakout role in "Léon: The Professional" (1994).

Portman continued her role as Padmé in both "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith."

Portman went on to win two Golden Globes and an Academy Award for her acting work.

natalie portman
Natalie Portman is a successful actress and director. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Portman has had a successful film career since the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy, with starring roles in films like "V for Vendetta" (2005), "The Other Boleyn Girl" (2008), and "Lucy in the Sky" (2019).

Portman also won an Oscar for her role in "Black Swan" (2010) and was nominated again for her role in the biopic "Jackie" (2016).

Portman joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in "Thor" (2011) as Jane Foster and continued the role in "Thor: Dark World" (2013) and "Avengers: Endgame" (2019).

She also made her feature-length directorial debut with the Israeli-American biographical drama "A Tale of Love and Darkness" (2015).

Portman is set to reprise her role as Jane in the upcoming film "Thor: Love and Thunder" and on Marvel's upcoming TV series "What If ...?"

Samuel L. Jackson was cast as Mace Windu at the height of his career.

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Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu. Lucasfilm

Samuel L. Jackson was already a household name when he was cast to play the lightsaber-wielding Jedi master Mace Windu.

Before joining the "Star Wars" universe in "The Phantom Menace," Jackson spent the 1990s starring in critically acclaimed films "Jurassic Park" (1993), "Pulp Fiction" (1994), and "Jackie Brown" (1997).

During his time working on the prequels, Jackson also starred in M. Night Shyamalan's "Unbreakable" (2000) and provided the voice of Frozone in Pixar's "The Incredibles" (2004).

Jackson has continued to work with long-time collaborators like Disney and Quentin Tarantino.

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Samuel L. Jackson is part of the MCU. Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Now, Jackson is probably best known for his recurring role as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

He reprised his role as Frozone in "Incredibles 2" (2018) and he reprised the role of Elijah Price in "Glass" (2019), the second sequel to "Unbreakable" (2000).

After "Pulp Fiction," Jackson starred in a few more Quentin Tarantino films, including "Django Unchained" (2012) and "The Hateful Eight" (2015).

His new movie "Spiral" is set to release in 2021, and he's also set to work on the upcoming Marvel Disney Plus series "What If ...?" and "Secret Invasion."

Liam Neeson was a memorable part of "The Phantom Menace."

Liam Neeson as Qui Gon Jinn in Star Wars
Liam Neeson in "The Phantom Menace." Lucasfilm

Liam Neeson was cast as Qui-Gon Jinn in "The Phantom Menace" after a decades-long career in film.

In the late 1990s, the Irish actor was best known for his Academy Award-nominated performance as Oskar Schindler in "Schindler's List" (1993).

Neeson has continued his extremely successful acting career.

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Liam Neeson is an Oscar-nominated actor. Jimmy Olsen/MediaPunch ***NO SPAIN*** /IPX

His success in "Star Wars" opened doors to other roles in action and sci-fi movies, like "Batman Begins" (2005), "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012), "The Chronicles of Narnia" series, and the "Taken" series.

He also went on to appear in the crime thriller "Widows" (2018) and the sci-fi sequel "Men in Black: International" (2019). And he made a voice cameo in "The Rise of Skywalker."

Most recently, the actor starred in "Made in Italy" (2020), "Honest Thief" (2020), and "The Marksman" (2021).

Keira Knightley made a brief appearance in "The Phantom Menace."

Kiera Knightley Phantom Menace
Keira Knightley in "The Phantom Menace." LucasFilm

Keira Knightley had a small role as Padmé's decoy in "The Phantom Menace."

This was one of the actress' first film roles.

Knightley is now an Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated actress.

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Keira Knightley was nominated for her roles in "Pride and Prejudice" and "The Imitation Game." Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Knightley didn't really rise to fame until her role as Elizabeth Swann in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl"(2003).

However not long after her "Star Wars" and "Pirates" roles, Knightley was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice" (2005).

In the years since, Knightley has found success in period-piece dramas like "Anna Karenina" (2012) and "Colette" (2018).

Her most recent credits include the drama "The Aftermath" (2019) and the historical drama "Misbehaviour" (2020).

Jimmy Smits is a TV actor who played Senator Bail Organa in the prequels.

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Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa. 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

Jimmy Smits made it big on TV as Victor Sifuentes on NBC's "LA Law" from 1986 to 1992 and Detective Bobby Simone on ABC's "NYPD Blue" from 1994 to 2004.

Smits was introduced as Bail Organa in "Attack of the Clones" and was brought back for "Revenge of the Sith."

After "Star Wars," Smits continued his successful TV career.

jimmy smits
Jimmy Smits is a successful TV actor. Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Not long after the prequels, Smits had a main role on the NBC political drama "The West Wing," and he has recently had featured roles on FX's "Sons of Anarchy" and ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder."

He also reprised the role of Organa in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (2016), and he recently played The Wizard in "The Tax Collector" (2020).

Smits is set to play Kevin Rosario in the upcoming film adaptation of the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical "In the Heights."

Christopher Lee joined "Star Wars" as Count Dooku in "Attack of the Clones."

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Christopher Lee as Count Dooku. Lucasfilm/"Attack of the Clones"

British actor Christopher Lee spent decades playing monsters and villains in British horror films.

Before "Star Wars," he was well known for his take on Dracula in Hammer Film Productions' "Dracula" films throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

While doing "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," Lee was also playing Saruman in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, beginning with "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001).

Lee continued his successful acting career well into his 90s.

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Christopher Lee died in 2015 at the age of 93. Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Lee had a long-time working relationship with Tim Burton. After the "Star Wars" prequels, he appeared in many of the director's movies, including "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005) and "Alice in Wonderland" (2010).

He also returned as the voice of Count Dooku in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (2008) and continued to reprise his role in the "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" series through "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" (2014).

His final feature-film credit was as the voice of The Boss/Mr. President in "Angels in Notting Hill" (2015).

In 2015, Lee died after experiencing complications with congestive heart failure at 93 years old.

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