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Castin the EU: Thrawn

It’s Tim from Open-Airlock Policy back with the finale in the Heir to the Empire casting exercise...as if the film had been produced in the early 90s. The novel was published in 1991. Thirty years later, and we’re still celebrating not only its great storytelling and characterizations, but its achievement in rekindling the Star Wars phenomenon. Author Timothy Zahn was able to capture the original magic of the universe while adding new elements that blended well with the established lore. This included new archetypes as characters. The greatest of them, by far, was the new villain: Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn was portrayed as a mysterious alien that had come to take control of remaining Imperial forces. Far from a typical Imperial officer, he used brilliant tactics devised by the intense examination of art. He formed and executed strategic plans to recapture lost territories and bring defeat after defeat to the New Republic. He was cold, calculating, and logical, yet not devoid of emotion.

We’ve mentioned before that Thrawn had to have been based on Sherlock Holmes, with Pellaeon as the Watson. In a prior casting call we chose a Watson portrayer for Pellaeon. Does this mean Thrawn will be an actor who had portrayed Holmes, perhaps Jeremy Brett? No. The choice for Pellaeon was near perfect for the reasons stated in the article. What about the name that has been bandied about for as long as I can remember: Jeremy Irons. Nope.

For the role of the blue-skinned alien grand admiral, I turn to lesser-known but accomplished actor Duncan Regehr. A native Albertan, Mr. Regehr would be schooled in Shakespearean stagecraft, developing an extremely convincing English accent. At the time, he would have been a fantasy/sci-fi veteran, having taken on roles in Wizards and Warriors (see clip below), V, and Disney’s Earth Star Voyager. From 1990-1993, he played the titular role of Zorro. He would go on to appear on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in a recurring role. I have had Duncan Regehr in mind for many years due to my appreciation for his excellent portrayal of Dracula in Monster Squad.

Not only would he have the look with a tall stature and sharp features, but his ability to sound convincingly Imperial and project genuine confidence and logic would check all the required boxes for the role. Just listen to him in the Wizards and Warriors clip! I need a scene between him and David Burke as Pellaeon!

Mr. Regehr is a dynamic actor with the ability to take on any role. He was vastly underrated and underappreciated in his prime. This fact is a blessing for our purposes, as a lesser-known actor would come in without any preconceived notions or typecast attached to them.

An interesting note is that Duncan Regehr is an artist. Just read this quote from him: I have always worked to express in a direct, intimate way what it means to be human. Exploring below the surface continues to reveal intensely personal content that invites reciprocal identification by the viewer. The business of scumbling and scraping applications of paint, in order to bring forth an image, can be likened to the process of therapeutically peeling back layers of the psyche and the imagination in order to expose truth.

Who would you cast as Thrawn in an early 90s film?


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