Star Wars Actors Who Have Tragically Passed Away

"Star Wars" is probably the most passionately-enjoyed pop cultural franchise of all time, and inarguably one of the longest-lasting and most lucrative at the global box office— which makes for a headline-grabbing tragedy whenever a cast member dies. The numerous movies set in the impossible-to-hate "Star Wars" universe that took place "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," according to its signature opening crawl, have entertained and delighted millions of fans since 1977. Three complete trilogies, a few big-screen spinoffs, and multiple series for Disney+ later, the epic saga has made stars out of a lucky few and utilized the acting services of hundreds of actors, many of whom have passed on.

At least their work will likely live on forever and continue to be appreciated by fans who will always fondly associate them with their "Star Wars" roles. Here are all the major "Star Wars" players who have sadly died.

Carrie Fisher

An author of humorous memoirs and comical fiction that laid bare her life-long issues with mental illness and addiction, Carrie Fisher was also an in-demand joke writer for Hollywood awards shows and penned the screenplay to movies like "Postcards from the Edge." But Fisher became ultra-famous for her breakout movie role in 1977's "Star Wars: A New Hope": Princess Leia Organa. An Alderaan royal, battle general, and Rebel Alliance figurehead, Leia appeared throughout the "Star Wars" franchise, with Fisher reprising the role in "The Empire Strikes Back," "Return of the Jedi," "The Force Awakens," and "The Last Jedi."

On December 23, 2016, Fisher was a passenger on a flight headed for Los Angeles when she had a cardiac arrest. Taken to a hospital immediately upon landing, Fisher died four days later. A coroner's office attributed her death to sleep apnea, but Fisher also had heart disease, and many drugs were present in her system when she passed, including opiates, alcohol, cocaine, and ecstasy. Fisher was 60 years old. 

"No words #devastated," Fisher's "Star Wars" costar Mark Hamill wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. Fisher's mother, classic Hollywood actor Debbie Reynolds, had a stroke and died the day after her daughter did. "She wanted to be with Carrie," son Todd Fisher said to Variety.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction or mental health issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Peter Mayhew

"Star Wars" just wouldn't have been the same without its unique science-fiction characters, particularly Chewbacca. The exceptionally tall, fur-covered, bandolier-rocking Wookiee spoke in a vocabulary of growls and wails seemingly understood only by his co-pilot and best friend, Han Solo. One of the main figures in the first "Star Wars" trilogy and the Rebel movement, Chewbacca also figured prominently in "The Star Wars Holiday Special," "Revenge of the Sith," and "The Force Awakens." Every time, he was portrayed by actor Peter Mayhew, enveloped in a costume and mask. Much of Mayhew's resume outside of "Star Wars" consists of cameo appearances as Chewbacca, but the actor also popped up in projects like "Killer Ink" and "Yesterday Was a LIe."

Health issues forced Mayhew to stop playing Chewbacca, ceding the role to actor Joonas Suotamo shortly before he had spinal surgery in 2018, intended to restore his ability to comfortably walk and move around. Less than a year later, his health would take another downturn. In a statement issued on the Peter Mayhew Foundation's account on X, formerly known as Twitter, Mayhew's family announced that the actor had died at his home in Texas on April 30, 2019, at age 74.

Kenny Baker

Probably not recognizable out of costume, Kenny Baker nevertheless portrayed one of pop culture's favorite robots, or droids, as they're known in "Star Wars" — R2-D2, bleeping and blooping his way across the galaxy as a constant companion to C-3PO and ally of the Rebel Alliance. Baker occupied the sophisticated R2-D2 costume in the first six "Star Wars" movies, although Baker initially turned down the "Star Wars" role — three times, in fact — because, as he told The Hollywood Reporter, he'd "rather not be stuck in a robot." While most famous for "Star Wars," Baker also co-starred in more dramatic material, like  "Amadeus," and in the '80s fantasy staples "Labyrinth" and "Willow."

Baker's final years were marred with health issues. "He had problems with his lungs and was often in a wheelchair. He was very poorly for a long time," Baker's niece, Abigail Shield, told The Guardian. He was invited to the Los Angeles premiere of "The Force Awakens" in 2015, but doctors said he was too sick to make the trip. Baker's agent, Johnny Mans, told the Los Angeles Times that his client died on August 13, 2016." Baker was discovered dead by his nephew, at his home in Preston, England. The actor was 81 years old.

Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing appeared in just one "Star Wars" movie, but his was a pivotal role in the very first film in the series. Cushing portrayed Grand Moff Tarkin, the vicious, military-minded officer who oversaw the creation of the evil Empire's deadly Death Star, which he uses to destroy Princess Leia's home planet of Alderaan (and then quickly dies when that very same Death Star explodes). In the decades before "Star Wars," Cushing was a B-movie legend, portraying Baron Frankenstein in "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell" and "Frankenstein Created Woman." He also led the casts of "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors," "The House That Dripped Blood," and had a small part in the Best Picture-winning 1948 film version of "Hamlet."

In 1982, Cushing checked into a U.K. hospital's emergency room with an eye that had swollen to three times its healthy size. Doctors diagnosed that as a symptom of prostate cancer, and predicted that he might live for only another year to 18 months. Eschewing cancer-treating surgery or chemotherapy, Cushing lived another 12 years, spending his final days in a hospice care facility in Canterbury, England. He passed away on August 11, 1994, at the age of 81.

Alec Guinness

Sir Alec Guinness brought an air of class and respectability to 1977's "Star Wars: A New Hope," the first entry in the still-unproven "Star Wars" franchise. He was rewarded for his gravitas-oozing performance of Jedi master Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi, too, as he's the only actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for their performance in a "Star Wars" movie. By the time he portrayed the mentor to the heroic Luke Skywalker in three "Star Wars" films, Guinness was already a luminary in the U.K., with roles in classics like "Lawrence of Arabia," "Doctor Zhivago," and "The Bridge on the River Kwai," which won Guinness the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Late in the evening of August 5, 2000, Guinness died in a medical facility in West Sussex, England, six months after doctors had diagnosed the actor with prostate cancer. The emergence of complications led to his doctors' discovery that the cancer had spread to the liver, and Guinness died two days later. He was 86 years old.

David Prowse

A former Jedi Knight enchanted by The Force and its wicked darker elements, the Sith Lord named Darth Vader led the Empire, devoting himself to destroying the Jedi and the Rebel Alliance and building a Death Star. One of the most iconic movie villains ever (and a gargoyle at the National Cathedral), Darth Vader required the efforts of three actors to make such an indelible impression in "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back," and "Return of the Jedi." With James Earl Jones recording the voice of Darth Vader, David Prowse played him in his physical form, his identity concealed under a black suit of armor, cape, and helmet. The latter was removed briefly upon the character's defeat and death in "Return of the Jedi," revealing the third actor, Sebastian Shaw.

Prowse, a 1960s British Weightlifting Champion, specialized in playing physically imposing characters, including a bodyguard in "A Clockwork Orange," and the title monster in "The Horror of Frankenstein." In 2018, Prowse was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and two years later, he got sick again. He died on November 28, 2020, with no cause given to reporters. Prowse's daughter, Rachel, told the media that her father had died after contracting the COVID-19 virus. Prowse was 85 years old.

Christopher Lee

Sir Christopher Lee took on important roles in numerous major science-fiction, action, fantasy, and horror franchises. He joined the Hammer Films horror studio in the 1950s, portraying The Creature in "The Curse of Frankenstein," the Mummy in "The Mummy," and Count Dracula in eight films. Also playing villain Scaramanga in the James Bond movie "The Man with the Golden Gun" and Sherlock Holmes in a string of TV movies, Lee later appeared in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy as evil sorcerer Saruman. Concurrently, Lee was part of the cast of the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy, portraying Count Dooku. A major villain in "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," Count Dooku is a Jedi who takes a turn to the Dark Side, becoming the self-serving and megalomaniacal Sith Lord Darth Tyranus.

Birgit Kroencke, Lee's wife of more than 50 years, didn't inform the media of her husband's death until four days after it happened. She wanted to personally inform the actor's relatives and close associates first. Following a stay in the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London for heart failure and serious respiratory issues, Lee passed away on June 7, 2015. He was 93.

Michael Culver

In "The Empire Strikes Back," Captain Needa served as commander of the Avenger, part of the fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers that sought to destroy the Rebel Alliance in its uncovered headquarters on the ice planet Hoth. Needa gave chase to the Millennium Falcon, only for it to escape from his clutches. It fell on him to admit his failure to Darth Vader, and for losing track of such a key piece of the Rebel Alliance, Needa paid with his life.

Portraying that significant supporting "Star Wars" figure was a highlight in the 50-year screen career of Michael Culver. Also appearing in dozens of British television dramas, as well as "Secret Army" and "A Passage to India," Culver semi-retired from acting around 2000 to spend more time championing political causes. He still made appearances at "Star Wars" events and sci-fi conventions well into his eighties. Culver's talent representation firm, Alliance Agents, announced on social media that Culver died on Tuesday 27, 2024. Culver was 85 years old.

Max Von Sydow

Max Von Sydow enjoyed a long, varied, and acclaimed acting career, and one of the last roles he took on, along with the Three-Eyed Raven on "Game of Thrones," was Lor San Tekka in the "Star Wars" franchise reboot "The Force Awakens." A seasoned galactic explorer with ties to the Resistance and the New Republic, San Tekka assisted Luke Skywalker in obtaining crucial Jedi information before retiring to the planet Jakku. Although Princess Leia tried to protect San Tekka, he was still murdered by power-mad villain Kylo Ren.

"The Force Awakens" capped an acting life that included major science fiction like "Flash Gordon," Oscar-nominated fare including "Pelle the Conqueror," and influential Ingmar Berman movies, namely "The Seventh Seal." On March 9, 2020, Von Sydow's wife, Catherine, confirmed the death of her husband at his house in Provence, France. The actor was 90 years old.

Joonas Suotamo, who portrayed Chewbacca in the "Star Wars" movies after Peter Mayhew's retirement, memorialized his costar on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Even with his many achievements, he seemed so enthusiastic about his part in the new trilogy. My thoughts go to his family and friends."

Ray Stevenson

Northern Ireland-born actor Ray Stevenson developed into an intense action star in the 2000s. He played the martyred knight Dagonet in the big-budget blockbuster adaptation of the legendary "King Arthur," which may have helped perpetuate false facts, and then the titular violent avenger in "Punisher: War Zone." Stevenson joined the MCU as the warrior Volstagg for the three "Thor" movies, and then contributed in different ways to multiple "Star Wars" properties. He gave his voice to fearsome Mandalorian warrior Gar Saxon in two episodes each of the animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Star Wars: Rebels." One of the last projects Stevenson starred in before his death was the 2023 Disney+ series "Ahsoka," featuring the actor in a main cast role as trustworthy soldier of fortune Baylan Skoll.

While working on the film "Cassino in Ischia" on location on the Italian island of Ischia on May 21, 2023, Stevenson suddenly and unexpectedly fell ill and he was quickly sent to a local medical facility. The actor passed away later that day, his publicist told Variety, at the age of 58. Stevenson's "Ahsoka" costar, Rosario Dawson, told People that the actor contained multitudes: "very heavy-handed and then just like the most gentle, brilliant, like, loving divine feminine spirit."

Jeremy Bulloch

Boba Fett, a bounty hunter of few words who almost never takes off his helmet, such is the custom for Mandalorians, became a favorite among "Star Wars" fans despite his scant screen time in vintage entries. Boba Fett, a clone of bounty hunter Jango Fett, officially debuted in animated form in 1978's "The Star Wars Holiday," and popped up throughout 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back" and 1983's "Return of the Jedi" in pursuit of Han Solo, only to wind up presumed dead in Tatooine's notorious Sarlacc pit.

The human beneath all that Mandalorian armor: Jeremy Bulloch. The U.K.-born actor started booking appearances on television series as a teenager in the late 1950s, and would act on dozens of programs before landing a part in the main cast for more than 200 episodes of '60s-era serialized drama "The Newcomers." In 2005, Bulloch returned to "Star Wars," showing his face as Captain Colton in "Revenge of the Sith."

Long after a Parkinson's disease diagnosis, Bulloch died from complications of the degenerative neurological condition. Bulloch's agents announced the death on the day it occurred: December 17, 2020. The actor was 75 years old.

Carl Weathers

Carl Weathers is probably best known for another long-running franchise that began with a blockbuster movie in the 1970s: the "Rocky" series. In the original 1976 "Rocky," Weathers portrayed boxer-turned-mentor Apollo Creed, a role he reprised in three hit sequels. Weathers starred in the '80s action movies "Predator" and "Action Jackson" and the comedy "Happy Gilmore," then played a cheapskate version of himself on "Arrested Development." On Disney+'s "Star Wars" spinoff series "The Mandalorian," Weathers recurred as Greef Karga, a magistrate, bounty hunter, and associate of the title character. Weathers would receive his first and only Emmy Award nomination (for Guest Actor in a Drama Series) for "The Mandalorian," which would turn out to be his last acting role.

Weathers' family reported that the actor passed away on February 1, 2024, from heart disease. Weathers was 76 and is one of many notable '00s sitcom stars who have died tragically. "He was a hero from my childhood who I was lucky enough to meet and then had the amazing good fortune to work with," "The Mandalorian" creator Jon Favreau wrote of Weathers on the "Star Wars" website.

Alfie Curtis

"You just watch yourself. We're wanted men. I have the death sentence on 12 systems," Dr. Evazan fearsomely remarks while introducing himself and a crony in the raucous Mos Eisley Cantina in 1977's "Star Wars." A disgraced doctor turned smuggler, as according to Star Wars canon, Dr. Evazan also carried out monstrous medical experiments before trying to intimidate an overwhelmed Luke Skywalker, throwing him through a table only to meet his comeuppance at the end of a lightsaber wielded by a protective Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Actor Alfie Curtis made his presence known in that brief sequence, one entry in a career full of appearances as tough guys. Apart from "Star Wars," Curtis also landed supporting roles in "The Elephant Man" and played one of the violent goons in A-ha's music video "Take on Me" shortly before his retirement from acting in 1986. In December 2017, Curtis died at his home in the U.K. The actor was 87.

Don Henderson

A well-connected, high-born elite, General Tagge held the post of chief of military operations on the first Death Star in "Star Wars: A New Hope." Privately resentful of the battleship's construction and one of the few officers who considered the Rebel Alliance a real problem, Tagge managed to avoid death on the exploded Death Star after the Emperor, to whom he was a loyal underling, moved him elsewhere with a promotion to Grand General.

A member of the illustrious Royal Shakespeare Company, Don Henderson racked up more than 100 screen credits. Along with his work as General Tagge in "Star Wars," Henderson was best known for portraying detective George Bulman in three different programs: "The XYY Man," "Strangers," and "Bulman." Seventeen years after he was first diagnosed with throat cancer, an ordeal which left heavy scarring on the actor's neck, Henderson passed away in Warwick, England, on June 22, 1997. The prolific British actor was 65 years old.

Michael Sheard

Darth Vader is one of cinema's all-time cruelest villains, exemplified by his preferred manner of execution. When even his high-ranking subordinates displease him, he chokes them to death without touching them, using The Force to kill. This is how a Galactic Republic officer, Admiral Kendal Ozzel, dies in "The Empire Strikes Back," punished for mistakes made surrounding the Empire's attack on Hoth's Rebel Alliance base. Michael Sheard nailed that harrowing death scene with just one attempt. "It's perfectly true. I used to be known as 'One take Mike,'" Sheard told interviewer John Jagwani.

The Scottish actor was otherwise best known for portraying mean teacher Maurice Bronson on the British youth soap "Grange Hill," and for portraying the truly messed up Adolf Hitler five times, notably in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." On August 31, 2005, Sheard died on the Isle of Wight in the U.K. The cause of death was cancer, and the actor was 65.

Peter Sumner

A character actor who hosted the long-running Australian children's program "Play School," and landed mostly small roles in dozens of Australian television series from the 1960s until the mid-2010s, Peter Sumner can stake out one particular claim to fame: He was the sole Australian to appear in the original "Star Wars" from 1977. He was on the set for just two days, but he delivered the memorable line, "TK-421, do you copy?" Despite his brief screen time, Sumner's character got a canonical name and rank: Lieutenant Pol Treidum, officer on the Death Star. Sumner rode that part to numerous appearances at science-fiction conventions. 

Sumner had lucked out on the gig, in the middle of a family trip to England, where at the time "Star Wars" was filming, and his agent said they needed him and could pay £60 per day of shooting — a large sum to the working actor just scraping by. Sumner passed away in Australia in November 2016, after a long period of sickness. The actor was 74.