Ian McDiarmid

Why Do People Hate Ian McDiarmid?

Ian McDiarmid is a famous Scottish theatre and film actor known for playing Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious in the Star Wars film franchise.

However, despite his acclaimed performances as one of cinema’s most iconic villains, McDiarmid has been targeted by some fans with hate and harassment. This article explores the possible reasons behind the animosity towards this talented actor.

Portrayal of an Evil Character

As the scheming Emperor Palpatine and his Sith alter ego Darth Sidious, Ian McDiarmid played an incredibly evil character hellbent on galactic domination. He excelled in these villainous roles across three Star Wars trilogy films as well as in TV shows, video games and more.

However, some fans seem to have taken an extreme dislike towards him merely for how convincingly he depicted sheer malice and cruelty on screen. Since Palpatine and Sidious are utterly remorseless and stand for the complete opposite of what heroes like Luke Skywalker represent, some viewers’ hatred for those characters appears to have bled over to the actor himself.

Typecasting Due to the Role

Ian McDiarmid is so iconic as Darth Sidious and Emperor Palpatine that he has become heavily typecast due to those roles. He has over 160 acting credits but is still best known only for his Star Wars villain character decades later.

As a result, some fans may feel an irrational resentment towards McDiarmid simply for so strongly reminding them of the despised Star Wars baddie every time they see him. His incredible acting range becomes overlooked.

Misdirected Feelings About Character Actions

Star Wars evokes passion in its fans, and Palpatine’s vile actions – like corrupting Anakin Skywalker into becoming Darth Vader or trying to turn Luke to the dark side – anger many deeply.

As the actor who played Palpatine, some fans’ hatred for the character’s misdeeds spills onto Ian McDiarmid himself. They wrongly think that he somehow chose or approved of the crimes against beloved fictional heroes, misdirecting their feelings about Palpatine’s actions towards the real person playing the role.

Excellent Acting Skills

Perversely, another root cause for animosity aimed at Ian McDiarmid relates to his stellar acting abilities in the Star Wars films. He so thoroughly embodied the Evil Emperor role that the insidiousness, cruelty and pure vileness displayed still elicits a visceral reaction from viewers decades later.

For some, that ability to compellingly personify abject evil and ruthlessness may even be creepy or threatening. McDiarmid’s superb acting indirectly fosters resentment from some who feel deeply unsettled by his small-screen domination.

Guilt By On-Screen Association

Despite layering complexity into his performances, Palpatine ultimately represents domineering evil in the Star Wars universe. By closely associating with such a power-hungry tyrant figure through acting, Ian McDiarmid suffers guilt by association for some fans.

They incorrectly transfer their hatred of the fictional Emperor’s hunger for control and oppression onto McDiarmid, even though he merely played a role as an actor. Just being so closely tied to Palpatine through performance alone attracts irrational loathing.

Public Bleedover of Fictional Evil Onto Actor

Among extreme Star Wars fans, bleedover sometimes happens where the line between fictional events in the movies and real life starts blurring. In Ian McDiarmid’s case, the evil cruelty associated with Emperor Palpatine has bled over to direct nasty treatment of him at conventions and in person by some disturbed “fans”.

They seem incapable of separating the actual actor from the iconic fictional villain character he has portrayed so well on-screen. So their hatred irrationally transfers to insulting, attacking and threatening violence towards McDiarmid himself at public appearances. This remains the ugliest manifestation of misdirected animosity around his acting excellence in the role.

Jealousy Over Career-Defining Role

For almost any actor, the opportunity to be immortalized playing a central, career-defining role in one of history’s biggest film franchises would be the peak of good fortune. As the emblematic Star Wars villain across decades, Ian McDiarmid secured rare Hollywood glory.

However for some jealous fans though, his incredibly good luck at landing the lucrative, high-profile Emperor Palpatine role fosters undeserved resentment. With acting being such a difficult, competitive career where few succeed, his ease at sliding into an all-time iconic character attracts envious hatred that overlooks his hard work.

Why Does Ian McDiarmid Have Haters When He is Talented?

Ian McDiarmid clearly has extraordinary acting talents – he compellingly depicts subtle nuances across the spectrum from restrained political mastermind as Palpatine to unrestrained megalomania as Darth Sidious.

His theatrical background allows him to mesmerizingly hold the screen. So with such obvious gifts, why would anyone hate the skilled professional for merely doing quality acting work?

Public Confusion Between Actor and Role

The most irrational McDiarmid haters are those who wrongly blame the actor for actions committed by Emperor Palpatine. But in reality, those were creative choices by George Lucas during scriptwriting or directing on-set – not something Ian himself decided.

Any anger over Palpatine’s misdeeds should be aimed at the fictional character, not transferred onto the real person who only acted out the role as written. McDiarmid shouldn’t receive hatred for events in a imaginary universe he didn’t create and has no control over.

People Who Can’t Separate Fact From Fiction

Highly delusional, obsessive fans may even stalk or physically attack McDiarmid at public events due to their inability to distinguish reality from the Star Wars fantasy world. They wrongly see him as responsible for Emperor Palpatine’s immoral decisions.

But hating on the actor makes zero logical sense and only reveals a pathetic, warped worldview. Ian McDiarmid has no parallel identity as a real ruthless, power-hungry galactic tyrant. He simply played a part in exchange for a paycheck like any actor would.

Publicity and Attention Seeking

Another disingenuous reason people performatively declare their hatred for Ian McDiarmid as an actor is simply to draw attention. In the social media age outrage fuels visibility. By hyperbolically announcing animosity for McDiarmid related to his indelible Star Wars acting, publicity-seekers cynically grab focus.

But such exaggerated, bad-faith hating on him essentially amounts to trolling. It shows an ulterior motive of personally capitalizing on McDiarmid’s fame for clicks rather than sincerely feeling hostility about his undisputed talents on-screen.

Why Do Most People Actually Respect Ian McDiarmid’s Portrayal Despite Playing Villains?

Ian McDiarmid so iconically defined the ultimate Star Wars villain over multiple decades that his creative legacy stretches to global pop culture prominence few actors ever achieve. Far from warranting irrational hatred, his skill at embedding Emperor Palpatine as the saga’s embodiment of evil warrants profound respect.

Challenging To Sustain Villain Nuances

Rather than cheap one-note performances, McDiarmid fleshed out Palpatine and Sidious with unsettling depth. His acting maintained their sinister essence across films released over more than 20 actual years – a feat requiring extraordinary talent to sustain.

Intelligence and Restraint Showcased

Ian added clever layers showing how Palpatine hid cunning machinations behind a veneer of political respectability and restraint. This made the Emperor feel more realistically threatening rather than a simplistic bad caricature, benefiting the franchise.

Table 1: Darth Sidious vs Emperor Palpatine Contrasts in Ian McDiarmid’s Acting

Darth SidiousEmperor Palpatine
Unrestrained megaolmaniaFeigned reasonableness
Pure evil with no disguiseSuperficial charm concealing ruthlessness
Sadistic glee in attacking enemiesCalculating long-term strategy
Symbol of the dark side’s powerPretense of nobility as Chancellor/President

This table shows how Ian McDiarmid skillfully modulated his acting choices to depict the two sides of his iconic character. As the public politician Palpatine had to seem respectable rather than a monster, while privately as Sidious he could directly relish evil without restraint.

What Statements Has Ian McDiarmid Made About Dealing With Hate From Fans?

Despite irrational hatred directed his way by some fans unable to separate actor from role, Ian McDiarmid himself has shown grace under fire when discussing the topic.

On Harassment At Events

“Most fans are perfectly charming…Just occasionally there is someone who has managed to escape [a mental institution] who finds their way to a science fiction convention, but there’s not always somebody around to welcome them appropriately.”

Here he downplays and pokes fun at bad fan behavior while showing generous empathy about potential mental health issues.

On Physical Threats

“Occasionally people want to hit me…It must be some rivalry with the character or something…Maybe we should set up some sort of booth where people can vent their spleen.”

In this quote McDiarmid highlights the ridiculousness of fans threatening on-screen characters manifesting in real life. He would rather let them release pent-up fictional frustration harmlessly than spark genuine conflict.

On Resentment Over Career-Defining Role

Asked in a Reddit AMA whether other actors feel envy or resentment over him landing the career-making Palpatine role, McDiarmid graciously replied:

“I haven’t really met any actors who resent the success of others – actors tend to be very supportive of fellow professionals.”

This generous assumption of good intent from fellow actors dodges the question’s negativity. It shows McDiarmid avoids self-pity or bitterness over the likely jealousy others privately feel regarding his claim to fame.


In closing, Ian McDiarmid clearly faces entirely undeserved hatred and harassment from a small, irrational fringe of Star Wars fandom who wrongly blame the accomplished actor for imaginary misdeeds committed by fictional characters he compellingly brought to life.

Their inability to distinguish fantasy from reality exposes their own embarrassing delusions rather than any fault on McDiarmid’s part. Far more fans rightfully express deep admiration for how this hugely gifted performer utterly defined the quintessential Star Wars villain over many years through layered, nuanced acting.

His theatrical background enabled him to tap into stunning emotional range in portraying both the political duplicity of Emperor Palpatine as well as the unrestrained megalomania of Darth Sidious so memorably.

Ian McDiarmid’s extensive career includes many non-Star Wars roles in acclaimed films, television and stage productions. But his indelible legacy remains etching the diabolical Emperor figure into global pop culture forever.

For the imagination, skill and enduring dedication this required to sustain over multiple decades across half a dozen movies, he deserves great respect rather than misguided hatred.

The irrational few who attack McDiarmid reveal only their own mental instability and ignorance, not any failing on the actor’s part. By contrast he has shown exceptional grace under fire when sometimes facing dramatic hostility related to inhabiting his career-defining character.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did George Lucas cast Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine?

George Lucas chose Ian McDiarmid to first play Emperor Palpatine in 1983’s Return of the Jedi because he wanted a lesser-known theatrical actor who could compellingly handle the role’s complexity over time if the saga continued. They had met years earlier when McDiarmid performed at Lucas’ university, foreshadowing the later partnership.

How was Ian McDiarmid treated by Star Wars fans early on?

In the 1980s McDiarmid was fairly anonymous to fans so could attend conventions freely, but over time he became too famous as Palpatine post-prequel trilogy. As the iconic villain’s primary face, some fringe fans started irrationally harassing him at public events.

Did Ian McDiarmid expect to play Emperor Palpatine as long as he did?

No, George Lucas originally hired Ian McDiarmid only for a single scene in 1983’s Return of the Jedi with no guarantees about reprising the role later on. In interviews McDiarmid expresses surprise that Lucas kept bringing him back over so many years until Palpatine became an integral, recurring character across multiple Star Wars trilogy movies plus other media.

Has Ian McDiarmid struggled to find non-Star Wars acting roles?

Yes, McDiarmid has discussed frustrations getting typecast. In a Reddit AMA he joked he wouldn’t mind if Emperor Palpatine died for good if it might help broaden the future acting roles he is offered. But he also expresses deep appreciation and fortune over landing such an iconic part.

What Star Wars fan interactions does Ian McDiarmid enjoy the most?

While harassment from irrational fans is unacceptable, in multiple interviews McDiarmid seems to cherish his connections to most well-adjusted admirers of his performances, especially children encountering the Star Wars magic. Those positive experiences counterbalance dealing with delusional haters at the fringes.

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