Ian McDiarmid (born August 11, 1944) is a Scottish character actor and director. He is well known for his film and television appearances, but is perhaps most famous for his chilling performance as Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars films.
He earned a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of St. Andrews, but eventually found that his calling was in theatre. He went to the Royal Academy in Glasgow, where he received the prestigious gold medal for his work. He now has a highly successful career as a theatre director, and from 1990 until his retirement in 2001, was Joint Artistic Director of London's Almeida Theatre in Islington. He and his co-director Jonathan Kent (no, not that one) revived the Almeida and persuaded many Hollywood stars (including Kevin Spacey, Ralph Fiennes and Anna Friel) to tread the boards in their humble theatre. They won the coveted London Evening Standard Award in 1998 for their efforts.
As mentioned above, he is renowned for his work in British theatre, having won plaudits as an actor and director from a wide variety of sources. He has starred in a variety of Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, Ross and the Porter in Trevor Nunn's 1976 TV adaptation of Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice and King Lear. Other theater roles include the title role in Timon of Athens, Ivanov in Tom Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Harry Hackamore in Sam Shepard's play Seduced. He has also acted in several television programmes such as City of Vice (which also got a browser game tie-in called Bow Street Runner).
Tropes relating to the man and his work:
- Beware the Nice Ones: Don't be that Star Wars fan, OK? Just...don't.
- Carpet of Virility: He might actually be part Wookie.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: "When I discovered what it was, I knew I was one, for better or worse. I was just, 'Oh! That's what I am!' And that's the only thing I've been certain about in my life: I'm an actor."
- Dyeing for Your Art: In Sam Shepard's Seduced, McDiarmid's own description of his character Hackamore was a "Howard Hughes-type". To play the part, he was made-up in prosthetics, including a false beard and long fingernails. McDiarmid was only 37 at the time, and this convinced George Lucas and Richard Marquand that he could convincingly play a much older character in extreme cinematic close-up, which helped him land the role of Palpatine.
- For his Tony Award-winning turn in the revival of Faith Healer, he sported badly-dyed ginger hair. Ironic, as he actually was a ginger before his hair turned white.
- Fiery Redhead: Really, seriously averted. Or possibly not, if Anthony Daniels is to be believed...
- Guttural Growler: This, coupled with his tendency to be a Large Ham, is why he rocks as an actor.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Jonathan Kent: It is often assumed that they are lovers, but they are not. "We're great friends. I suppose kindred spirits is the phrase.".
- Image Source: And yes, all as Palpatine.
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Even though there's an "a" in there, it's pronounced "McDirmid".
- Large Ham: Other than Palpatine, he has a high tendency in Chewing the Scenery.
- Playing Gertrude: He's actually much younger than Palpatine in the Original Star Wars Trilogy, a role he ended up playing because George Lucas's casting director saw him in Seduced doing the same.
- Star-Making Role: For mainstream audiences, it's definitely Palpatine.
- Stupid Sexy Flanders: Ralph Fiennes apparently has beautiful eyes!