One of the most popular Time Lords on Doctor Who could be invading the galaxy of Star Wars, but then again, maybe not. Since 2018, one casting rumor has insisted that Matt Smith will appear in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in an unspecified role. But, since then, things have gotten complicated. When questioned outright early in 2019, Smith said cryptically, “As far as I can tell, I’m definitely not.” This has lead to rampant speculation that he’s been removed from the movie, or is intentionally being evasive to hide a big Emperor-sized spoiler
Then, certain non-English language Star Wars websites listed Matt Smith in the cast, making this whole thing trickier than figuring out various wibbly-wobbly Doctor Who plots! So what’s going on? Is Matt Smith in The Rise of Skywalker? Was he ever? If so, who is he playing and why is it all so weird?
Here are six ways to solve the Matt Smith Star Wars riddle, complete with what we actually know, plus some speculation. So, possible spoilers might be ahead! You’ve been warned!
6. The Whole Thing Was Just a Rumor
What if there’s just zero validity to this? There have been rumors for years that Idris Elba would play the next James Bond, but that doesn’t mean there’s ever been an offer made. Instead, like Elba as Bond, thinking of Matt Smith in Star Wars might just be wishful thinking on the part of fans of both Doctor Who and Star Wars. In 2010, no one would have predicted that Doctor Who co-star Karen Gillan would be in Guardians of the Galaxy, and then go on to be a huge part of the Marvel movies. No more than anyone could have predicted Robert Pattinson would be Batman or an actor in a small role opposite Pattison in Harry Potter 4 (David Tennant) would be cast in Doctor Who. Fan-casting can lead to weird rumors, but that doesn’t mean those things are real. And our reality is often stranger than what can ever be predicted.
5. Matt Smith Was in Talks to Be in the Movie but Never Filmed Scenes
Before the Star Wars prequels happened, rumors persisted in the late ‘90s that Leonardo DiCaprio would play Anakin Skywalker. Now, though DiCaprio did take a meeting with Lucas at some point, the idea that he was ever going to be in a Star Wars movie ended pretty quickly because it just never happened. (Obviously.) Did Matt Smith take a similar meeting? Maybe. But, relative to Matt Smith and The Rise of Skywalker, this could be something similar; there was serious talk of the actor being in the movie, but it just never happened.
The reason Smith was bugged about it by the press and was accidentally being listed on IMDb sites is just a product of how a game of telephone works in 2019. This happened with Eddie Murphy in 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, too. He was going to be in an early version of the movie but the deal never happened, and then in 1987, Murphy explained the whole thing to the magazine Starlog. So, look for an interview with Matt Smith (maybe on Inverse!) in like 2021, where he clears this all up.
4. Matt Smith Filmed Confidential Scenes, but They’ve Been Cut
Remember when model and up-and-coming actress Koo Stark was listed in the cast for Star Wars: Episode IV and everyone speculated about her mysterious role? No. Of course you don’t. Koo Stark filmed scenes for the first Star Wars film as Camie, one of Luke’s crushes on Tatooine and a woman who hung out at the Tosche Station. (You know, where you get those power converters?) Stark’s involvement was such a big deal that Carrie Fisher mentions hanging out with her in her various memoirs, including The Princess Diarist. And although Camie is semi-canonical — she showed up in a dream sequence in The Last Jedi novelization in 2018 — most people aren’t even aware Koo Stark was ever in the movie. Her scenes on Tatooine with Biggs (Garrick Hagon) never made it into the movie. With Rise of Skywalker, Matt Smith could be the Koo Stark of 2019. Not a love interest from Luke Skywalker, but hey, maybe!
3. Matt Smith Is in the Movie, but We Never See His Face
The biggest piece of the Matt Smith-Star Wars puzzle is in the phrasing of his comment of denial: “As far as I can tell, I’m definitely not.” If this comment implies he was involved in the movie, perhaps the “as far as I can tell” comment is connected to the fact that no one will know he’s in the movie because we don’t see his face. If true, this would dovetail nicely with the idea that Matt Smith is one of the Knights of Ren and hidden under a helmet. Or, if Smith is indeed playing a younger version of the Emperor, perhaps his face is literally unrecognizable because of CGI manipulation. Guy Henry “played” Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, but the CGI on Henry’s face made the character just look like the late Peter Cushing. Ditto for Ingvild Deila playing a CGI Leia in the same movie.
When you consider that Emperor Palpatine can put his hologram over the faces of some of his servants, the idea that Matt Smith’s face could be obscured in Rise of Skywalker gets even more possible! Plus, though this fact didn’t come out until way later, actor Robert Boulter totally filmed scenes as Luke Skywalker in a flashback scene in The Force Awakens. Presumably, had this scene been kept, audiences wouldn’t have seen Boulter’s face all that well to make us believe it was really young Mark Hamill.
2. Matt Smith Is Playing the Young Emperor and It’s a Secret
If Matt Smith has been (or was) cast to play a legacy character — like a young Palpatine — part of the secrecy could be connected to the identity of the character. The hows and whys of Palpatine’s return are a huge part of the mystery about the The Rise of Skywalker, meaning if Smith has stepped into that role (and robe!), keeping it vague in the press would be essential to preserving spoilers.
1. He’s Playing Rey’s Dad
We don’t know what will happen with Rey’s parents, but Abrams has gone on record saying there is “more to the story,” and Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has said he’s cool with that. This means more about Rey’s parents will almost certainly figure into The Rise of Skywalker, which leads us back to Matt Smith.
Here’s one guess that could weirdly answer all the questions at the same time: Maybe Matt Smith plays Rey’s dad in a flashback. If you think about this visually for one second, it totally works. Everyone would buy that Daisy Ridley is related to Matt Smith on some level. If this turns out to be true, keeping the role a secret would be huge. But, more interestingly, what if Matt Smith was cast to play Rey’s dad, filmed scenes, and those scenes were cut? This would explain him saying, “As far as I can tell, I’m definitely not.” And because of what a big deal that role could be, this would also explain why he can’t talk about it more than that.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the Search for Matt Smith is out everywhere on December 20, 2019.