'Star Wars: The Force Awakens': The Original Actors Then & Now (PHOTOS)

Zayda Rivera | Dec 12, 2015 Movies

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is igniting a new fire in fans eagerly awaiting the film's release on December 18 -- even as the film's plot and details about characters and costumes have been shrouded in unprecedented secrecy

We do know that while the new chapter boasts fresh faces, veterans like Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill, who all appeared in first movie -- 1977's Star Wars (later renamed Episode IV: A New Hope) -- are back to fight for interstellar peace and justice. Here's a look at what the six returning actors have been up to since making history nearly 40 years ago.

 

Image via Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

  • Harrison Ford/Han Solo: Then

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    Image via LucasFilm.Ltd

    As the smart-aleck pilot of the Millennium Falcon spaceship, smuggler Han Solo was only supposed to transport members of the Rebel Alliance from one planet to another. But he inevitably becomes involved in their cause. The character became an audience favorite and made the scene-stealing Harrison Ford a star.

     

  • Harrison Ford: Now

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    Image via Photo Image Press/Splash News/Corbis

    His portrayal of Han Solo set the bar for cool action heroes, and Ford himself went on to achieve massive success with action and dramatic films, including the Indiana Jones series and The Fugitive. A licensed pilot in real life, he will reprise his role as Solo, and says that while the character may be "older and wiser, his bones are the same."

  • Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia: Then

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    Image via Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

    Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia was an onscreen pioneer; she carved a path for fearless heroines that kick butt while looking amazing in futuristic side buns. As the leader of the Rebel Alliance, Princess Leia could get down in hand-to-hand combat. Though the role catapulted her to fame, Fisher once said she wished the character had been written with "a little more nuance."

  • Carrie Fisher: Now

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    Image via Xavier Collin/Image Press

    Since bringing Princess to life on the big screen ("I am the beginning of girl power. Deal with it!" she recently said), Fisher has added "bestselling author" and "outspoken advocate for mental health" to her resume (she has bipolar disorder). In The Force Awakens, she is known as General Organa, who is still committed to her cause, but feeling "somewhat defeated, tired, and pissed," Fisher says.

  • Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker: Then

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    Image via LucasFilm.Ltd

    Mark Hamill has Freddy Krueger to thank for getting cast as Luke Skywalker—sorta. It was his friend Robert Englund (who plays Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street series) who told Hamill about the Star Wars auditions and felt he would be perfect for the movie's hero, a young man destined to be a Jedi but fighting for the rebellion. 

  • Mark Hamill: Now

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    Image via Corbis

    Hamill's iconic potrayal of Luke -- and the movie's megasuccess -- were a gift and a curse. After the original Star Wars trilogy, his career never gained the traction that Harrison Ford's did, though he later became a prolific voice actor. He dropped 50 lbs for his role in The Force Awakens, and though he narrates the trailer, his role remains a mystery.

  • Peter Mayhew/Chewbacca: Then

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    Image via Frank Lennon/Toronto Star/Getty

    A veritable giant who stands seven-and-a-half feet, Peter Mayhew was cast as Chewbacca after a nationwide search. But he did more than sit next to Harrison Ford's Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon. Mayhew turned Chewbacca one of the most loved hairy creatures on the big screen, by miraculously conveying a wide range of emotions with just his movements and trademark roar.

  • Peter Mayhew: Now

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    Image via Mark Doyle/Splash News/Corbis

    Mayhew has never stopped playing Chewbacca, regularly suiting up for charity events over the years. Chewie returns to fight and roar adorably in the The Force Awakens. Mayhew says he felt "a wonderful camaraderie on the set," especially between him and Ford, who is a longtime friend.

  • Anthony Daniels/C-3PO: Then

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    Image via Central Press/Getty

    British actor Anthony Daniels seemed to channel a proper English butler as C-3PO, a humanoid droid who was often fussy and worry-prone. C-3PO had over six million forms of communication and always found himself unexpectedly involved in pivotal moments of galactic history. 

  • Anthony Daniels: Now

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    Image via Mario Anzuoni/Corbis

    Daniels is one of two original cast members to appear in all seven Star Wars movies, including The Force Awakens. That means he's donned the metal suit over a span of four decades. "People say, 'What's it like going back to C-3PO?'" Daniels recently said. "Well, I never left him." 

  • Kenny Baker/R2-D2: Then

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    Image via Express Newspapers/Getty 

    A circus performer-turned-actor who stands at just under four feet, Kenny Baker played R2-D2, the bleeping robot with a surprisingly spunky and adventurous attitude. R2-D2 extinguished fires, projected holograms, repaired starships -- and resonated with fans instantly.

  • Kenny Baker: Now

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    Image via Mark Doyle/Splash News/Corbis

    Baker, who has been in every Star Wars film, has continued to act occasionally in other projects and is a regular at sci-fi conventions. He will proudly suit up as R2-D2 again, as the droid continues trying to save the day. 

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