Star Wars: Recasting the original and prequel trilogies for the 2020s

Brie Larson/Will Smith/Tom Holland. Composite: Dork Side of the Force.
Brie Larson/Will Smith/Tom Holland. Composite: Dork Side of the Force. /
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Ken Watanabe
CANNES, FRANCE – OCTOBER 14: Ken Watanabe attends the opening ceremony of MIPCOM 2019 on October 14, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images) /

17. Ken Watanabe as Qui-Gon Jinn

There are many characters from the original and prequel trilogies that were only seen for a single movie, but still continued to have a lasting impact thanks both to the character and the actor portraying them. One of the prime examples is Qui-Gon Jinn, who Liam Neeson played in The Phantom Menace.

Prior to joining the cast of The Phantom Menace, Neeson’s resume already included Excalibur, The Bounty, The Mission, Next of Kin, Schindler’s List, and many other credits. After his appearance in the film, Neeson became an icon of action cinema with performances in Batman Begins and the Taken series.

When it came to Qui-Gon Jinn, he provided a calming but deadly serious presence that provided just enough willingness to bend or break the rules when he knew it was the right call. If someone else were to embody the character, the best pick would Ken Watanabe.

Watanabe is best known for his roles in Letters from Iwo Jima and his Academy Award-nominated performance in The Last Samurai, but he also joined Neeson in the cast of Batman Begins and has been in Inception, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, and Godzilla (2014). Watanabe can deliver a somber and responsible performance even in films that lean toward the absurd, and it’s this skill that would make him a perfect recasting choice for Qui-Gon Jinn.