Palpatine is one of the most important and iconic characters in the “Star Wars” universe. Over the years, the character has been seen as a Senator, and later, the Supreme Chancellor. He is ultimately revealed to be the evil Sith Lord Darth Sidious, and eventually becomes Emperor Palpatine when the Galactic Republic falls. Several actors have played the role of Palpatine in the “Star Wars” universe over the years. The most well-known name is Ian McDiarmid, who first played the Emperor in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi”, and reprised the role for 2019’s “Rise of Skywalker”. He also played Senator Palpatine in “The Phantom Menace” and the other prequel films. The actor was also retroactively added to “The Empire Strikes Back” when the first three “Star Wars” films were released on DVD in 2004. McDiarmid was used to digitally replace the original theatrical footage of the Emperor used in the original cut, according to CNN.
But there’s another actor named Ian who played the role of Palpatine. Actor Ian Abercrombie may not have played Palpatine on screen, but he voiced the character of Chancellor Palpatine in several “Star Wars” video games, as well on the much-loved “Clone Wars” animated series from 2008 to 2014. Abercrombie passed away in 2012, with ScreenRant clarifying that the actor’s voice was heard in posthumously in later seasons of the show. Curious about how this noted character actor and voiceover talent passed away? Here’s what you need to know.
Actor Ian Abercrombie’s Cause of Death Was Kidney Failure
According to the LA Times, actor Ian Abercrombie’s cause of death in 2012 was kidney failure. The Times cited “friend Cathy Lind Hayes” as their source. Prior to his death, the actor had been diagnosed with lymphoma. It was not clear in the Times report exactly what type of lymphoma the actor had been diagnosed with.
According to the Lymphoma Research Foundation, the disease is the most common type of blood cancer, with the cancer generally taking one of three major forms. The three broad categories of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. According to a video the foundation released on YouTube, someone is diagnosed with lymphoma in the United States every five minutes, on average. According to the Mayo Clinic, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is far more common than Hodgkin lymphoma. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website explains that the “Hodgkin” in the name of these two diseases comes from Dr. Thomas Hodgkin, who studied cancers of the lymph nodes in the 1830s. In the past, the condition was referred to as Hodgkin’s Disease.
An episode of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” that aired after Abercrombie’s death featured a small tribute to the departed actor. IMDB notes that the credits for the episode “The Lawless” a tribute in blue text to the former Palpatine/Sidious voice actor, which read simply: “in memory of Ian Abercrombie”. That episode aired in 2013, about a year after the actor passed away. According to IMDB, both Ian McDiarmid and actor Tim Curry voiced Palpatine/Darth Sidious in “Clone Wars” episodes after Abercrombie’s passing. McDiarmid also voiced Palpatine in “Star Wars Rebels“, another animated “Star Wars” spin-off series.
Other notable 21st century deaths of “Star Wars” actors include Peter Mayhew, who died of a heart attack, as well as Darth Vader actor David Prowse, who passed after contracting COVID-19. “Star Wars: Episode 4: A New Hope” actor William Hootkins, who played the pilot Porkins, passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2005.
Ian Abercrombie Was Also Known for Roles on ‘Seinfeld’ & ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’
Abercrombie’s IMDB page lists 182 acting credits over the course of his career. Beyond “Star Wars”, Abercrombie was known to fans of Seinfeld as Mr. Pitt, Elaine’s annoying and persnickety boss who would do things like eat a Snickers bar with a knife and fork. He was also instantly recognizable to younger viewers, thanks to a recurring role as Professor Crumbs on “The Wizards of Waverly Place”. Crumbs was the former headmaster of the wizard school at the center of the series. The actor also played Batman’s iconic butler, Alfred, on the short-lived series “Birds of Prey“. Fans of “How I Met Your Mother” may also recall the episode “The Goat” in which Abercrombie played Ben Franklin.
In addition to his role in the “The Clone Wars” series, the actor voiced Palpatine in tie-in video games like “Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Republic Heroes” and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels“. Abercrombie was also a part of another major sci-fi franchise. He is also known to fans of “Star Trek: Voyager” for two roles across the series’ seven-season run. He appeared as Milo in the episode “Spirit Folk” and as Abbot in “Someone to Watch Over Me”.
“When I was a kid growing up in England, I went to the movies quite a bit…I always remember looking out for the supporting character actors. They seemed to be far more interesting to me than the stars,” the BBC reported, quoting statements Abercrombie made in 1998 to CNN. That CNN article is no longer available online. According to the Independent, the actor was born in Essex, England, and left to find work in America at the age of 17. At the time of his passing, Abercrombie was wed to his second wife, Gladys. His IMDB bio notes that his first wife was actress and costumer Elizabeth Romano.
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