And a few weeks ago they thought they’d cracked it after Grant liked a tweet suggesting he was playing Grand Admiral Thrawn, an Imperial soldier who appeared in Star Wars’ expanded universe of tie-in novels before becoming part of hit animated series Star Wars Rebels in the last few years (after the books he was part of were removed from Star Wars canon).
Grant seemed a good fit for the coldly tactical Thrawn (assuming he made himself look a bit more blue), and after his interaction with the fan who suggested it many others began to consider the matter closed – but now the actor has thrown it all into doubt by stoutly denying that he’s playing the Grand Admiral in the new edition of Radio Times .
“I’m not playing the Star Wars character you just mentioned,” Grant tells Radio Times when asked how he’s preparing for the role of Thrawn.
“I’m not allowed to tell you anything. Otherwise I would be fired.
“It’s a complete lockdown on any information whatsoever,” he concluded.
Sounds pretty emphatic – and while it’s possible he’s just putting fans off the scent, when we think about it, it does seem more likely that Grant will portray some newly-created character, especially considering the number of familiar faces (including the late Carrie Fisher via archive material) that are already coming back for Episode IX.
Plus, while Thrawn is popular with many die-hard Star Wars fans – the early 90s Heir to the Empire book trilogy in which he appears as the main protagonist is often credited with revitalising the Star Wars universe years after Return of the Jedi had left cinemas – he doesn’t have much name recognition for the wider audience (even Star Wars Rebels is relatively niche) making his inclusion little more than an Easter Egg.
Still, who knows? Maybe instead director JJ Abrams could tempt actor Lars Mikkelsen (who plays Thrawn in Rebels) to portray him on the big screen instead, while also following in the footsteps of his brother Mads (who had a major role in 2016’s Rogue One).
Unlikely, sure – but from the sounds of it, about as likely as Grant playing Thrawn at this stage.
You can read the full interview with Richard E Grant in the latest issue of Radio Times, in shops and on the newsstand from Tuesday 21st August