One of the newcomers to the cast of Star Wars: Episode IX is Richard E. Grant, and some fans almost instantly noticed that he bears some resemblance to Grand Admiral Thrawn – provided you give him blue skin and red eyes.
But what was a far-fetched fan theory will not turn into anything more than that. In an interview with the Radio Times recently (and picked up by other media outlets), Grant gave a clear denial that he’s playing Thrawn.
“I’m not playing the Star Wars character you just mentioned,” he said, when asked if he’s playing Thrawn. “I’m not allowed to tell you anything. Otherwise I would be fired. It’s a complete lockdown on any information whatsoever.”
It always seemed like an unlikely situation anyway, for numerous reasons. First of all, Lars Mikkelsen was absolutely terrific as the voice of Thrawn in Rebels, so it would make more sense to cast Mikkelsen for the character (or at least the voice). Secondly, Thrawn would be quite old by Episode IX (though, to be fair, we don’t exactly know the average life span for Chiss or Thrawn’s exact age). And third, they would have to find a compelling reason storywise for Thrawn being involved with the First Order. It would not at all be surprising to learn that Thrawn had a role in the very beginnings of the First Order, but we also must caution that against what we know of Thrawn: he is not pure evil and hatred like other villains; he is principled and methodical; and he will have split allegiances, also loyal to the Chiss. For him to join a terrorist organization like the First Order would require a clear and compelling reason – likely regarding the protection and well-being of his people. All of this is to say that Thrawn joining the First Order isn’t as easy or natural of a pairing as many fans might think. Just because Thrawn is a villain doesn’t mean that he’d go along with anything the bad guys do. That’s an important distinction.
So anyway, it’s not really a surprise that Grant isn’t playing Thrawn. I’m sure there are plenty more stories to tell about Thrawn in the Star Wars canon and I can’t wait for that, but it’s unlikely to be in Episode IX.