The Star Wars movies have always been thoroughly seeded with hidden cameos and Easter eggs by filmmaker pals, franchise royalty, and celebrity superfans sneaking their way into the canon of the galaxy’s most epic franchise, and J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens is no different. In fact, pop culture worlds collide even more than usual in the series re-quel-boot, which gets a few Lost crossovers, a buzzy dash of 007, and more insidery castings straight out of the sprawling Abramsverse.
If you’ve already seen Episode VII, you probably caught some of these familiar faces and voices—and if not, may the force and this spoiler warning be with you.
Going into the December 18th release it was well-known that SIMON PEGG had filmed a cameo in The Force Awakens for Abrams after starring for the director-producer’s Mission: Impossible and Star Trek reboots. Pegg can be seen and heard under layers of Crolute flesh as Unkar Plutt, the Jakku junk dealer who trades rations for spare parts and sends a few thugs to steal BB-8 from Daisy Ridley’s Rey.
Fans also have Pegg to thank for first spilling the beans on The Force Awakens’ funniest guest appearance. “I wasn’t a stormtrooper. DANIEL CRAIG, he was a stormtrooper,” he blabbed in May, seemingly confirming rumors that Star Wars fan Craig would be cameoing in Episode VII. The blond Bond even flatly denied the rumor to EW, saying, “Why would I ever bother doing something like that? F---ing hell! Pffft. Play an extra in another movie.”
But according to EW writer Chris Lee, multiple sources confirmed that 007 did indeed pop over to the Star Wars set while filming Spectre nearby at London’s Pinewood Studios. Not only that, his cameo is as a stormtrooper guard who tangles with Rey in one of the film’s most memorable scenes (the Jedi Mind Trick sequence that frees her from capture)—although you never see his face.
The biggest cameos in The Force Awakens aren’t seen but heard, as Abrams recently revealed, in the form of three Star Wars icons who make aural appearances in Rey’s dream sequence. You can hear them as the Force calls to the newly awakened heroine in Maz Kanata’s basement and sees visions of Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren, and her own childhood.“You do hear a little bit of Yoda,” Abrams told EW, adding that Yoda legend FRANK OZ recorded new lines for The Force Awakens that weren’t used (but might be in Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII). “You hear Luke yelling out, ‘Nooo!’ from that moment in Empire. And you hear Obi-Wan at the end say, ‘Rey … these are your first steps.”
Even cooler: The Obi-Wan line came courtesy of not one, but two Kenobis: ALEC GUINNESS, whose archival utterance of the word “afraid” was cleverly edited into Abrams’ dream delivery of the name ‘Rey,’ and his prequel counterpart EWAN MCGREGOR, who recorded the rest.
“So when you hear Obi-Wan talk to Rey it is both Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor doing the voice,” said Abrams.
Another famous Abrams bro, GREG GRUNBERG, starred in the director’s home movies way back when. The Heroes thesp surprised nobody when he revealed last year that he has a cameo role in The Force Awakens, since he made his break-out turn in the Abrams-produced series’ Felicity and Alias, and has appeared or lent his voice to a half-dozen other J.J. productions. In The Force Awakens, he gets to live a geek dream as Snap Wexley, a Resistance fighter from a piloting family who’s part of Poe Dameron’s Starkiller Base attack squad.
Grunberg, who also played the pilot on the Abrams-produced Lost, is joined in the Resistance by another Lostie—KEN LEUNG, who played DHARMA spawn Miles. Here he’s Admiral Statura, a member of the rebel force set on taking down the First Order.
Action diehards should recognize the Indonesian stars of Gareth Evans’ The Raid and The Raid 2 in Han and Chewbacca’s showdown with two rival gangs who come calling for repayment on a loan—only to meet the vicious ends of a couple of Rathtars. YAYAN RUHIAN—aka Mad Dog from The Raid—gets to taunt Solo as Kanjaklub leader Tasu Leech, while IKO UWAIS sports some otherworldly coiffure as the whimsically-named Razoo Quin-Fee. The pair served double duty on The Force Awakens as credited fight choreographers on said Millennium Falcon sequence, which also boasts Raid 2 standout CECEP A. RAHMAN.
Geeks of another sort will spot Dowager Lady Shackleton of Downton Abbey tending to Chewbacca and his ego as Dr. Kalonia—or as the stage and screen veteran is known IRL, DAME HARRIET WALTER. (Fun fact: Walter is also the niece of another Star Wars icon, Sir Christopher Lee—Count Dooku himself.)
The Resistance is chock full of cameos from British stars and Star Wars fam, including Carrie Fisher’s own daughter, BILLIE LOURD. The young actress shares the screen with her mother a few times at Resistance headquarters playing Lieutenant Connix, an officer in Leia’s new rebel army. (Abrams also cast his own dad, Emmy nominated producer GERRY ABRAMS, as a character named Count Cypress—and named Oscar Isaac’s X-wing pilot after his onetime personal assistant, Morgan Dameron, whose Star Wars name is, appropriately enough, Commodore Meta.)
Meanwhile, those adorable bleeps and blurps coming out of BB-8? They come courtesy of Saturday Night Live’s BILL HADER and BEN SCHWARTZ, aka Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation. The latter had worked with Abrams on NBC’s very short-lived series Undercovers; both are credited as “BB-8 Voice Consultants” in the final film. BB-8—as in Bill and Ben?
Over on the Dark Side, the fascist-like First Order is populated with sinister-sounding Brits. The Maze Runner’s THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER turns in a one-liner as an officer of the First Order, one of several Game of Thrones stars to pop up in The Force Awakens alongside Gwendoline Christie’s Chrome Trooper Captain Phasma. (See also: JESSICA HENWICK, Season 5 and 6’s Nymeria Sand, who battles in an X-wing as one of the Resistance’s female pilots; MILTOS YEROLEMOU, who played GoT’s Syrio Forel and also gave Eddie Redmayne his sexual reassignment surgery this awards season in The Danish Girl; MARK STANLEY, who played Night’s Watch ranger Grenn but is hard to spot as an unnamed Kylo Ren disciple; and MAX VON SYDOW, who’s joining GoT as one of Season 6’s big name additions.)
And then there are the fun, random cameos that you’d never know existed otherwise. Longtime Abrams composer MICHAEL GIACCHINO dons a stormtrooper costume as a First Order soldier named FN-3181, while Radiohead recording producer NIGEL GODRICH plays stormtooper FN-9330.
Abrams had even more musical surprises up his sleeve. The LA Philharmonic’s own dashing music director GUSTAVO DUDAMEL came in to guest-conduct portions of John Williams’ Force Awakens score in secrecy. And those cantina-esque ditties blaring in Maz Kanata’s space pirate bar come courtesy of Hamilton composer-star and expert freestyler LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, who sang alongside Abrams in Huttese on jams titled “Jabba Flow” and “Dobra Doompa.”
Meanwhile, The Force Awakens also played host to the voice cast of its popular animated prequel series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Listen closely for the voice work of Clone Wars stars Tom Kane, Meredith Salenger (yes, Natty Gann herself), Catherine Taber, Sam Witwer, Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taber, and director Dave Filoni.
They’re credited with contributing “additional voices” to The Force Awakens—as is allegedly one KEVIN SMITH, the cult filmmaker behind Clerks and Chasing Amy, who told fans last year at Comic-Con how his NDA-protected visit to the Pinewood set of Episode VII brought him to tears. The waterworks began, he revealed, as he got to board Han Solo’s iconic Corellian freighter.
“I was on the Millennium Falcon, and it was so emotional I started crying,” he said, speaking for Star Wars fans everywhere, celebrity or otherwise. “It was beautiful. It was emotional. And if [J.J.] captures one percent of what I went through on the Millennium Falcon…it will make a gazillion bucks and be the highest-grossing movie of all time because it is a direct doorway to our childhood.”