When you're making a new Star Wars film, you have every resource available to you. And, judging by the sheer volume of people who showed up to provide acting, voice acting, musical, and other talents to The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams took advantage of them all.
Mild Force Awakens spoilers follow.
Despite the movie coming out months ago, it feels like we're still constantly finding out that familiar names contributed to The Force Awakens. Rather than
These are the people that got a lot of notice when The Force Awakens first came out. People watching Star Wars news like hawks probably already know these, but casual fans may not. Either way, they start off this list to prevent anyone from rushing to the comments to yell, "I can't believe you forgot so-and-so!"
Simon Pegg as Unkar Plutt
Pegg's involvement was confirmed early on, but it wasn't until The Force Awakens that we discovered Pegg was stuffed into a giant suit to play Unkar Plutt, the junk-boss of Jakku.
Greg Grunberg as Snap Wexley
It was probably never in doubt that Grunberg, JJ Abrams' childhood friend and good luck charm. would be part of TFA. Grunberg pops up in pretty much every Abrams project, and this was no exception. He played X-Wing pilot Snap Wexley, a character with a backstory detailed in the tie-in novel Aftermath.
Billie Lourd as Lt. Connix
Carrie Fisher's daughter can be seen in the background of the Resistance base on D'Qar. As Lt. Connix, Lourd sports a rather familiar hairstyle.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as First Order Petty Officer Thanisson
Brodie-Sangster, resplendent in a First Order uniform, is pretty recognisable as Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones. (Also Maze Runner and Phineas and Ferb) He is not the only person from Game of Thrones to appear on this list.
Jessica Henwick as Jessika Pava
Speaking of: Nymeria Sand herself shows up in The Force Awakens. Henwick plays a character with a voluminous number of names. Wookiepedia lists her as Jessika Pava, "also known as Jess or Testor," so let's go with that. Jess is another X-Wing pilot, Blue Three, from the Starkiller assault.
Ken Leung as Admiral Statura
From the vast company of people who have worked on Abrams productions before, Leung was Miles on Lost, but he is beloved by us for being Leon on Person of Interest. He shows up to help plan the assault on Starkiller.
Dame Harriet Walter as Dr. Kalonia
Downton Abbey's Lady Shackleton showed up to help patch up Chewbacca. In a vaguely patronizing way, I felt. Incidentally, Walter is also the niece of Christopher "Count Dooku" Lee.
The Less Obvious
Yayan Ruhian, Iko Uwais, and Cecep Arif Rahman as Tasu Leech, Razoo Qin-Fee and Crokind Shand
These The Raid cast members showed up as members of Kanjiklub, one of the pirate groups Han Solo owed money to. Because of course he owes money. He always owes money. Ruhian and Uwais were both also credited as fight choreographers on the film.
Brian Vernel as Bala-Tik
On the other side of Solo was Bala-Tik of the Guavian Death Gang, played by The Last Kingdom's Odda the Younger.
Stefan Grube as Yolo Ziff
Grube not only edited together the trailer for The Force Awakens, he also appeared as, what else? An X-Wing pilot. Grube's Yolo Ziff was the pilot to notice the hole in the thermal oscillator created by the team on Starkiller.
Mark Stanley as a Knight of Ren
Yet another Game of Thrones alum, Stanley played Grenn there and played one of the Knights of Ren.
Emun Elliott as Brance
Game of Thrones strikes again, as Elliot played Marillion in that show and was one of the pilots in Prometheus. In The Force Awakens, Elliot played a member of the resistance with one line: "A laser cannon?"
Andrew Jack as Caluan Ematt
You might not know his name, but you have probably heard his work. Jack has over one hundred credits as a dialect coach, including on The Force Awakens and Rogue One. In the movie, Jack plays Ematt, an officer who fought in the original Galactic Civil War and was recruited into the Resistance. The character appeared in both junior novels released for Force Friday, Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure and Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure.
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Maz Kanata's Castle
After Stormtroopers, and next to X-Wing pilots, the patrons of Maz Kanata's also hold a number of surprises. And, if past experience with Mos Eisley is any indication, each one of them will have a story written about them in the tie-in materials.
Warwick Davis as Wollivan
Davis, with his long career, returns to the Star Wars franchise after playing the Ewok Wicket in Return of the Jedi and three separate characters in The Phantom Menace to play the phallus-faced Wollivan in Maz Kanata's place.
Miltos Yerolemou as a bar patron
And we're right back to Game of Thrones with Yerolemou, who was Arya's fan favourite sword instructor Syrio Forel. He showed up somewhere in the hubbub of Maz Kanata's.
Judah Friedlander as a bar patron
Another one who hasn't been specifically identified is 30 Rock's Friedlander, also hanging out at the bar.
D.C. Barnes as a bar patron
Remember the Force for Change contest? Donating to Unicef entered fans in a raffle to win a walk-on role in The Force Awakens. The winner was D.C. Barnes, whose prize put him in a black cloak in the bar.
Hey, did the laughing gamers sound familiar to anyone? They should have, since Dodson provided their laugh and also voiced the screeching nightmare/Jabba pet Salacious Crumb.
Salenger's voice is probably best known to fans as Barriss Offee's. But she also voiced a Resistance technician who interrupts Leia.
Dee Bradley Baker
Probably not a shock that the voice actor who played a number of clone troopers on Clone Wars and Rebels — most notably Cody and Rex — also showed up in Episode VII. A number of voice actors from the animated shows got a chance to be in this film, but only one got the coveted role of "Alien Villager at gunpoint from two stormtroopers (Yells and Screams)." Congrats, Baker.
Also from that group is Taber, who provided Padmé Amidala's voice. She was the First Order officer who tells Hux the weapon is charging.
The animated voice of Yoda split his time between being a control room technician on Starkiller and a Hosnian watching that base's weapons streak through the sky at his system.
Friends and Family
A few people close to the cast and crew found themselves in the film.
J.J. Abrams' assistant Morgan Dameron as Commodore Meta
As recompense for stealing her last name for Poe Dameron, J.J. Abrams' assistant was in the film with the winkiest of winky names with "Meta."
Gerry Abrams as Captain Cypress
The director's father played a Resistance captain in the film.
Oscar Isaac's uncle
On The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Oscar Isaac told the story about how he brought his uncle, a huge Star Wars fan to set. His uncle showed up with t-shirts for everyone and Abrams offered him a background role. A blurry photo on Jimmy Kimmel showed that Isaac's uncle is somewhere in the First Order attack on Jakku.
Want to cameo in Star Wars? Be a stormtrooper. Literally anyone can be a stormtrooper.
At this point, it's pretty well-known that the stormtrooper that Rey gets one over on was played by Daniel Craig.
Composer and longtime Abrams collaborator Michael Giacchino didn't get to score the film. But he did appear in a stormtrooper costume as FN-3181.
Another musical stormtrooper was Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, whose designation was FN-9330.
The professional freerunner and parkour artist known as "Piptrix" leant his skills to a Sony Spider-Man commercial before playing a stormtrooper. Not only is he credited as "lead stormtrooper," Anderson's stormtrooper is FN-2003 ("Slip"), a friend of Poe's from the Before the Awakening anthology.
Force Awakens sound editor Matthew Wood posted a list of lines and who read them (including that a few actor cameos are going to stay secret for a bit). In that list, he revealed a ton of stormtroopers, including Smith. The super-nerd podcaster and director voiced a stormtrooper in the assault on Takodana. He has the single line, "We have incoming at 28.6! Move!"
The man who voiced Darth Maul and Palpatine in The Clone Wars and Rebels was all over The Force Awakens. He voiced stormtroopers on Jakku, Takodana, and Starkiller. He also voiced few PA announcements on a Star Destroyer and on the radio when Poe and Finn steal a TIE.
James Arnold Taylor
Continuing this run on voice actors from the animated shows, Taylor's switched sides. In the animated world, he's Obi-Wan Kenobi; in live-action, he's a number of Stormtroopers.
And here comes Anakin! Lanter voiced Stormtroopers on Takodana and Starkiller. Also, he reacted to Unkar Plutt offering 60 portions for BB-8 with "high-pitched" noises.
Tatasciore played Tarpals on Clone Wars and Boss Yushyn on Rebels. In The Force Awakens he gets to put Finn into custody.
The prolific Lego Star Wars voice actor also showed up as a stormtrooper.
The sound editor and other members of the sound team provided a bunch of needed voices to the film. Wood has impressive range, playing stormtroopers, scavengers, hired thugs, the death yells of the Guavian Death Gang, Big Head offering work to Finn, and the X-Wing pilot/Beastie Boys shout-out Ello Asty.
Tim Rose and Erik Bauersfeld (voice)
Admiral Ackbar appeared very briefly in The Force Awakens, and the original Return of the Jedi actors returned to once again bring the immortal trap announcer to life.
Mike Quinn and Kipsang Rotich (voice)
The same deal with Nien Nunb, as both his original body and voice returned to cameo in The Force Awakens and to fly a snubfighter.
Ewan McGregor, Frank Oz, and Alec Guiness
After the movie came out, we learned that Rey's vision wasn't just old footage and dialogue. McGregor and Oz recorded fresh vocals for the sequence, while Guiness saying "afraid" was cut to him saying, "Rey." Unfortunately for all of us, a bunch of brand new lines recorded by Oz were eventually cut.
Kiran Shah as Teedo
In Return of the Jedi, Kiran Shah was an Ewok stunt double and the droid crushed to death in Jabba's palace. He returned to play Teedo the scavenger in The Force Awakens. Rey saves BB-8 from him.
The behind-the-scenes help
Not all familiar or important people played Star Wars characters. There were also a number of behind-the-scenes work.
Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz as BB-8 voice consultants
Giving BB-8 a personality was apparently more work than you'd think. Schwartz told Slate that he recorded lines that were what he thought BB-8 would "say" in each scene into a microphone hooked up to Abrams' computer. Hader was a little more direct, telling Hitfix that his role consisted of, "JJ fucking around with this sound effects app on his iPad that was attached to a talk box operated by me. It looked ridiculous but it made BB-8's voice." Just trying to do a droid voice sounded too "human."
Creator and star of the Broadway juggernaut Hamilton provided the music and vocals for Maz Kanata's bar. It all came about because Miranda jokingly told Abrams that if there was a cantina scene to let him know. Miranda told Vulture he composed it with Abrams, "We had one sort of music file that we shared back-and-forth. I'd write stuff, and then he'd add stuff, and I'd take away some of his stuff and add some of mine. It was a joyous collaboration."
The music director of the LA Philharmonic stopped by the scoring stage to conduct the opening and closing titles for John Williams. I remember thinking, 'He's joking,'" Dudamel said.
Phil Tippett and his team for holochess
Visual effects legend and walking meme Phil Tippett created the original stop-motion animation for the dejarik holochess game in A New Hope. So when the board was reactivated in The Force Awakens, Tippett and his team was on hand once again.