Calling about possibly appearing, and McDiarmid responded with a simple, “I haven’t been approached.” Considering how high-profile the film is, it seems like actors would be revealed early on. Daisy Ridley was confirmed to reappear in the movie at Star Wars Celebration earlier this week. Maybe McDiarmid’s involvement is being hidden, but pulling the same trick twice would be a bit silly.
While this means we probably won’t see Palpatine as we saw him in the sequels, it doesn’t completely rule out any Palpatine involvement. With Rey part of his bloodline, her continuing adventures could be paired with flashbacks to young Palpatine’s seduction by the Sith courtesy of Darth Plagueis. Or maybe she’ll just hear his voice in her head as she continues to be tempted by dark thoughts.
Matt Smith was tapped to play a role in the sequels before his scenes were cut, and fans speculated that he would have been a young Palpatine. In theory, this upcoming movie could revive and expand on that role. It would be interesting to see Rey’s rise as a Jedi leader and Palpatine’s rise as a Sith leader in parallel, and if executed well, it could justify Rise’s decision to tie the two together.
For now, however, fans can rest assured that Palpatine won’t “somehow return” yet again, at least not in his deformed clone form.