Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn was one of the most visible faces during the buildup to 1999 Star Wars Prequel Trilogy launcher The Phantom Menace, contemporaneously plastered—like the notorious Jar Jar Binks—across all forms of ephemera, knickknacks, toys, and even Pepsi cans. Yet, despite the character’s key role in a spiritual concept crucial to the Prequel storyline, his presence in the mythology all but vanished after Episode I. However, the upcoming Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series could remedy that—emphasis for now on “could.”
Of course, Qui-Gon was killed at the end of The Phantom Menace, but the idea of Neeson’s onscreen return as the character—presumably as a Force ghost—has been a topic of much speculation ever since. However, for reasons that were never quite confirmed, said return never happened in the follow-up films, leaving one of many cited Prequel Trilogy plot holes.
Interestingly, Neeson was recently asked about a prospective onscreen Star Wars return in an interview with Collider. While citing the voice work he’s put in, notably for animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Neeson confirms that he has yet to be asked back for anything, stating, “I’ve done the voice for Qui-Gon Jinn in a couple of the animated versions of it. I can’t remember the names of them. Myself and Sam Jackson did our Jedi knights for those. I think I did two of them. But on film, I haven’t been approached, no. I haven’t really been following them, to be honest.”
While The Phantom Menace introduced Neeson’s Qui-Gon as the unconventional Jedi master to Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, the character would—in a Joseph Campbell-adherent twist—become a necessary casualty for the arc of the apprentice, who crossed the figurative (and literal) threshold to duel and defeat his master’s killer, Darth Maul. Yet, Qui-Gon would persist in the background throughout the trilogy, first as a disembodied voice that—without context—is briefly heard only by a meditating Yoda in 2002’s Attack of the Clones unsuccessfully trying to reach out to Anakin to talk him down from slaughtering the Tusken Raiders responsible for his mother’s death. However, while Qui-Gon was neither seen nor heard in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, the character would get a key shout-out in the end when Yoda—in an offhand manner—tells Obi-Wan that he’d been speaking with the transcended spirit of Qui-Gon, and that he’d teach him how to do so as well.
Intriguingly, while Neeson’s latest answer on the Qui-Gon issue reflects a general disinterest in Star Wars, he does point out that he returned to voice the character as a Jedi spirit for 2011 and 2014 episodes of The Clone Wars, performances that retroactively laid the narrative foundation for Yoda’s awkwardly brief Revenge of the Sith revelation. Now, with the Obi-Wan television series set to pick things up in a time period between that moment and the events of A New Hope we saw with Alec Guinness’s version of the character, an appearance by the Jedi spirit of Qui-Gon seems like a necessary component, delivering a plane-crossing reunion that should have occurred in the films.
So, will it actually happen? Auspiciously, the Oscar-nominated Irish actor and former Darkman star has been on a consistent genre path ever since Star Wars, having gone from a very different mentor role in 2005’s Batman Begins to franchise box office success as the star of 2008’s Taken, and is in a place in his career in which such a move makes sense. In fact, Neeson’s latest Star Wars comments—which also throws shade on 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story—happen to conclude with a question (perhaps to himself) about the viability of the franchise on the big screen.
“I don’t know if [the Star Wars films] have come to an end.” Neeson continues, “I heard they did a film of Harrison [Ford]’s character, Han Solo, and that there was a bit of trouble with that. What do you think? Are Star Wars fans finished with it?”
However, the objective answer to the question of Star Wars fans being finished is a strong “no.” While the franchise is undoubtedly in the midst of a soul-searching sea change in the wake of 2019 Sequel Trilogy closer The Rise of Skywalker, it’s thriving more than ever in live-action form via streaming with Disney+ television series The Mandalorian. Thanks to a return to the franchise’s gritty used-universe roots and a certain Baby Yoda, the imminently-returning series wields a pop culture puissance that matches anything that has hit theaters. It’s a notion to which Neeson concedes when the interviewer implies that television might be the optimal medium on which his return could occur.
For now, star Ewan McGregor himself recently confirmed that the untitled Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series will begin rolling cameras in March 2021. Whether Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn will spend time in front of said cameras remains to be seen.