In one of my Spanish classes at BYU, there was a page in my textbook devoted to Latino actors that American students may have heard of. My professor pointed out that one of them, Jimmy Smits, had been in Star Wars. My classmates had no idea what he was talking about.
And I was like, “¿Por que no saben el padre adoptivo de princesa Leia?” *smh*
Oscar Isaac and Diego Luna are cool, don’t get me wrong. I love both of their characters. But Jimmy Smits was here first. Jimmy Smits played Bail Organa in Attack of the Clones (briefly) and Revenge of the Sith, and he reprised the role for Rogue One. Bail Organa is the real MVP of supporting characters in the Prequels, if not the whole saga. This is not just because of the casting. And not just because he’s Princess Leia’s adoptive dad (although this point does have a lot to do with what I’m trying to say here). It’s because he’s a government leader and representative willing to stand up and speak out for what is right on important issues. To use the internet slang term, he is WOKE.
We don’t get more than a couple of scenes of Bail in Episode II. We do know, however, that he has been working very closely with Padme Amidala to stop the Military Creation Act. Bail is from Alderaan, which, like Naboo, has a people who are traditionally pacifist. As senator from Alderaan, Bail wants to keep the Republic from declaring war on the Separatists, instead encouraging diplomacy and negotiation. When the war breaks out and the Chancellor sends the Clone Army across the galaxy, Bail is not happy. He know that the galaxy is headed the wrong direction.
I didn’t know who he was the first time I saw Attack of the Clones. But something about his sadness in this moment stuck with me.
The war starting doesn’t stop Bail from fighting to prevent the Republic from crumbling, however. Bail didn’t actually do much for me in the Clone Wars tv series (And it didn’t really explain what Obi-wan had done to “serve” him in that time). But he has Padmé’s back. And Padmé has his back. Bail Organa is an example of perseverance.
Voice Actor Phil Lamar played Bail in the Clone Wars tv series. Lamar came to Salt Lake Comic Con last fall, and at the Star Wars voice actors’ panel he said he’d go watch Jimmy Smits in NYPD Blue to figure out the voice and he used the line “Have the protocol’s memory wiped” from ROTS for reference.
Revenge of the Sith is where Bail Organa truly shines. We know from a series of deleted scenes for the film that Bail was working behind the scenes with Padmé, Mon Mothma, and a group of other concerned senators to protest the Chancellor’s excessive use of executive power. Even when that fails, he remains vigilant.
When he sees the fire at the Jedi temple, he KNOWS something is up. He’s not just a politician: he is a concerned citizen who sees the need to act. No Force superpowers, just a generous heart and a strong conscience. Just look at his face when the Clone troopers tell him to leave: he smells a rat.
And then he watches a padawan get gunned down in front of him. That’s when Bail knows that something is REALLY wrong.
Although Bail had appeared onscreen earlier in the film, this is the part where we start paying attention to him. Bail gets his staff and leaves Coruscant to see if they could find any Jedi survivors and help them out—knowing very well that they would be risking their lives to do so. Like Padme, he believed that the galaxy needed the Jedi to preserve freedom.
I couldn’t tell you how he knew that Yoda was on Kashyyk—probably the news. But Yoda’s last meeting with the Jedi council was the meeting where they decided to send Obi-wan to Utapau. Yoda confided this to Bail, and Bail headed off in that general direction.
Meanwhile, Obi-wan Kenobi stole the late General Grievous’ personal starfighter and sent out an emergency broadcast. The first answer he gets:
WIth Obi-wan and Yoda taken into refuge on the Tantavie IV, Bail sits down to help the Jedi survivors make their next move. He is happy to help out with whatever they need him to do. He sticks with Yoda and is waiting to pick him up when he loses his battle with Palpatine.
Then it’s off to the outer rim to rendezvous with Obi-wan and…oh no. Padmé. Dying of a broken heart. Losing the republic she had worked so hard to save, losing the husband she had tried so hard to love–it was too much for her. And Bail has to watch one of his best friends and colleagues die. *sad feelings*
He agrees to help Obi-wan and Yoda go into exile. As for the two babies that Padmé left behind, Bail immediately volunteers to take the girl.
“My wife and I have talked about adopting a baby girl. She will be loved with us.”
My mom didn’t let me see Revenge of the Sith until about a year and a half after it came out. Before then, I asked her how much Princess Leia’s adoptive dad knew about where the twins had really come from. Mom said he’d been informed that she had a brother. I didn’t expect that he really knew about the whole Vader thing, though.
When I finally saw it, I learned that Bail knew quite a lot.
According to Bloodline, Bail. knew. EVERYTHING.
The fact that Bail and his wife Breha had adopted Leia meant a lot to me, considering that I have a brother who is adopted. If Bail had any qualms about making the biological offspring of Anakin Skywalker—dark lord of the Sith Darth Vader™—a princess, they weren’t important. What Bail counted on, correctly, was that Leia was also part Padmé—a fearless warrior and politician. Bail keeps the movement he started to resist the Empire going, and Leia ends up front and center of it. Logic would dictate that if you want to hide your child from the Sith, that you don’t want them in a place of prominence. Leia is the princess of Alderaan, and at a young age she is an aide to her father in the Senate and helping out the rebellion in her spare time. When she’s 18, Bail steps down from his senate seat to work for the Rebellion full-time, and Leia has the reins. It’s a subtle payback to the Emperor’s favorite henchman, hiding the daughter he doesn’t know about in plain sight and using her against them. If anything, Bail has a sense of humor. But he also had a sense of where Leia’s strengths could be put to good use—and of what Padmé would probably have wanted for her children.
Bail Organa is very good at being unruffled. He doesn’t show his emotions a lot, which is handy if you’re a politician. Instead, he shows his quiet strength through working for the common good. He proves that you can stand up to evil without expressing violence or anger through your behavior—you fight back by being a leader.
He is known, of course, for building the Rebel Alliance. What started as a movement to protest the political corruption in the Republic and later Imperial senate resulted in a military group devoted to overthrow the Empire by force of arms. It is anything but what a man of Bail Organa’s character and ideals would want, but he contributes to it because he believes that the galaxy would be a much better place if the Republic was restored—because he does NOT believe in what the Empire stands for, because the Empire’s system of government will NOT give the galaxy the freedom and justice it deserves. And because chances are, the Alliance can’t use its political muscle or influence over public opinion to topple the Empire.
He did not intend to start another full-scale war to overthrow the Empire. There are hints in Rogue One and A New Hope that the Rebel Alliance had influence in the Imperial Senate, enough to make Imperial bigwigs nervous, so it would have been more of a political party (naturally the Senate being dissolved in ANH would moot that). The Rebel military, ideally, was supposed to help protect and serve people in the galaxy who were threatened by the Empire. But what the Alliance was doing required lies, deception, and breaking the law, things that Bail would otherwise never condone.
If Bail Organa had had any notion, at the outset of his political career, that near the end of his life he would be working to overthrow a government, he probably wouldn’t have believed it.
Then along came the Death Star. He and Mon Mothma knew what was at stake. It was a weapon that could destroy entire planets—Bail and his entire homeworld would be destroyed with it. The Empire could use it to control anyone or anything they wanted.
In spite of the disapproval of the Alliance Council, Rogue One went and did the thing anyway. So with Bail and Mothma’s approval, the Rebel fleet went to Scarif to help out.
It seems that Bail had trusted Mothma enough to tell her what really happened to Obi-wan Kenobi after the Clone Wars. And he was going to send Leia to get Kenobi, and that would sooner or later lead to her finding her long-lost twin brother and learning about her origins. Not only was the Rebel Alliance going to war, but his daughter was going to be fully involved from that point on. Those were some big decisions for Bail. It couldn’t have been easy.
Someone on Tumblr recently pointed out the following:
Bail and Breha probably never found out that Leia’s mission had been carried out by R2-D2. They never lived to see her escape and lead the Rebel Alliance to victory. It’s kind of depressing, when you think about it. A lot of things about Alderaan getting blown up are depressing, but mostly Leia losing her whole family. And the galaxy suffering the loss of yet another of its greatest activists.
In another recent popular sci-fi movie, a character having a crisis over discovering his father’s identity was told, “He may have been your father, but he weren’t your daddy.” This is Leia’s relationship to both of her dads summed up. Darth Vader may have been her biological father, but the man who raised her, the man she was proud to call father, was Bail Organa.
Bloodline by Claudia Gray opens up with a dedication of a statue of Bail on Hosnian Prime. Leia gives an awesome speech:
“It was my privilege to know him as both a leader and a father….He taught me so much about politics, leadership, and war, but above all he taught me that no price is too great to pay for our ideals….My father gave us one legacy more precious than any other–a galactic peace. All of us here today have inherited the responsibility to preserve that peace from this day forward.”
The scandal about her birth father a few months later makes everyone forget, of course. But Leia and Luke have always been a good example of the impact a nurturing family can have, in spite of a wayward nature.
(Also Hosnian Prime gets blown up in The Force Awakens…did that hurt Leia, to lose one more reminder of her father? BRB crying)
We also read in Bloodline that A) Bail was going to tell Leia the whole truth eventually, when the Sith were no longer a threat, and B) Bail and Breha loved their daughter very much and they were so proud of her.
I was beyond delighted that Jimmy Smits decided to reprise the role of Bail Organa for Rogue One. And I was speechless when he did this for the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars:
So that’s it, I’ve gone and shown my appreciation for an obscure but very important Star Wars character. What Bail Organa did made a huge difference. I hope that this post will inspire you to make a difference, too. But I must say: hey, Lucasfilm, if we’re getting novels about Leia, why not the man who raised her? He’s already cool for doing the right thing, but when you look closer, he’s actually kind of complex.
The Mary Sue: A Tribute to Bail Organa
Tumblr Meta: The Tragedy of Bail Organa
Tumblr Meta: Bail Knew it was Time
Short Fanfiction: A Custody Lawsuit
Fanfiction I wrote: My Jedi Character Goes to Alderaan