Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin is the secondary antagonist in Star Wars: A New Hope. He is a high ranking governor in the Galactic Empire. He had a very high position in the Empire, before he was killed when the Rebel Alliance blew up the Death Star. He is portrayed by Peter Cushing in A New Hope, and voiced by Stephen Stanton in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.
Tarkin was intelligent, cunning, manipulative, ambitious, arrogant and had a strong sense of duty and dignity. He was well-known for his sharp memory. He never forgot a favor or a slight and was capable of recalling people from meetings that took place over a decade before.
Although he seemingly cared about the welfare of the Galactic Republic, later the Galactic Empire, he was quite selfish, as everything he did was always for his own ambitions. Even after Palpatine was revealed to be Darth Sidious, the traitor and enemy of the Galactic Republic, he still remained loyal to the latter, whom he had long been a major supporter of. Tarkin had no intention of overthrowing Palpatine, though he dreamed of some day being in the position to fulfill his ambitions.
Tarkin dislikes Jedi in general for no apparent reason, to the point of being openly hostile, rude and disrespectful towards them; ironically, despite this, the only Jedi, he did have a mutual respect for, was Anakin Skywalker. Although Tarkin had a good working relationship with Darth Vader, whom he found efficient and considered an ally in the Imperial hierarchy, he was also unsettled by Vader's supernatural powers and mysterious nature, and disliked it when Palpatine used Vader as a check on Tarkin himself. The pair mutual respected each other, but they secretly did not trust or personally like each other.
Much like Palpatine, Tarkin was immoral, power-hungry, cruel and sadistic. He coldly ordered the Grand Inquisitor to execute Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint for their constant failures to capture the Lothal rebels. This shows that he had no qualms about murdering his own allies in cold blood.
Tarkin had very little regard for innocent lives, as he was perfectly willing to murder innocent people just to make example out of what happens to anyone who challenged the Empire. He had no sense of honor, as he was perfectly willing to break his word if it suited him, like when he promised that he would not destroy the planet Alderaan, if Leia Organa told him where the rebels base was, and after she apparently did, he went back on his word and destroyed the planet anyway. He expressed no guilt or remorse for this vile act of his.
Tarkin was arrogant to the point of underestimating his allies, enemies and former allies alike, like when he heard the rumors that one of the Lothal rebels is a Jedi, he did not believe it as he believed they were all killed in the Jedi Purge, including Obi-Wan Kenobi, despite the fact he fought alongside them in the Clone Wars.
These negative traits of his was what eventually led to Tarkin's deserve death at the hands of Luke Skywalker; albeit indirectly.
Revenge of the Sith
A New Hope
Tarkin became in full charge of the Death Star and determined to use its destructive power to destroy the Rebellion. However in order to find their secret base, he needed Princess Leia Organa to give the location of the Rebel Base but she refused to speak. He decided to use some persuasion by threatening to use the Death Star to destroy Leia's home planet, Alderaan. This made her give away the location of the Rebel Base, Dantooine (apparently she was lying since the Rebel base on Dantooine was deserted). Even though she gave in, Tarkin still went ahead in destroying her home world and gave the order to fire, killing millions of lives.
When the crew and passengers of the Millennium Falcon were captured and attempted to rescue the princess, Tarkin ordered all sections on the alert and have Darth Vader to assure they do not escape. However they did escape, except Obi-Wan Kenobi who was killed by his former apprentice. Little did they know, the Imperials placed a homing beacon on their ship. Tarkin felt uneasy about letting them go because they were taking an extreme risk but knew it was the only way they could find the Rebel Base.
As the Rebel opened an attack on the Death Star, Tarkin had the station prepared for firing. Despite being warned of a dangerous chance that the Rebels may succeed, he denied any arrangements for evacuations and proceeded with the mission in hand. Unfortunately for him, his overconfidence would be the death of him, when Luke Skywalker fired two proton torpedoes down one of the Death Star's ventilation shafts which led to the reactor system. Then just moments before firing, he was killed along with the Death Star's destruction.
Tarkin appeard in this series as an officer of the Grand Army of the Republic.
In the pilot episode Spark of Rebellion, Tarkin is mentioned twice by the Rebels. First by Sabine when she explains to Ezra why farm locals call their hometown Tarkintown, because he was responsible for kicking farmers of their farms when the Empire wanted their lands and anyone who tried to fight back got arrested for treason. As a resault they named Tarkintown after Grand Moff Tarkin himself.
Tarkin is mentioned again by Hera when she tells the commander of an Imperial Transport ship that they got paid by him for the bounty of a Wookiee Prisoner: as part of a plan to get on board and rescue Wookiee prisoners.
In the episode "Call to Action", Tarkin made a personal visit to Lothal to take over the hunt for the Rebels on Lothal after numerous failed attempts by Agent Kallus, Minister Tua and The Grand Inquisitor, and upon his arrival immediately reprimanded the trio for their constant failures. When Minister Tua claims that the leader of the Rebels was a Jedi, Tarkin chastised her for this belief as from his point of view, the Jedi were all dead and he intended to seek out this "criminal" and show that he was not what he claimed to be.
To ensure better results, Tarkin had The Grand Inquisitor execute Cumberlayne Aresko and Myles Grint, illustrating that their weakness could threaten the stability of the Empire. His demonstration proved effective as it prompted the Grand Inquisitor and Kallus to successfully capture Kanan Jarrus at an Imperial Communication Tower. Tarkin arrived in person at the tower to bring the Jedi into custody and interrogate him, there he ordered his men to destroy the tower to prevent the Rebels from broadcasting their message to the public.
Upon returning to his ship, Tarkin began Kanan's interrogation by torturing him with help from the Grand Inquisitor and Agent Kallus but all their attempts to make him talk led to no avail. For a further and more effecting alternative to make the Jedi talk, Tarkin took Kanan to Mustafar where he would be tortured even more, even to death. However, Kanan was rescued by his fellow and other Rebel cells which resulted in the loss Tarkin's ship, the Sovereign. Tarkin escaped the destruction of his ship and returned to Lothal where Agent Kallus informed him of some unrest all over the planet. Train informed him that the Emperor had sent an alternative solution, Darth Vader.
Tarkin developed great respect for Palpatine and the Supreme Chancellor took an interest in his carrer. When Palpatine proclaimed himself Emperor, Tarkin joined the ranks of the newly born Imperialists and was placed in charge of the Construction of the Death Star and became the first Imperial to become a Grand Moff. He was also one of the few people who knew that the Emperor was the Dark Lord of the Sith.
Tarkin and Anakin developed a mutual respect for each other due to the fact both were hardliners. This became strained after Ahsoka was framed by Barriss Offee. Anakin saw right away that Ahsoka had been framed and had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but Tarkin refused to even see this and viciously and relentlessly prosecuted Ahsoka despite the fact that there was virtually no actual evidence of her so-called treason.
After Anakin became Darth Vader, Tarkin was the first to meet the newborn Sith Lord. Tarkin first met Vader after the Emperor placed him in charge of the Construction of the first Death Star. They began working together after some lost Jedi were traced to Kashyyyk. Tarkin urged Vader to let the Jedi land onworld so they could use their presence as a pretext to invade the planet and enslave the Wookies so they could be used to help construct the Death Star. Tarkin was impressed by Vader's leadership during the Subjugation of Kasyyyk and asked the Emperor if he could call on Vader's services when he needed them. Although Tarkin had a good working relationship with Vader, whom he found efficient and considered an ally in the Imperial hierarchy, he was also unsettled by Vader's supernatural powers and mysterious nature, and disliked it when Palpatine used Vader as a check on Tarkin himself. The pair mutual respected each other, but they secretly did not trust or personally like each other. Tarkin was one of the few who knew that Anakin and Vader were the same person.
Ahsoka and Tarkin had an intense dislike for each other.
Tarkin disliked her for her starry-eyed view of life and Ahsoka disliked him for his disdain for the Jedi Order, as well as for his arrogance and rude comments. Despite her disdain for him, Ahsoka saved Tarkin from being thrown into a lava river.
The enmity between the two was intensified when Ahsoka was framed for murder and treason; Tarkin, like most of the Jedi, refused to believe in her innocence and the rising body count only convinced him that Ahsoka was guilty even after Padmé Amidala pointed out he had no real proof and that the evidence that was present proved otherwise.
After Ahsoka was proved to be innocent, Tarkin didn't apologize to her and the two have been enemies ever since; because after the birth of the Galactic Empire, Ahsoka helped Bail Organa establish the Rebel Network and Tarkin joined the ranks of the newly born Imperialists. Ironicly, Tarkin's prosecution of Ahsoka caused his death because the Rebel Network later became the Rebel Alliance.
Tarkin and Obi-Wan work together very well during the Clone Wars, however, unlike his relationship with Anakin Skywalker, he never respected Obi-Wan for no apparent reason; due to the latter being a Jedi.
Despite the fact he fought alongside Obi-Wan in the Clone Wars, he arrogantly underestimating his former ally, believing the latter was killed in the Jedi Purge.
- During filming, Peter Cushing wore slippers during the scenes where his feet were not visible. Reason was the boots he was provided to wear were far too small to accommodate the actor's size twelve feet. This caused a great deal of pain for him during shooting sessions, and the costume designers did not have enough time to get him another pair.
- Some of the actors who appeared in scenes with Cushing had trouble not laughing because of the shoes.
- Grand Moff Tarkin bears a striking resemblance to Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame: They both have high cheekbones, a similar hairstyle, gray hair, and a face as long and thin as their noses.