Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker return rumours sparked after panel with Hayden Christensen is cancelled

A last-minute cancellation of a Star Wars panel at a fan convention has fuelled rumours of a huge casting announcement.

Disney reportedly pulled the plug on an event at Salt Lake's FanX, which was set to be attended by Ian McDiarmid and Hayden Christensen – the actors who played Emperor Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker in the prequels.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that McDiarmid will return in new JJ Abrams film Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, and recent theories have surfaced predicting that Christensen might also show up.

The panel's cancellation has now convinced people that Anakin will play a part in the new film. According to disappointed attendees, Disney was worried about spoilers leaking.

The biggest theory relating to Anakin's return predicts that the film's title could be referring to him and not Luke, as has been suspected, and that he will return as a Force ghost.

Backing this idea up is new book The Secrets of the Jedi, which will be released in November. It confirms that Anakin – alongside Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi – returned a few times following his demise, and even trained others to become “Force spirits” after death.

An excerpt reads: “Their spirits guided me for many years but vanished when I shut myself off from the Force. It’s a relief to feel their presence after all this time.”

Let’s not forget, Hayden Christensen – who played Anakin in the prequel trilogy – attended this year’s Star Wars Celebration. Has the reveal been hiding in plain sight the whole time?

Inverse also points out that when Kevin Smith visited the set, he witnessed one Star Wars actor delivering “a career best” performance. Sure, this could mean Daisy Ridley or John Boyega, but Christensen received quite a bit of criticism for his previous performances – and his quote made it seem as if it was somebody more unexpected.

“[It’s] somebody I’ve seen in these movies before,” he said, adding: “I rolled a tear, it was so darn powerful.”

Abrams prevented Smith from looking at the film’s “mind-meltingly huge” final shot during the visit, claiming he’s “going to want to see [it] with an audience in the cinema”.

One character who’s definitely returning in Episode IX is Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), with one theory questioning if he ever really left the franchise at all.

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker is released 16 December.