This post was updated on June 2.
The casting of the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII is shaping up to be it's own, multi-installment odyssey. Just when the Internet’s reaction to the announcement of the principal cast was beginning to die down, J.J. Abrams posted an online video alerting fans to more casting announcements to come. This exciting admission was welcome news to info-rabid fans. Additionally, it served to placate a feminist backlash to the initial casting, which deplored the lack of female actors set to star in the Episode 7.
Following the video announcement, Star Wars aficionados immediately suspected that Lupita Nyong'o would be joining the star-studded cast. Word of a March meeting between Nyong'o and Abrams dominated the blogosphere, a rumor that was immensely appealing to critics who believed that the current cast lacked diversity. In the ultimate revenge of the nerds, these Star Wars super sleuths triumphed with today’s casting announcement, in which Lupita Nyong’o and Gwendoline Christie were officially added to the ensemble.
In addition to being ridiculously good-looking, Nyong’o is also an outrageously talented actress. She took home an Oscar for her debut role in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, and has been a Hollywood favorite ever since. Gwendoline Christie is best known for playing Brienne on Game of Thrones, a role that has surely prepared her for blog backlash and obsessive fans.
In a statement, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said, “I could not be more excited about Lupita and Gwendoline joining the cast of ‘Episode VII’”. While Nyong’o and Christie’s roles in the film remain shrouded in mystery, it’s safe to say that Star Wars fans are similarly overjoyed.
The wild speculation is over.
On Tuesday afternoon, the world took one step closer to that galaxy far, far away as Disney and Lucasfilm announced the cast for filmmaker J.J. Abrams’ upcoming sequel, Star Wars: Episode VII—a film reportedly set 30 years after the events of the 1983 flick Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.
Actors John Boyega (Attack the Block), Daisy Ridley (Mr. Selfridge), Adam Driver (Girls), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings), Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina), and screen legend Max von Sydow are set to join the original Star Wars stars, Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and Kenny Baker (R2D2) in the new franchise film.
“We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII,” said J.J. Abrams in a statement. “It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”
Disney and Lucasfilm released the hotly anticipated news, along with a photo of the cast doing a table read in London. According to various reports, actors Oscar Isaac and John Boyega had been tied up with other commitments—Isaac with a theater gig and Boyega with the Jesse Owens biopic Race—but they’ve since dropped out of those projects in favor of the intergalactic space odyssey. Shooting will reportedly take place at London’s famed Pinewood Studios.
As far as the characters these actors will play, or how much screen time they'll have, well, that remains largely a mystery. Deadline reported that Ford’s part won’t merely be a cameo, but that he has a “gigantic role” in the upcoming film, while it’s rumored that Driver will play a Darth Vader-like antagonist. There’s also been online speculation that Boyega will play a Han Solo-esque rebel, and that the film will potentially incorporate the descendents of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (originally played by Alec Guinness), as well as the offspring of Han Solo and Princess Leia.
And just last week, Lucasfilm released a statement regarding the role that Star Wars creator George Lucas’s Expanded Universe might play in the upcoming series of films, saying that the films are “not beholden to the EU”:
“While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the EU consistent with our film and television content as well as internally consistent, Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU. [Lucas] set the films he created as the canon. This includes the six Star Wars episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align. Now, with an exciting future filled with new cinematic installments of Star Wars, all aspects of Star Wars storytelling moving forward will be connected. Under Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy’s direction, the company for the first time ever has formed a story group to oversee and coordinate all Star Wars creative development.”
Back in October 2012, Walt Disney purchased Lucasfilm—including the rights to all the Star Wars content—in a blockbuster $4.05 billion deal, with George Lucas receiving 40 million shares of Disney stock, becoming the second-largest non-institutional shareholder of Disney behind the estate of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said Lucas, chairman and CEO of Lucasfilm, in a statement. “It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.”