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The Next Generation of Star Wars: The Cast of Episode VII

The Next Generation of Star Wars: The Cast of Episode VII

| On 29, Apr 2014

We have moved out of the asteroid field and received a clear transmission. The biggest news to come out of the Star Wars camp since Walt Disney purchased Lucasfilm and announcing production on a new sequel trilogy exactly 18 months ago is the casting for Episode VII. Nerd speculation can now begin.
 
First up, the worst kept secret in since pre-production began has been confirmed; original trilogy actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford will reprise their roles respectively as Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa and Han Solo. They will be joined by Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Kenny Baker as R2-D2. No official confirmation if Billy Dee Williams will return as Lando Calrissian or if Denis Lawson will reprise his role as everyone’s second favorite Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles, but we are holding out hope they will return to some capacity sometime in the new trilogy.
 
Episode VII is said to take place approximately 35 years after the fall of the Empire in 1983’s “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” matching nicely with the age of what they are now being called, the Big Three: Hamill, Fisher & Ford. Since Lucasfilm’s announcement last week that all post-Return of the Jedi expanded universe of books, comics & games will not be part of the official timeline canon, the slate is clean on what the former Rebel Alliance heroes are up to by the time Episode VII begins.
 
Star Wars
For the first time in over 30 years, the six main actors from Star Wars will reunite
 
Luke Skywalker is now an elderly Jedi Master much like Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi was in Episode IV. The question remains if Skywalker starts a Jedi Academy to instruct a new generation of force-sensitive children to become Knights and Masters or if he never recovered from killing his father Anakin/Vader and wanders the galaxy as a lonely old hermit.
 
Leia Organa role as princess may be in question, since the destruction of her home planet of Aldreraan, but her experience as a senator (like her mother before), makes her an ideal leader of a new galactic government. Then again, Mon Mothma may still be in the picture, despite her age of close to 80. Leia could walk away from politics and join her twin brother Luke at the Jedi Academy.
 
Do Han and Leia get married and have children? Are Han and Chewbacca still together as the crew of the Millennium Falcon? And have the affects of carbon freezing worn off from the sleep-walking Solo in “Return of the Jedi?”
 
Is Peter Mayhew up to the task of playing the loyal Wookie? Recent pictures of the 7’3” actor have him in a wheelchair and the physical demands of the hairy 230+ year old walking carpet may limit his ability to swing tree to tree. Anthony Daniels strapping on the complex gold suit sounds great, but it may be difficult for the 68 year old actor after a few hours on set, which includes somewhere in the Abu Dhabi desert (Tatooine?), where second unit filming has already begun. The same goes for Kenny Baker sitting in a constrained cylindrical R2-D2.; hasn’t technology advanced enough for a remote controlled astromech droid?  Still, it is pretty awesome having these six actors return to that galaxy far, far away.
 
The Next Generation
 
Despite rampant online speculation and “reliable” inside sources, there were some surprises in the casting announcements.
 
Andy Serkis
Odds are we won’t see Andy Serkis face, but we will witness his incredible animated acting
 
Andy Serkis! Golum, King Kong, Caesar are just a few of his best known motion capture performances, and this casting suggests an advanced CGI alien creature that will be far superior to anything from the prequels. The sometimes vicious reaction to Jar Jar Binks may give the current production team some pause on how to proceed with a digital character. Despite director J.J. Abrams assertion that there will be less green-screen and more real-world sets similar to the original trilogy, all sci-fi movies today must have some form of digital actor. Who better to cast than the man who reinvented the art form?
 
I will admit that HBO’s “Girls” gets recorded on the DVR, and the casting of the show’s Adam Driver leads me to believe his character will be on the dark side. We have to assume that the Sith will return in Episode VII and since there can only be two, one the Master and the other the Apprentice, Driver could become the next generations Darth Vader.
 
But who will be the Sith Master?
 
The Excorcist
The Power of the Sith compels you: Max von Sydow as a Sith Lord?
 
Max von Sydow. This caught almost everyone by surprise, but in the Star Wars universe it makes sense. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing were the heavy’s a long, long time ago and the Swedish actor is no stranger to dark, moody characters. A career that goes back to 1949, including eleven films with legendary film director Ingmar Bergman, he is probably best remembered as Father Lankester Merrin in “The Exorcist.” The twice Academy award nominated actor is no stranger to sci-fi; he co-starred in “Flash Gordon,” “Dune” and “Minority Reports” and was a James Bond villain in the non-canon “Never Say Never Again.” Time to start Photoshopping a black hood on von Sydow, because anything less than a Sith would be a disappointment.
 
inside llewyn davis
Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver will meet again in Episode VII (without Justin Timberlake)
 
Oscar Isaac from the Coen Brothers “Inside Llewyn Davis” is another big surprise, and is one of two Juilliard-trained actors (along with Driver) in Episode VII . He skillfully mixed a dark undertone with self deprecating humor as an unsuccessful but talented singer in the movie about the early days of folk. Isaac could be a lone wolf much like Han Solo was in the OT or a New Republic leader. Or maybe a Sith. Who knows, it fun just speculating! Add in his musical ability, a jam session with the Cantina band may be in order.
 
John  Boyega
John Boyega in “Attack the Block”
 
The casting of relative unknowns John Boyega and Domhnall Gleeson is a very good sign that we will not be bogged down with movie stars standing apart from the action. The original trilogy was led by unknown actors delivering fresh performances, a trait that was lost on the not-as-fun prequels. Episodes I-III was star-studded affairs with Oscar-caliber actors giving stiff performances in front of a green screen. Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson looked great on the call sheet, but their talents were collectively wasted on weak dialogue and stiff direction.
 
Domhnall Gleeson
Domhnall Gleeson is a moving from the world of Harry Potter to the Star Wars universe
 
The 22-year old British-born Boyega received very positive reviews in the sci-film “Attack the Block” and Irish-born Gleeson is best known as Bill Weasley in the final two Harry Potter films.
 
Daisy Ridley
Daisy Ridley: is she the next Jedi Knight?
 
The true unknown discovery is Daisy Ridley. Her inclusion in the first casting announcement signals a major role and judging by her placement between Ford and Fisher at the table read, leads to speculation that she is the daughter of Han and Leia. Check out her headshot, and it looks like we have a possible new generation of Jedi, and it’s a woman. The young British actress has a very short resume going back only one year, mostly on BBC TV. Good luck trying to track online footage; her YouTube and Vimeo reel went private moments after Episode’s VII casting announcement, but  Sci-Fi London 48-hour film Challenge is on Vimeo as well as a YouTube video of her singing “Moon River” for those interested in the unknown actress.
 
Variety is reporting that at least one more major female lead has yet to be cast, marking the first time a Star Wars film with more than one woman in its universe.
 
Analyzing the table read picture, Star Wars fans should be stoked with the person sitting to the left of director Abrams: co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, the co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, making his return from the Outer Rim territories after a 30 year exile. Add in the fact composer John Williams will return to score the film, the 1977 may become hip again.
 
Abrams said today:  “We are so excited to finally share the cast of ‘Star Wars: Episode VII.’ 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.”
 
The key words: thrilling, surreal, original cast, make the fans proud.
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