Yesterday, Disney released the main cast list for the upcoming Star Wars film, so being the hardcore Star Wars fan that I am, I thought it was finally time that I weigh in on not only the cast, but several other rumors that have been floating around ever since Disney first announced its purchase of Lucasfilm, and their decision to start producing a variety of Star Wars related material.
As I mentioned, I’ve been a fan of the Star Wars universe since I first saw Return of the Jedi (my favorite of the series, if I had to choose, though when asked what my favorite movie of all-time is, I usually say the Star Wars Saga, as they are all spectacular in my mind… yes, even the new trilogy, which may have had some rocky moments, but had their share of iconic ones as well). Over the years, I’ve collected a multitude of collectibles, have enjoyed all of the spin-offs and spoofs, and have purchased all of the novels (and though I haven’t read them all yet, the ones I have are simply stellar), so when I heard they were moving forward with Episode VII, my first thought — how do I get in on this? (Although in hindsight, I think I’d be far too afraid of screwing it up if I ever was a part of it to really enjoy being a part of it! That’s not to say I wouldn’t jump at the chance if it ever came about. Just sayin’!)
I’m not sure I was completely sold on the idea of Disney in control (as opposed to Lucasfilm… and Twentieth Century Fox, whose opening fanfare will be missed), but was thrilled when they announced that J.J. Abrams (creator of some of the best sci-fi television this century, director of the Star Trek reboots, and writer and director of Super 8, a film that would have fit right in as part of the iconic eighties) was brought on board to write and direct the next chapter in the Star Wars universe. I was even more thrilled when Lawrence Kasdan was brought in to help re-write the script. Kasdan brought a darker tone and a gritty edge to George Lucas’s homage to the space opera in The Empire Strikes Back, so to see his name as part of the credits makes one believe there will be much more Yoda-style character’s filling out the script and less Ewoks and Gungans running around.
Ever since the acquisition, there have been dozens of rumors swirling around about the film, including what it’s going to be about, who would be brought back, whether it would include elements from the Expanded Universe (for the uninitiated, that would be the books, video games and other materials that are not the films), and what it would look like.
I have to say, it was great to hear that Abrams wants these new films to reflect the feel and essence of the original trilogy rather than the newest trilogy, which most fans and non-fans alike have deemed too “fake” or disingenuous, which isn’t completely off the mark. Though I do consider the new trilogy on par with the original in terms of likeability, because Lucas chose to film the new trilogy in digital and used a heavy (HEAVY) amount of CGI, I understand how it might not feel as real, or emotionally powerful as the original trilogy, which relied much more on simpler, practical effects. With what Abrams has been reported as saying, he will be shooting Episode VII on film (perfect) and will be going back to using more practical effects — which is to say, he won’t be relying so much on the computer to generate his vision (doubly perfect). Essentially what that means is, he’ll be doing a lot more filming on location instead of in front of a green screen, which in and of itself will bring back that feeling of eighties nostalgia (triple-perfection).
With all of that said, now that I’ve seen the cast, I’m even more excited for this first chapter of the new trilogy to hit theaters. Let me break it down for you, with a few thoughts on the actors chosen to fill out the new Star Wars universe.
The original cast is back and ready to play
It has long been rumored that Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill would return to reprise the roles they made iconic so long ago. Now that it’s confirmed, I’m seriously giddy with excitement. To see the team return to action, no matter how small or large the actual screen time will be, is a true geek fest. And though both Fisher and Hamill have let themselves go a little over the years, it’s been rumored that Hamill has been seen working out to get back into Jedi shape, so I can only assume Fisher will also. Ford on the other hand, as last seen in Ender’s Game, is still quite fit, and should be able to make the transition back into his wise-cracking smuggler with ease.
Other original cast members returning
Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew have already reprised their roles in the last trilogy, so unless they were dead, it seemed like a no-brainer they would return for another go around. Daniels, in fact, hasn’t ever stopped playing the frantic droid, C-3PO. Beyond wearing that gold costume in five of the six films, he has also provided the voice for pretty much everything the droid has appeared in (including films, television shows and video games). In essence, he is C-3PO; to do this without him would be sacriligious.
Joining the team behind the masks (I assume) will be the go-to motion capture actor, Andy Serkis. Best known for providing the body movement for Gollum, King Kong, and Caeser in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Serkis will no doubt take on the action behind at least one (if not a few) computer-generated characters. There’s no one better, really.
Max von Sydow
The way I see it, the casting of Sydow will give us either another iconic Jedi Master (like Alec Guiness as Obi-Wan Kenobi) or another seething Sith Lord (a la Christopher Lee as Count Dooku). He is a terrific actor who has had a storied career in Hollywood, and will give the rest of the saga’s fresh faces someone to look up to (if they aren’t already seething with joy at the sight of Ford, Fisher and Hamill, that is).
Best known to me as the bumbling romantic in last year’s About Time (I didn’t even realize he played the eldest Weasley in the Harry Potter films until I read more about him), I think Gleeson has been cast in a role that will provide some comic relief, but who may also be involved in some weightier subject material. Either way, he’s a great fit for Star Wars.
Here’s an actor that wasn’t on my radar until his moving performance in last year’s Inside Llewyn Davis. Apparently, it’s been rumored that he will be more of a Han Solo type character, a smuggler or a hoodlum that gets entangled in whatever the other characters have chosen to do. From what I’ve seen, I can definitely see that happening.
John Boyega and Adam Driver
These two actors are a bit of an enigma for me, since I’m not really familiar with either of them. I know what they’ve been involved in, but I either have never seen the shows and films they’ve been a part of, or haven’t noticed the full scope of their talent yet, so I can’t say much about them except that I like the decision to cast relative unknowns in the film. The first film, aside from Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing, was chock-full of new and relatively unknown actors, so to see Abrams returning to that mold is another terrific sign that this will be more reminiscent of the original trilogy.
Speaking of completely unknown actors, Daisy Ridley, from what I’ve read, is an up-and-coming British actress, but I certainly haven’t seen anything she’s done to date. I’m interested to see what she can bring to the table and who she will be playing in the film. If her appearance is any indication (looking a little like someone mashed together Natalie Portman with Carrie Fisher), it could very well mean she’s playing the daughter of Han and Leia. But that’s wild speculation, so please don’t take any credence from that!
Ahh… I can’t take it! Episode VII has officially begun second-unit filming, with principal photography to begin in May, but with its release date set a year and a half away on December 18th, 2015 (the only thing Abrams and the producers have gotten wrong… the release date should be, as always, Memorial Day weekend!), it feels like it’s centuries away, especially with all of these new, fun announcements slowly being delivered.