There was a lot happening in the news yesterday, and the announcement of seven new Star Wars cast members rose to the top of the heap faster than you can say, “Luke, I am your father.” The topic was instantly trending on Twitter and the names John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhall Gleeson and Max von Sydow have no doubt seen their share of Google searches over the past 24 hours. You’re probably reading about this new cast everywhere, but as SSN does best, we break it all down for you right here, all in one place.
Ridley of course is the most mysterious of all, while the rest of the Episode VII players are known to varying degrees around town. Fans have been waiting for months to hear who Disney, LucasFilm and director J.J. Abrams would bring on board. It was rumored that Driver may be playing a villain, and though that still seems likely, the details of the roles are still vague, to say the least.
We do know that three stars of the original films – Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill – will return as Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, respectively. Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2 ) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) are also back. The film, which is set 30 years after 1983’s Return of the Jedi, starts shooting soon, and is set to be released December 2015.
Here’s a look at the seven actors stepping into the Star Wars universe.
SSN Insight: British actor Serkis worked with Mike Leigh early on, but he’s best known for his stunning, emotional motion-capture work in films like King Kong, The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Of his work as Gollum and Caesar in the Planet of the Apes films, the actor told NPR, “I can recognize every single twitch, every single thought process and acting decision and choice – and my wife and children absolutely [see them also]. They look up on-screen and see me in those roles. It’s quite extraordinary.” He’s set to direct The Jungle Book for Warner Bros., and his company The Imaginarium is also developing a 3D version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. He’ll be seen as Caesar in 20th Century Fox’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes up next.
SSN Insight: Brit actor Boyega got some attention for his role in Screen Gems’ teen monster adventure Attack the Block, and he recently appeared in Half a Yellow Sun with Chiwetel Ejiofor. He was the lead this year’s Sundance NEXT selection Imperial Dreams directed by Malik Vitthal. It was a small film (light years away from Star Wars) but Boyega’s performance was a standout at the fest. He has a role in 24: Live Another Day, and is set to play Jesse Owens in the upcoming biopic Race. In a Sundance interview in January, Boyega talked about experiencing career doubts and the importance of persistence. It’s a good thing he stuck with it. He Tweeted about the Star Wars news yesterday, and if you follow him he’ll share some insights in 140 characters or less like, “I just love Emma Thompson so much.” Rumors have been running rampant, but word is Boyega may be playing a Jedi.
SSN Insight: The fact that Flash Gordon’s Ming the Merciless will be in the new Star Wars flick may possibly be the most exciting casting news of all. Swedish vet Von Sydow played the evil emperor in the campy Mike Hodges flick, and supposedly Flash Gordon inspired George Lucas to pen the original Star Wars. The actor had a long-running collaboration with legendary director Ingmar Bergman (in Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, The Magician, The Virgin Spring, to name a few) and his international mainstream breakthrough happened when he played Father Merrin in The Exorcist. He received an Oscar nomination for his work in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and the actor has said, “In Hollywood they usually cast me as villains or priests.” We’ll see what type of role he inhabits in Episode VII. He has a gravitas that’s perfect for the world of the film.
SSN Insight: Rumors started last winter that Driver, best known for playing Hannah’s complex, often controversial boyfriend Adam on Lena Dunham’s Girls, would be playing a villain in Episode VII. He definitely has the charisma, and there’s an unpredictable edge to him that would lend itself to a new Star Wars baddie. Between Girls, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Inside Llewyn Davis, Frances Ha and Noah Baumbach’s upcoming film While We’re Young, Driver has had a busy few years. He’s an ex-Marine who studied at Juilliard, and we’re betting he’ll bring depth, nuance, and menace to a Star Wars villain, if that is indeed what he’s playing
SSN Insight: Ridley is the least known of the seven – and she’s also the only woman. Ridley, a Brit, appeared in a short film called Blue Season, playing a kidnap victim who escapes, only to find out that she has some sort of chip implanted into her neck. The film is a little confusing (not Ridley’s fault – is was a super low budget short made for as part of the Sci-Fi London 48-Hour Film Challenge). Obviously Abrams and the producers saw something special in her. The thesp has made appearances on British shows like Youngers, Silent Witness and the Jeremy Piven-starrer Mr. Selfridge. There’s a lot of speculation swirling around as to who will be playing what role in Episode VII, but Ridley looks pretty cozy with Carrie Fisher in the photo released yesterday. Maybe they’re talking about their characters’ mother-daughter bond?
SSN Insight: The Irish actor and son of Brendan Gleeson had a role in another massive franchise when he played Bill Weasley in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts one and two. Gleeson also had roles in True Grit, Dredd 3D, Anna Karenina, and About Time, in addition to working with Michael Fassbender in one his this year’s Sundance hits, the oddball musical Frank. He has a lead role in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and he’s staring in Brooklyn, adapted by Nick Hornby from the book by Colm Toibin. Gleeson’s slate is full, but he wasn’t a household name until the Star Wars news hit. Amazing what can happen in one day.
SSN Insight: The Juilliard grad got his start in movies like All About the Benjamins and The Nativity Story, and he’s credited as “Outcome #3” in 2012’s The Bourne Legacy. He caught casting directors’ attention when he played Carey Mulligan’s brooding husband in Drive, and, to put it mildly, 2013 was a huge year for him. Playing the lead in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis led to Oscar speculation (which didn’t happen), and he scored a Golden Globe nomination and a National Society of Film Critics win for Best Actor. He has upcoming roles in William Monahan’s Mohave, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, and J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, and time will tell what his Star Wars role entails.