It’s not – and we stress NOT – a confirmation that roles have been handed out, but the Latino Review is reporting that two actors, Rachel Hurd-Wood and Alex Pettyfer, have gone in to read for parts in Star Wars: Episode VII. That’s all that is firm fact, but it gets us in good shape for a little speculation.
If you’ll remember back to some of the earliest casting rumors, Episode VII was purportedly to follow the exploits of Jacen and Jaina Solo, twin children of Han and Leia well established in the Expanded Universe of books, comics, and video games. That was more or less overturned by confirmed character descriptions barely a week later, but casting for a couple of “late teen” females continued, and the Latino Review is among those saying that Hurd-Wood was auditioning for a role as Leia’s, and presumably Han’s, daughter. Whether this is Jaina Solo or not remains to be seen, but Hurd-Wood certainly looks enough like a young Carrie Fisher to fake a family resemblance.
Hurd-Wood is best know for playing Wendy in the 2003 live-action film adaptation of Peter Pan, which starred Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, The Patriot) as Captain Hook and Jeremy Sumpter (Friday Night Lights) as Peter. She’s since played roles in Perfume, Dorian Grey, and Solomon Kane, among other movies, and is starring in the forthcoming indie drama Highway to Dhampus.
Pettyfer’s potential role is a little more grey. The immediate thought is that he’d play a character who is Luke Skywalker’s son, a role Ryan Gosling may or may not have turned down a few weeks ago (it was widely reported he met with J.J. Abrams, but Gosling’s reps denied the meeting). Again, he certainly looks the part of Luke’s son, but he falls somewhere between “Young twenty-something male, witty and smart, fit but not traditionally good looking” and “A late twentysomething male, fit, handsome and confident.” This being Hollywood, we’d bet he fits the former bill with the studio fudging the “not traditionally good looking” part if he is indeed cast.
Though he hasn’t led a film we’d call critically acclaimed, Pettyfer does have experience anchoring a couple sci-fi films. He played the titular character in 2006’s Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker and the leading role in I Am Number Four two years ago, and also held down a supporting role in last year’s Magic Mike. He also appears in a bit part in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, but we’ll hardly consider the brief (and stilted) role as a field master a referendum on his acting.
The other big part of all this is that Lucasfilm will apparently be handing down some big, official casting news in the very near future. We won’t presume that other actors and actresses couldn’t have sneaked by the constant press inquiry into casting for Star Wars, but the mere fact that we’ve heard that Hurd-Wood and Pettyfer have auditioned certainly positions them as front-runners at this juncture.
And you’d figure that Lucasfilm has to be figuring out its leads, because production on Episode VII now has a start date: Tuesday, January 21, 2014, the day after MLK Day. Release is still planned for 2015, but ironically it may be bumped from a May release, as has been traditional for the series, to a December one. This would be a flip from the release schedule for the original Star Wars; when it ran woefully behind schedule, Fox moved it from a December 1976 release to May 1977.