It’s been a long time coming with plenty of false starts and even more false rumors along the way (well, there were a few rumors which proved accurate), but the cast for Star Wars: Episode VII has finally been announced. The “Star Wars Team,” i.e. director J.J. Abrams, writer Lawrence Kasdan, producer Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm, Disney, et al. released the cast along with the above photo of everyone gathered in London for a table read of the script. Oh, to be in that room, right?
So who made the cut? Some of the names may surprise you. As per the official release:
Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film.
The returning cast gives official confirmation to what we already knew: Han, Leia, Luke, C-3PO, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 are all back, respectively. But what of the newcomers? With all of the new cast, there has yet to be an announcement on who or what kind of characters they’ll be playing, and with all the limbo the script has undergone, it’s hard to believe anything that may have previously slipped out plot-wise (not that we gave any of it much credence anyways).
Maybe the name that most immediately leaps out is that of Andy Serkis. Serkis is particularly interesting due to his background in motion capture, hinting at the inclusion of a new CGI creation in the vein of Yoda or (shudder) Jar Jar Binks. Serkis is also attached to direct both Warner Bros.’ adaptation of The Jungle Book and the all mo-cap Animal Farm, which, though both are in development, could also hint at Serkis doing mo-cap work in a consolidated period of time to avoid interfering with either. That’s not do discount his lesser-known history as a live action performer, we just don’t see it as the most likely option.
Also of interest is the pair of Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. Isaac, of course, just completed his run as the titular Llewyn Davis in the Coen Brothers’ latest film, and his failure to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar was considered by many to be the single biggest snub during the recent awards season. Driver also had a bit part in Inside Llewyn Davis, but is far better known for his role on HBO’s Girls. The inclusion of both sticks out because they’d appear A) to fill very similar types, and B) to be equally capable of playing both protagonist and antagonist. Driver’s already been rumored as the movie’s big bad, but we wouldn’t be wholly shocked if both fit that bill in some respect, with Isaac perhaps sliding into a roguish, Han Solo-esque character if Driver is indeed this trilogy’s Sith Lord. Again, speculation, but the originals worked in part because of typecasting, and as Disney tries to re-establish the franchise, it’s hard to imagine they’d take major risks. Llewyn’s combo of pessimism and iron will is still a fresh taste in our mouths.
Running down the remaining list from there we come to John Boyega,who has already established his sci-fi credos with 2011’s Attack the Block; Daisy Ridley, an up and coming British actress; Domhnall Gleeson, late of About Time and the Harry Potter series, and forthcoming in Frank; and Max von Sydow, the twice Oscar-nominated elder statesman of the bunch (at 85 years), who seems very clearly to be slotting in to the Obi-Wan type role with the sort of gravitas that Alec Guiness lent to the original Star Wars.
Most curious about the list is the casting of Ridley in that she is the only female being added to the main cast. Early (and we mean really early) reports were that the movie would focus on a female protagonist, but it’s conceivable that Abrams and Co. backed out of that idea to avoid being caught up in the Twilight/Hunger Games/Divergent trend. Which isn’t to say Ridley will be relegated to a supporting role; the casting of unknowns is a Star Wars tradition, and goodness knows the audition process for this movie had to be rigorous.
Surely we (among many others) will have more thoughts about the cast once we’ve had a chance to think on it some more – and once we actually know what roles folks are playing – but for the moment, we’re cautiously optimistic. It’s not the laundry list of A-listers some were expecting (no Benedict Cumberbatch, no Zac Efron, no Gary Oldman, no Ryan Gosling, etc.), but certainly it’s a young-skewing cast that’s shown potential and now has the opportunity to grow into their roles as the trilogy plays out over the coming years.
Star Wars: Episode VII is expected to start principal photography within the next several weeks in London, and is still set to release in December of 2015.