Consider the Force with us.
Following months of rampant speculation, Disney and Lucasfilm have finally released the casting choices for their upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII.
Based on a quick scan, the seventh entry in the Star Wars movie franchise will merge several new arrivals – including one actor in his mid-eighties – with some fresh young faces who weren’t even born when the first Star Wars film came out in 1977.
And to keep the purists happy, the new film will also see the return of a half-dozen actors who appeared in the original.
“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,” said director J.J. Abrams in a release accompanying the casting announcement. “We start shooting in a couple of weeks and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”
But before anybody straps on a light-saber or starts worrying about the possible return of Jar Jar Binks, consider the four big surprises in today’s casting announcement:
MEET THE NEW KIDS
As expected, the new Star Wars cast boasts several names that will have most fans immediately flocking to Wikipedia. Namely: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson. Don’t feel bad if none of them ring familiar.
British-Nigeran actor Boyega will play a Jedi in the reboot. To date, he’s best known for starring in the 2011 horror feature Attack the Block and the 2013 Nigerian drama Half of a Yellow Sun.
The 31-year-old Driver is likely more familiar to most people, due to his recurring role as Hannah’s boyfriend on HBO’s Girls, and will reportedly assume the role of a Darth Vader-like villain in the new film (even though he actually looks a lot like Jar Jar Binks).
At 35, Isaac is the highest-profile actor among the Star Wars newcomers, courtesy of his titular role in the 2013 Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis. According to a Variety source, Isaac’s character in the new film will have a “Han Solo look to him.”
Irish actor Gleeson, 30, is largely an unknown quantity, since most of his acting has taken place on the stage. He’s probably best known for portraying Bill Weasley in both instalments of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
And 22-year-old Ridley is coming off a stint appearing on the PBS series Mr. Selfridge, but is likely better known for being the daughter of Yvonne Ridley, the British journalist who was captured by the Taliban in 2001 and subsequently converted to Islam after her release.
No word on who Daisy will play in the new Star Wars film, but it might be worth mentioning that she looks a whole lot like Natalie Portman. Just saying.
MEET THE NEW OLD KID
The big surprise in the casting announcement was the inclusion of Swedish-born Max von Sydow, who turned 85 two weeks ago.
Over a six-decade career, Von Sydow’s screen roles have included playing the knight Antonius Block in Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 cinema classic The Seventh Seal, the doomed Father Merrin in The Exorcist (1973) and an ominous character known as The Renter in the 2011 drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
No hints provided on who Von Sydow will play in Star Wars: Episode VII, but it probably won’t be a Wookie or a good guy.
A ‘PRECIOUS’ DECISION
No less surprising in the casting announcement was the involvement of chameleonic English actor Andy Serkis.
Sure, he’s assumed real people in several films and TV shows, but to the public at large he’ll always be the grasping, wretched, frightening character known as Gollum in all three The Lord of the Rings movies.
Here again, Serkis’s role in the new movie has yet to be announced, but considering that Disney chief Bob Iger recently let slip that the film will take place 30 years after the events depicted in Return of the Jedi, there’s always room for an educated guess.
Uh, Jabba the Hutt after Jenny Craig?
RETURN OF THE OLD GUYS
The casting announcement mercifully confirmed the longstanding rumours that Star Wars: Episode VII would include screen turns by Star Wars originals Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). It’s presumed that all had no trouble making room on their schedules.
Even more surprising are the returns of Star Wars mainstays Peter Mayhew, who will don the furry guise of Chewbacca at age 69, Anthony Daniels, 68, who will once again play the precocious droid C-3PO, and Kenny Baker, who will again squeeze into the tiny casing of the character R2-D2. He’s 79!