What We Know So Far: Star Wars Episode VIII Casting and Rumors

While J.J. Abrams and company have been keeping a tight lid on The Force Awakens, releasing information in a very careful and calculated way, Star Wars fans have recently been treated to some interesting news and rumors surrounding the as of yet untitled Star Wars Episode VIII, currently slated for release in May 2017.

First off, you should know that J.J. Abrams will not be in the director’s chair for either of the follow-up films to The Force Awakens, but will remain involved in the direction of the saga as a producer. Rian Johnson will be taking the helm for Episode VIII with Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World) set to direct Episode IX. Johnson is also penning the script for Episode VIII as well.

For those of you not familiar with Rian Johnson’s work, he wrote and directed Brick in 2005 in addition to the very well received Looper in 2012.

**Now, before we get into casting news and rumors I feel it’s my responsibility to warn you that some of the following could be considered spoilers so read on at your own discretion.**

As of this writing we have 2 actors that have confirmed their involvement in Episode VIII.

First off, Oscar Isaac said in an interview with Moviefone back in March that he was “very excited” to work with Johnson seemingly confirming that his character, Poe Dameron, will survive the events of The Force Awakens. Isaac did go on to say that he had yet to speak with Johnson however, so it’s possible that it was just a misdirection.

After quite a bit of talk and weeks of rumors, Benicio Del Toro (Snatch, Sin City) recently confirmed in an interview with Spanish radio station Rac1.org that he has joined the cast of Episode VIII as well.

Benicio Del Toro in Snatch. (2000)

Del Toro went on to say that he will be a villain in the movie. As the interview was in Spanish, several outlets that have reported the news have noted that the way Del Toro phrased his response literally means “he is like the villain” indicating that there may be some ambiguity to just how evil he may or may not be.

This news is particularly interesting because it makes you wonder what happened to the slew of other apparent villains like Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma and General Hux that have already been revealed for The Force Awakens. If Johnson and Disney are going so far as to bring on the likes of Del Toro for Episode VIII, it’s probably safe to say one of those baddies isn’t making it out of The Force Awakens.

R to L: Captain Phasma, Kylo Ren, and General Hux
L to R: Captain Phasma, Kylo Ren, and General Hux

In addition to the confirmed cast members, we’ve seemingly gotten a glimpse of the short list of actresses being considered for a new lead role in Episode VIII. The actresses in the running for the role are Tatiana Maslany, Olivia Cooke and Gina Rodriguez.

Maslany may be the most well known of the three for her work on BBC’s Orphan Blackfor which she’s received Emmy and Goldon Globe nominations for a performance that see her playing a multitude of roles. Some may also think of her as the front runner for the role considering that she reportedly was up for the lead in next year’s Star Wars: Rogue One before losing the role to Felicity Jones.

Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, and Tatiana Maslany on BBC’s Orphan Black.

Though Maslany was nominated for her performance, Gina Rodriguez actually won an award for her role as Jane on Jane the Virgin while Olivia Cooke’s notoriety has been steadily rising due to her work on Bates Motel and the critically claimed indie film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Olivia Cooke on A&E’s Bates Motel

Maybe the most interesting information revealed in all of this is that all three actresses are reportedly scheduled to go through chemistry reads with The Force Awakens star John Boyega, which seems to confirm that his character Finn, will also survive The Force Awakens.

With Johnson looking for a new female lead that will apparently spend a lot of time with Boyega’s character, it begs the question of what happens to Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey. This is especially interesting when you stop to consider that so many of the promos and teaser trailers for The Force Awakens show Ridley and Boyega sharing a lot of screen time together.

According to Del Toro, production of Star Wars Episode VIII is set to begin in March.

Images: A&E, BBC, Screen Gems,
Focus Features, TriStar Pictures, and LucasFilms 

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