It all started with a short draft, dated May 1973. In it, writer George Lucas told of a tale of a young man named Luke Starkiller (later Skywalker) who would one day team up with a princess and a mercenary and save the galaxy. That story became “Star Wars.” Or, because of its enormous success, “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.” Two films followed (“Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 and “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” in 1983). And then nothing. Fans clamored for more stories, noting that Lucas’ original treatment laid the ground work for nine stories. As the fourth story was the only one with a legitimate beginning and end, that was the one Lucas chose to film first. In 1993, Lucas informed Variety that he had begun writing a prequel story, one that would eventually envelop three films. “Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” released in 1999, introduced fans to young Anakin Skywalker, Qui-Gon Jinn, Padme Amidala and Mace Windu as well as serving up early versions of familiar and beloved characters, including Yoda and the popular droids, C3PO and R2D2. Though some fans loved it (and others didn’t) the film became the highest grossing film of 1999. Followed by “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” in 2002 and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” in 2005, fans were pleased that they were able to see the backstory of some of their favorite characters and how they evolved. But they still wanted more.
Enter director JJ Abrams, whose success with the popular rebooting of the “Star Trek” film series earned him the biggest prize of all – the chance to expand the “Star Wars” universe. Without noting which characters would be included in “Episode VII,” Abrams confirmed that he would be co-writing the screenplay with Academy Award winning screenwriter Michael Arndt. Fans were unsure if the writer of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Toy Story 3” was the right choice and apparently Abrams agreed, recently discharging Arndt and bringing on board Lawrence Kasdan, who had helped pen the screenplays for “Episode V,” “Episode VI,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and wrote the story for the “Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire” video game. Kasdan’s hiring seems to boost the speculation that Abrams had wanted to center “Episode VII” around the familiar main characters of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. All three principal actors (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher) have expressed an interest in resuming their roles, rather a surprise since Ford had lobbied for Han Solo to be killed off in “Jedi.” Thankfully he’s finally been able to embrace the rogue character that helped make him the star he is, even taking time on occasion to continue an on-going battle with his former pal, Chewbacca, whenever he appears on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
As the story begins to take shape, casting rumors are abounding. It would be no surprise to see Anthony Daniels (C3PO) and Kenny Baker (R2D2) back, as the droids were the only characters that made appearances in all nine of Lucas’ original stories. Master Yoda is now on the “other” side but that didn’t stop him from showing up at the end of “Episode VI,” so look for Frank Oz to return. Recently, several websites, including Latino Review, have reported that former “Friday Night Lights” and “Breaking Bad” actor Jesse Plemons is a sure bet to be cast as Ben Skywalker, Luke’s son. It’s presumed that he would then be the focal character of later Episodes.
Recently, the following casting call was placed, noting only that the film was for a Walt Disney production being directed by JJ Abrams:
“[YOUNG MAN] Early 20s. Handsome, but not necessarily heroic. He is witty and smart. Physically fit. [MAN] Late 20s. Physically fit, handsome and confident.
[YOUNG WOMAN] Late teens. Physically fit, raw energy, independent and with a great sense of humor.”
Other actors that have been rumored to have auditioned include Alex Pettyfer, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Liam McIntyre and Ksenia Solo (with a last name like that, you’ve got to at least be considered). A name that is also appearing more and more is Bennedict Cumberbatch. His representatives recently released a statement saying he had not been signed to appear in “Episode VII,” but these are the same people that told us he wasn’t Khan so really, how much can we believe them?
Whichever actors are chosen, I have no doubt that, under the protective eye of JJ Abrams, they will keep the Force alive!
**1/21/13 – UPDATE!!!**
On Monday, January 20, JJ Abrams announced that the script for “Star Wars: Episode VII” had been finalized and that casting will now commence. He also confirmed that many actors previously mentioned, including Jesse Plemmons, have auditioned for the film but that no one has been signed. Plemmons was the only actor mentioned by name.