The past year has brought so many rumors about who may or may not be starring in Star Wars: Episode VII that it’s near-impossible to keep track of. Oscar-nominees, rising stars, lauded character actors – if you can name the Hollywood star off the top of your head, there’s a reasonable chance that at some point in 2013 they were either rumored for and/or confirmed to have auditioned for director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars film.

Over the past couple days, we’ve begun to anticipate that the cast might be formally announced at long, long last on Star Wars day this year (i.e. May 4th), though photos of original Star Wars trilogy cast members Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford in London – where Episode VII is filming – have already leaked online (though, that “secret” had been spoiled a long time ago… in a galaxy not so far away, at that). The studio and filmmaker powers that be have decided to release that information today, now that Abrams has met up with his main cast for Episode VII in London.

Here is the press release from Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm, revealing the official main cast lineup for Episode VII:

The Star Wars team is thrilled to announce the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII.

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.

Director J.J. Abrams says, “We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. 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. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”

Check out the first official photo of Abrams and the Episode VII cast, below (click to enlarge):

Does this seating arrangement hold any clues as to characters and relationships?

Young Daisy Ridley (the Silent Witness and Mr. Selfridge TV series) is the expected unexpected newcomer on the list here, though we’d been hearing that Boyega (Attack the Block) and Driver (Girls) – both respected young actors whose stars are on the rise – could be part of the Episode VII cast for a while now, while last night the news of lauded character actor Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) joining the Star Wars crew made its way online. The same for Daniels, Mayhew, and Baker, whose returns as (respectively) C-3PO, Chewbacca and R2-D2 have been heavily rumored for months now.

Gleeson, alum of the Harry Potter franchise and star of the time-traveling romance About Time, is – in my opinion, anyway – an unexpected but fine addition to the Star Wars universe. Likewise, motion-capture guru Serkis (who reprises as the ape Casesar in Dawn of the Plant of the Apes this summer) and the legendary Swedish actor Max von Sydow (The Seventh Seal, The Exorcist, Minority Report) are surprising, yet very welcome casting additions. Will the pair put their respective skills to use as a CGI-enhanced alien and villainous Sith type, perhaps? Or does Abrams have something else in mind for the pair?

Andy Serkis (here seen in ‘King Kong’) is headed to the Star Wars universe

One last interesting thing to note (for the time being, that is): The Disney/Lucasfilm press release says that Abrams is directing from a screenplay that he wrote with Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) – with no mention of Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), who penned the original Episode VII script draft. Mind you, that doesn’t mean Arndt won’t be receiving story credit for his contribution, but it is an indication of just how much rewriting Abrams and Kasdan did on Arndt’s earlier draft. Hopefully what we have now is an improvement on what we had under the guidance of an Oscar-winning writer like Arndt.

Star Wars: Episode VII is directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer.

The movie opens worldwide on December 18, 2015.