Star Wars fans are impatiently counting down the days until J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, but Lucasfilm is already building the franchise’s future. Disney’s intention is to make good on its $4 billion investment and release a new movie set in a galaxy far, far away annually, with standalone “Anthology” films filling in the gaps between the core episodes of the sequel trilogy.

The studio is wasting no time in getting those projects out in the theaters. Less than two years after Force Awakens brings back the iconic property, Rian Johnson’s untitled Episode VIII will fly onto the big screen (May 2017 to be precise). That movie will be a monumental occasion for a number of reasons, chief among them Star Wars will be celebrating its 40th anniversary. And what better way to commemorate that milestone than by signing a fan-favorite character actor to play a franchise villain?

The Wrap is reporting that’s exactly what is happening. Lucasfilm has offered the role of the Episode VIII baddie to none other than Benicio del Toro, who is already familiar with the Mouse House thanks to his small role in last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Their sources say that talks are still in the early goings (meaning things could fall through), but the studio is very high on bringing the actor on board. Considering everything falls into place, del Toro sounds like their guy.

Details on the proposed role are slim, with The Wrap simply saying “the villain” in their report (it sounds like a lead role). Fans will no doubt spend the next days hypothesizing what character del Toro could bring to life, but the other part of this is what his potential involvement means for Force Awakens’ adversaries. The latter roster includes Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and perhaps Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) all interested in making the Resistance’s life a living hell. It’s true that Star Wars sequels are no stranger to adding characters to the universe, but it sounds like someone may have to be eliminated in order for an actor of del Toro’s stature to step in.

Benicio del Toro in Traffic Star Wars: Episode 8: Benicio del Toro Eyed For the Villain

Benicio del Toro in ‘Traffic’

Regardless of the size of the role, del Toro would be a great addition to the franchise should he take the part. An Oscar winner for his turn in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, the thespian has carved out a nice career for himself playing a diverse range of characters, including many who fall on the “evil” side of the spectrum. He’s shown time and time again he can be a menacing presence on-screen, which is a prerequisite for a Star Wars villain. Whether they’re Sith Lords or vile gangsters in the underbelly of Tattooine, they’ve always been terrifying and present a great deal of challenges for the heroes.

There’s no word on a time table for del Toro’s decision, but there doesn’t seem to be any rush to lock him down. Johnson isn’t expected to start rolling his cameras until early 2016, so it’s not like this will significantly alter that production schedule one way or another. At the same time, Lucasfilm is clearly planning ahead and would most likely want all its ducks in a row as soon as possible. Not to mention, the studio probably wants to give itself a cushion, should del Toro pass (like he did once upon a time for the Star Trek Into Darkness villain role).

NEXT: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Villain Roles Revealed

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18, 2015, followed by Star Wars: Rogue One on December 16, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars anthology film on May 25, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX has not received an official release date.

Source: The Wrap

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