It's high-time for Disney, with their two major acquisitions in Marvel and Lucasfilm beginning to cast key roles in each of their highest profile in-development projects, The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: Episode VII, respectively. Both films begin shooting early next year with 2015 release dates and both were reportedly set to drop major casting announcements last week.
For Marvel it happened twice, with the official castings of James Spader in The Avengers 2 and Bradley Cooper joining Guardians of the Galaxy. Star Wars however, remains without a single official casting announcement yet multiple sources have word that Benedict Cumberbatch may be nabbing a lead part in Star Wars 7.
Thanks to denials however, the many sites holding onto this news held the scoop close to their chests until Film Chronicles confidently reported the imminent casting of Cumberbatch, corroborating reports of why Cumberbatch dropped out of Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak. When that news broke early yesterday, it spread like wildfire and the other sites who also had the scoop began sharing additional details.
The most interesting of which comes from Badass Digest who claim that not only is Cumberbatch joining J.J. Abrams' Episode VII but has been cast in a "major" villainous role for the entire trilogy, very likely as a Sith warrior. Whether the news is true or not - official word is expected to come soon, potentially along with the long-awaited confirmations that Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are returning as well.
And if it does, expect to hear it from Lucasfilm itself rather than the usual trades. Like Marvel Studios revealing the pair of announcements last week on their own official site, Disney's Lucasfilm aims to do the same, self-promoting via their own official channels.
Casting calls may have revealed several of the roles Abrams and co. are planning to cast, some of whom may be children of Han Solo and Princess Leia, but as with any J.J. Abrams project, everything currently remains a mystery - at least, officially. That makes the standard denials of Cumberbatch's involvement impossible to believe at face value. That being said, Disney aims to avoid strict secrecy about their ushering in of the return of the Star Wars brand so once we hear one official casting, expect Lucasfilm's new ownership to open up the floodgates, despite Abrams' usual style.
Cumberbatch of course, earned much stardom thanks to his villainous, scene-stealing role in Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness this summer and the actor is a self-proclaimed lover of Star Wars, not shying away from sharing his interesting in continuing his working relationship with Abrams. The question is, after playing an intimidating and powerful villain in the Star Trek sequel, is it smart to have him potentially take on a similar role for another three films, or would the continuance of the saga be served better with him suiting up as a hero?
In the meantime, Cumberbatch fans can look forward to his dual supporting roles in this fall's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and his starring role in The Fifth Estate.
[Update: Cumberbatch's reps are denying it. But that would happen if he was cast and Disney didn't want to announce anyway so... it's still a 'wait and see' situation.]
Star Wars: Episode VII is tentatively slated to reach theaters by Summer 2015, though it could wind up delayed until the Winter Holiday Season.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
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