It's a testament to the marketing prowess of Star Wars that so much of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already become ingrained in the pop culture zeitgeist. Even though fans still have to wait one more month before the film hits theaters, moviegoers across the globe are overtly familiar with several of its elements, including new droid BB-8.
The adorable little robot has been a major part of the promotional campaign, appearing in the very first teaser trailer back in November 2014 and becoming one of the holiday season's hottest new toys in 2015. Like everything else in Star Wars 7, BB-8 has been subject to many rumors and speculation; lately if the soccer ball droid was of the male or female variety. Now, someone who had a hand in the design has chimed in to address that matter.
In EW's extensive coverage of The Force Awakens this week, they had a feature dedicated to BB-8. In it, Neal Scanlon (identified as the head of The Force Awakens creature shop) talked about the studio's new creation and how it quickly won over fans' hearts. Scanlon didn't provide a clear answer to the "boy or girl" query, but it sounds like BB-8 will be a guy:
“I’m still not sure, dare I say, whether BB-8 is male or female. BB-8 was female in our eyes. And then he or she became male. And that’s all part of the evolution, not only visually, but in the way they move, how they hold themselves.”
In their piece, EW added that everybody working on the film refers to BB-8 as "he," so it seems as if it's been decided what gender the droid is. Some may be disappointed by that revelation. With The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm is ushering in a new era of diversity for the Star Wars franchise, and it would have been nice to see that extend to the new droid characters. The studio is making great strides in achieving gender and racial equality in Star Wars movies, so it's a little odd that part of BB-8's "evolution" was to turn him from a girl to a boy.
Regardless of what BB-8 ends up being (if droids can be classified by sex), there's no denying that he's one of the cutest characters in the Star Wars galaxy. His look is part of what's made him a big hit with audiences, and Scanlon indicates that BB-8 is very much aware of the effect he has on people:
“I think he knows he’s cute. He knows that he can win people over. And he uses that like children do to get his own way. In this film, he has a very important mission that he has to accomplish and so he uses his personality, his coyness, and all of those things.”
In the bevy of Star Wars rumors, it's been speculated that BB-8 plays a "pivotal" role in the plot and acquires Luke Skywalker's original lightsaber during the movie's opening sequence. The nature of his mission remains a mystery, but it's safe to say the droid is going to be a main driving force in the narrative. Having him be manipulative would be an interesting angle to explore, and perhaps make BB-8 a more memorable character in the long run (as opposed to strictly a story device).
Like R2-D2 before him, BB-8 comes equipped with a variety of gadgets that he can use in various situations, including a taser-like probe and a grappling hook for climbing purposes. But The Force Awakens will not spill all of his secrets, as his complete toolbox is still being developed according to Scanlon:
“We haven’t absolutely defined what each panel does,” Scanlan says. “Each has a specific purpose, whether it be a data port, or a docking station, or a welding torch. He might have his own self-defense mechanism. A Swiss Army Knife that shouldn’t be trusted.”
It's fascinating that Scanlon goes out of his way to mention the "shouldn't be trusted" part. BB-8 is a part of the Resistance, serving as Poe Dameron's co-pilot during the battle at Starkiller Base, so he doesn't seem like a candidate to betray the heroes. Perhaps it's an extension of how he exploits people's feelings, and he's not as helpless as he lets on. It's just another thing for fans to theorize about until December gets here.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.