Star Trek Into Darkness and Super 8 director J.J. Abrams is calling the shots on Disney and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: Episode VII, drawing from an initial script draft by Michael Arndt (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), with revisions by Abrams and the seasoned Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back). Beyond that and who's collaborating with Abrams behind the scenes on Episode VII, there are no confirmed bits of information to report on the project (read: no official casting and/or plot details).
Speculation and rumor, however, those are another matter. According to unverified reports, Abrams and Kasdan's script revisions have shifted the focus in Episode VII - as featured in Arndt's original screenplay - moving it away from a younger generation of heroes to Episode IV-VI mainstays Luke, Leia and Han, with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford set to reprise their iconic roles. If true, the latter characters will then figuratively pass the torch to their offspring in Abrams' film, before the Skywalker (and Solo) children takeover the spotlight and lead the franchise onward without assistance in Episode VIII... and beyond.
Ain't It Cool News is claiming to have heard back from two different sources, asserting that 22-year old Irish actor Jack Reynor has landed one of the "younger generation" roles in Episode VII.
Reynor's name might ring a bell, as the young star - a key supporting player in last year's Vince Vaughn dramedy Delivery Man - will be the young male lead in Michael Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction this summer, as the hotshot vehicle racer boyfriend to Mark Wahlberg's daughter (Bates Motel's Nicola Peltz).
Reynor isn't the only actor named in connection to Episode VII who fits the profile for a character dubbed "Thomas" in casting calls (i.e. a "handsome, smart and athletic" lad between 19-23 years old). Breaking Bad and Friday Night Lights alum Jesse Plemons was previously rumored for a role, before Abrams confirmed that he had, in fact, met with the actor - what happened beyond that, Abrams didn't say. Similarly, Zac Efron (That Awkward Moment) has confirmed the old rumors about him having been approached by (and even met up with) certain Episode VII producers.
Interestingly, if the Reynor rumor pans out, it would parallel how Shia LaBeouf went from starring in Transformers to playing a "younger generation" character in the fourth Indiana Jones movie - specifically, the son of Harrison Ford's adventurous archaeologist - whereas Reynor could portray the son of Ford's Han Solo in Episode VII. That comparison might not be all that encouraging for Star Wars fans, but remember - for now, it's just a rumor, so take it with the requisite grain of salt.
Speaking of Dr. Jones - Den of Geek has heard back from a "good, reliable source" that certain Episode VII staff members - like the model makers and people who are rumored to have designed and built a full-scale Millennium Falcon at Pinewood Studios - have been contracted for up to seven films, including Episodes VII-IX, three additional Star Wars character spinoffs and Indiana Jones 5.
The idea of Disney/Lucasfilm planning ahead for six Star Wars movies seems all the more reasonable, following the reports last week that ILM is opening a new facility in London - signaling that the effects company expects to be working on multiple projects there in the foreseeable future. However, even though Indiana Jones 5 has been rumored for some time now (and Star Wars crew members would be contracted to work on it), there is a chance it won't actually happen.
Disney secured the full rights to the franchise in 2013, but shortly thereafter chairman Alan Horn downplayed rumors about the project being fast-tracked, insisting "We haven't done anything" and that a fifth Indiana Jones movie is still 2-3 years away, best case scenario. Couple that with Ford's age and the general public's lukewarm feelings for the series after Indiana Jones an the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and it becomes more obvious why in this case Disney/Lucasfilm are considering their options rather than plowing ahead (a la Star Wars).
That said, having staff members contracted for Indiana Jones 5 makes sense regardless, since Disney is surely going to do something with the Indy Jones property eventually, now that it owns the rights. Whether that means making a fifth installment with Ford or something else altogether - maybe a fresh-start reboot like what is happening on the Terminator franchise - remains to be seen, but the man in the brown hat will be back... someday.
Star Wars: Episode VII is scheduled to reach theaters on December 18th, 2015.
We'll keep you posted on the future of the Indiana Jones franchise.