Star Wars: The Force Awakens hasn't even begun its run for the all-time box office crown, but anticipation for the untitled Star Wars: Episode VIII is already building. That film will be written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper) and already the casting hunt for a new female character (to join returning players from Force Awakens) is underway.
However, one high-profile actor has already been confirmed to join the long-awaited Star Wars sequel trilogy. Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro - who has already joined that other Disney-owned shared universe as The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy - has been reported as being up to play a villain in Episode VIII, but now it sounds like his character might be more morally ambiguous than initially assumed.
During an interview with Spanish-language radio station RAC1, the topic of Star Wars came up (naturally), and Del Toro teased a bit more about the nature of his character in the process. Here's what he had to say (thanks to StarWars7News.com for the translation):
"Star Wars is coming up, we will see how that turns out. I think we start shooting in March. .... They don’t let me talk too much about it. I’m like the villain. ... But we’ll see"
At first appearance, there doesn't seem to be too much to take away from Del Toro's comments, as he is known to be a bit hesitant to share tidbits about his character. However, the phrasing he used to describe his role as "like the villain" does raise questions over how his character fits into the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order. The actor could just as easily be playing a bounty hunter caught up in it all, who simply has no personal motivation behind his actions other than a paycheck.
After all, Johnson's Episode VIII would mark the middle chapter of this new trilogy, just as The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones were. Perhaps it's telling that both of the previous trilogy's introduced the concept of bounty hunters into their respective stories in the second film. This would be a fun way for Johnson's film to honor the franchise's tradition when the film hits theaters in 2017. He's already gone on record about how the incoming batch of Star Wars directors are truly passionate about the material, meaning this kind of reverence to the storytelling of the previous films isn't outside the realm of possibility.
Regardless of Del Toro's role in the film, the actor - who will next be seen in this month's crime thriller Sicario - is a welcome addition. It will likewise be interesting to see how Episode VIII develops the themes and characters audiences are set to meet in December, paving the way for even more new players to debut in Johnson's Star Wars installment.
Star Wars: Episode VII – 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.