Production is well underway on Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII, and just like fans did for its predecessor, the Internet is full of speculation regarding what might happen in the saga's next chapter. Of particular interest are the new additions to the cast, which include Oscar winner Benicio del Toro, Academy Award nominee Laura Dern, and fresh face Kelly Marie Tran. Lucasfilm has yet to reveal any details about the roles that trio is playing, indicating that even though Star Wars 8 may be less secretive in the long run when compared to The Force Awakens, there are still plenty of aspects to keep under lock and key.
Dern's inclusion was a pleasant surprise, since she had never been connected to the film before the official announcement. Ever since then, there has been no shortage of theories about who she might be playing. A popular hypothesis is that Dern will be bringing life to Rey's mysterious mother, as viewers should learn more about the scavenger-turned-Jedi's backstory in Episode VIII. However, if a new rumor is to be believed, Johnson has something a little different in mind for the actress.
Latino-Review caught wind of a scene that involves Dern's character and provides some clues as to how she fits in. The sequence in question takes place in the interior of a spaceship, which is being filmed on a soundstage in Pinewood Studios in London. The vehicle is said to be very large, with a substantial crew and several droids working on it. It's assumed to be a Resistance ship, since there are "hairy" alien creatures on board; the First Order maintains the "humans only" mandate of the old Galactic Empire. During the scene, a group of Resistance fighters (including Poe Dameron) have just returned from battle and are worse for wear.
Dern's character looks to be a captain or officer, since she comes on board and informs the group that they are the last of the "rebellion/resistance" and that General Leia Organa is severely injured, but receiving medical attention. Poe has what is described as an "antagonistic exchange of words" with Dern, who has some authority over the pilot. The two obviously are not friendly, as a later sequence shows Poe and a bunch of Resistance fighters commandeering Dern's ship, and Dameron points a blaster in her direction.
The information L-R provides is somewhat vague, so it's difficult to get a sense of the full context. They speculate that this story thread could be related to the upcoming canon novel Bloodline (set six years before Force Awakens), which covers a political conflict between New Republic Populists and Centralists. The Populists, like Leia, feel that individual planets should retain their authority, while the Centralists are in favor of a stronger government and military. Without too much to go off of, this makes sense, seeing that the rumored Dern scenes paint a picture of a Republic divided. Not only is the First Order a threat, the "heroes" of the plot have to deal with their own in-fighting.
One of the revelations in the Force Awakens novelization (something not included in the film), was that the Resistance is an offshoot group waging its own war under Leia's command. Prior to the events of Star Wars 7, the Republic signed a treaty with the First Order and does not approve of Leia's actions. Leia views herself as a "political pariah" and chose not to go to the new Senate on Hosnian Prime out of fear of an assassination attempt. With the Hosnian system now destroyed by Starkiller base, the Republic could be in even greater turmoil than it was before - and those who oppose Leia will be none too pleased by what has transpired. It sounds like the Marvel Cinematic Universe won't be the only Disney franchise with a civil war ongoing in the near future.
A common criticism of The Force Awakens was that it wasn't very clear on the current state of the galaxy, barely explaining the origins of the Resistance and the First Order. It would be nice then, if Episode VIII dedicated more time to that subject, so viewers had a better picture of how everything came to be. After the prequels, the notion of political struggles in a Star Wars movie could make some uneasy, but as long as it's handled properly, it's something that should be done. Previous films in the series provided fans with straightforward tales of good vs. evil; all the Rebels worked together to stop the Empire. A refreshing angle to explore would be a morally grey area in which people on the same "side" don't alway see eye-to-eye, something that's been touched on in the new canon material.
Of course, this is all speculation on our part, but it would give Dern a compelling and meaty role to play in Star Wars 8, arguably something more interesting than "Rey's mom" or "Luke's wife." Unfortunately, it'll be a while before Lucasfilm starts unveiling official details for this movie, so for now, fans will have to make do with the old rumor mill.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode 8 on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode 9 is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.