It wasn't long after J.J. Abrams had been confirmed to direct Star Wars: Episode VII that rumors began to circulate, with regard to the possibility that select cast members from his Star Trek movies will join him in a galaxy far, far away. One of the more popular options is Benedict Cumberbatch, as the fan-favorite star of the BBC's Sherlock television mini-series (and the antagonist in Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness) is an outspoken fanboy of George Lucas' intergalactic saga.
We're now hearing that Cumberbatch may, in fact, be the first new addition to the Episode VII cast, which also includes returning Star Wars players Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill (though they are technically unconfirmed for the time being). Moreover, there are a few reasons to think that the latest Episode VII rumor is more than all smoke and no fire, unlike the recent online rumblings about Zac Efron and Ryan Gosling having been offered roles.
For one, Film Chronicles - the site responsible for breaking this story - refers to Cumberbatch being onboard for Episode VII, but without using the word "rumor" as a crutch in case their source turns out to be incorrect. As Bleeding Cool (which picked up the story earlier) points out, Film Chronicles "focus almost exclusively on reviews, interviews and well-sourced content rather than speculation or rumors" - meaning, if the site is willing to take a leap of faith this big, then it's presumably because the Film Chronicles staff has good reason to believe that the story will pan out.
Moreover, it was just under two weeks ago (at the time of writing this) that Cumberbatch departed director Guillermo del Toro's Gothic haunted house feature Crimson Peak - a project that will be in production at the same time as Episode VII - with no official reason being offered, with regard to why Cumberbatch had suddenly dropped out (hint, hint). Finally, although it's not (yet) official, the leaked Episode VII casting breakdown includes two roles that would make sense for Cumberbatch, age-wise: a "Forty something male, fit, military type" and a "Thirty something male, intellectual. Apparently doesn't need to be fit" (Cumberbatch is still in tip-top condition following his Into Darkness muscle gain).
Longtime Screen Rant readers know that our staff would gladly turn out to see a movie called Benedict Cumberbatch Reads the Phone Book, so it should come as little surprise to learn that we are onboard with Cumberbatch bringing his powerful screen presence and mix of dignity/humor to the Star Wars universe, no matter what his role is. Therefore, it's just icing on the cake that the actor also possesses a strong appreciation for the lasting impact of Lucas' space opera.
As he previously stated, in an interview with Total Film:
"I was much more connected to [Star Wars] as a kid, in the way that a lot of kids are because it’s immediate storytelling, very simple – a beautifully, outrageously simple narrative in a way – and a wonderful three-act melodrama, opera. And I loved them. I really, really loved those films and I always wanted to be Han Solo. Everything Harrison Ford did I just thought was the coolest thing ever."
Until further notice, however, it's best to treat this Episode VII news as an enticing, yet unconfirmed rumor and nothing more (or less, for that matter). That said, in case you need more reason to justify hoping that this story may well be accurate: Cumberbatch, in addition to having an established working relationship with Abrams, is best known for the characters he plays and not for his celebrity persona (yet, anyway). In other words, he's as much the sort of actor who has traditionally been cast in a Star Wars movie as the recently-rumored young candidates Alex Pettyfer and Rachel Hurd-Wood.
Reports continue to circulate that Disney and Lucasfilm are on the verge of making a major casting announcement for Episode VII, so stay tuned for an update on this story (good or bad) in the near future.
[Update: Additional details indicate Cumberbatch may play a Force-using villain for the entire trilogy!]
[Update 2: 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 (according to the latest reports). Again, we'll be sure and keep you posted on the situation.