J.J. Abrams wil begin shooting Star Wars: Episode VII within the next few months, and we've already seen the first wave of more reliable casting rumors hit the 'Net, after what felt like an endless amount of time (it was really just a year) of speculation, unverified claims and whisper campaigns about who may (or may not) have auditioned for a role in the highly-anticipated film.
The most recent Episode VII report claims that Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) have overhauled the original script draft by Michael Arndt (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), so that "original trilogy" protagonists Luke, Leia and Han - with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford expected to play older versions of the characters - are now the focus of the film.
The idea is that this will allow for a proper transition from Stars Wars of old to new, thus letting the fan-favorite stars of Episodes IV-VII to truly "pass the torch" to the next generation of actors in a galaxy far, far away - who will then take center stage in Episode VIII, and beyond (see: yet-to-be-confirmed origin films for Han Solo and Boba Fett). Episode VII's roster of potential youngster cast members (read: those under 30) includes up and comers Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station).
Meanwhile, such established and critically-lauded thespians as Hugo Weaving (Cloud Atlas), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (2012) have all been named as possibilities for a role in Episode VII, at some point during the project's early development days (months?).
Both Ejiofor and his 12 Years a Slave costar Michael Fassbender (who's also said to be in consideration for a role in Episode VII) received Golden Globe nominations for their work on Steve McQueen's acclaimed slavery drama. During the red carpet festivities that proceeded last night's ceremony, Ejiofor was asked about the possibility that he will appear in the next Star Wars movie.
Naturally, the actor played coy, but he didn't deny anything either, saying (via Yahoo!):
"Who knows? We'll just have to see. I don't know is really the only answer I can give you. I'm a huge fan of [the 'Star Wars'] world and JJ, but I don't know. I can't tell you."
Ejiofor and Fassbender are not only the same age (36), but both actor fits the criteria for the "40-something military man" role that is reported to be a priority casting for Episode VII, along with the young male and female leads - a 17-18 year old “tough-cookie girl” and a 19-23 year old “charismatic, funny guy," to be exact. We also know that 47-year old Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class) read for a role, with the "military man" being a strong possibility. That said, contrary to popular speculation, there've been no solid reports yet that the character in question is Expanded Universe favorite Grand Admiral Thrawn.
I've already thrown my hat in the ring for Ejiofor to land the mystery "military man" role in Episode VII (or any role in the movie, frankly), as the soon-to-be Oscar-nominated character actor has shown incredible depth and range in his career thus far, with notable performances in films ranging from Amistad, Dirty Pretty Things, Kinky Boots and Inside Man to Joss Whedon's Firefly movie Serenity, among others.
Ejiofor also has yet to be given a franchise to call his own even though he deserves one, whereas Weaver (The Matrix and Lord of the Rings trilogies) and Fassbender (the X-Men: First Class trilogy) are no strangers to genre IP's. Fassbender is contracted to appear in the followup to X-Men: Days of Future Past (currently known as X-Men: Apocalypse) and the upcoming Assassin's Creed video game movie, which may prevent his involvement with Star Wars, seeing how Lucasfilm and Disney are probably looking to rope in cast members for multi-picture deals.
Indeed, the next era of Star Wars entertainment is will use the shared continuity model of the Marvel Studios' universe. Hence, for example, the claim that David Oyelowo (The Butler) will star in Episode VII as an older version of the character that he is voicing in the Star Wars Rebels TV series (which takes place between Episodes III and IV), based on him also being rumored to join the next live-action Star Wars installment.
What effect the likelihood of a long-term commitment will have on Ejiofor's decision, that remains to be seen. Let us know in the comments section if you'd be interested in seeing Ejiofor join the Star War franchise, and what other rumored candidates you'd like to see recruited for the next chapter in the space opera created by George Lucas.
Star Wars: Episode VII opens in theaters on December 18th, 2015.