'Star Wars: Episode 7' Casting Update; J.J. Abrams Talks Script Rewrites & Release Date

Star Wars: Episode 7 casting update

Star Wars movies are traditionally cloaked in secrecy prior to their release, though one has to wonder if George Lucas would've been able to keep a lid on Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back's legendary twist had the film been made in the age of the Internet. That aside: director J.J. Abrams has certainly done a good job of keeping details on Star Wars: Episode VII under lock and key, with just over a month left to go until 2013 reaches its conclusion.

Production on Episode VII begins overseas in London in Spring 2014, so casting announcements will be arriving sooner, rather than later at this point. A few weeks back, Disney/Lucasfilm sent out a casting call for the movie's young male and female leads, which has since been opened up to thousands of people on multiple continents. We now had confirmation that Abrams and his fellow producers are actively seeking to fill at least one more important role in the next Star Wars movie.

THR is confirming the basic descriptions for the Episode VII young leads - a 17-18 year old "tough-cookie girl" and a 19-23 year old "charismatic, funny guy" - who are thought to be members of a new generation of Skywalker (note: the character descriptions are similar to twins Jaina and Jacen Solo in the Star Wars Expanded Universe literature). In addition, insiders are claiming that the Episode VII producers are looking to fill another role: a "40-something military man," who the sources liken to Matt Damon's character in Elysium.

Now, there was a 40-something military type in the Episode VII casting breakdown that leaked 5-6 months ago, but the THR article indicates that something has changed, with regard to this role. It could be that the character now plays a more substantial part in the story, thanks to the rewrites that Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) have performed, based on the earlier script draft written by Michael Arndt (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). As such, filling that role might be a greater priority now than it was before.

Total Film recently conducted an interview with Abrams, where the director touched on subjects like shooting Episode VII in London and the process of revising the film's script with the legendary Kasdan. Unfortunately, while Abrams comments are encouraging, they're also evasive with regard to how substantial the rewrites are (or what aspects of the story they involve):

“Working with Larry has been one of the most surreal joys of my life," Abrams says. "We've had a lot of fun working together. He's an incredible guy and an inspiring and spectacular writer."

UPDATE: In a separate recent interview with MTV, Abrams also indicated that not having to finish Episode VII in time to make a Summer 2015 release date will greatly improve the final movie product:

"I will say that it is an infinitely better situation now than when they were saying that they wanted it in the summer [of 2015]. Before I even came onto the project, they were talking about 2015, and they made this announcement very early on, which I understand. I understand why they'd want that, but it didn't necessarily have anything to do with the reality of where anything was creatively... I think that it's a hugely important thing that [the creative process] come first. A release date is great, but you have to release something great. To me, the new release date is a huge improvement."

There are a handful of candidates - who've either been rumored or confirmed to have auditioned for Episode VII already - that fall within the desired late 30s/early 40s age bracket for the film's "military man" character; namely, Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Star Trek Into Darkness star, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as the Operative in Serenity
Chiwetel Ejiofor as 'The Operative'

Of the three previously-listed actors, I would personally go with Ejiofor, if only because it would be fun to see him in a role that sounds relatively close to his nameless Operative from Joss Whedon's Serenity (the film based on his Firefly TV series). Moreover, he could bring some needed gravitas to the proceedings in Episode VII, especially if Ejiofor were to spend most of his onscreen with younger or newcomer types as the leads (Cumberbatch would manage likewise, but he might be too busy and/or not interested).

Flemyng recently confirmed that he's auditioning for Episode VII, so it's all more reasonable now to assume that he's trying out to play the aforementioned "military man" character; that said, there's no guarantee that he will get the role. Also, the comparison to Damon's Elysium character - a tattooed ex-convict from a poor background - raises question as to who, exactly, this Episode VII player will be, either hero or villain. (Maybe a soldier who serves the New Republic? A ragtag bounty hunter? A military leader who commands over the remains of the Galactic Empire?)

What are your thoughts about this new role, Screen Ranters? Be sure and let us know in the comments section.


Star Wars: Episode VII opens in theaters on December 18th, 2015.

Source: THR, Total Film, MTV

'Star Wars: The Old Republic' Header Image Artwork by McNealy @ deviantART

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