Only a Sith deals in absolutes, but many a Star Wars fans would gladly accept some concrete details about Episode VII, now that we've amassed close to a year's worth of rumored plot breakdowns and speculative casting selections. As it stands, though, the only confirmed pieces of information right now concern who is working behind the scenes on the film: legendary executive producer Kathleen Kennedy (Back to the Future, Jurassic Park), Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Oblivion) and geek culture staple director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8).
A report that Star Trek Into Darkness antagonist Benedict Cumberbatch will be acquiring force powers in Episode VII emerged over the Labor Day holiday, but the actor's reps have since denied that he has been cast (which could be true even if the actor has been in talks for a role). Elsewhere, Abrams' love of subterfuge has made it difficult to separate pure rumor from legitimate casting possibilities, but a clearer picture starts to form when you put together all recent claims about who has (and has not) auditioned for a Star Wars role to date.
The casting breakdown for Episode VII has been circulating online for a couple months now, with the rundown of new additions to the Star Wars universe including two female characters in their late teens and two male leads in their 20s. So far, the consensus among fans is that some, if not all, of these described young Episode VII players will be either the grown-up children of Leia and Han Solo or Luke Skywalker (for the uninitiated, the latter married Mara Jade in the Star Wars Expanded Universe).
Showbizz 411 is reporting that the following casting call - for an "Untitled Studio Feature" from Disney and director J.J. Abrams (hint, hint) - has been sent out in New York City, and the rundown of character details align with the aforementioned cast breakdown for Episode VII.
- [YOUNG MAN] Early 20s. Handsome, but not necessarily heroic. He is witty and smart. Physically fit.
- [MAN] Late 20s. Physically fit, handsome and confident.
- [YOUNG WOMAN] Late teens. Physically fit, raw energy, independent and with a great sense of humor.
Jedi News has been informed by its source that 31-year old Spartacus: Vengeance and War of the Damned star Liam McIntyre and 25-year old Lost Girl actress Ksenia Solo (yep, that's her real last name) are being considered for roles in Episode VII. This rumor arrives just a week after reports that 23-year old Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike) and 22-year old Rachel Hurd-Wood (Hideaways) have either auditioned or are in the running to join the cast of Abrams' Star Wars feature. In other words, if we judge solely based upon these actors and actresses respective ages, then if feasible that each of them are vying for different roles in the film; for example, McIntyre could be up to play the "handsome and confident" man in his late 20s (whereas Pettyfer is still rumored to be up as a contender to portray Luke Skywalker's son).
Cast-wise, Episode VII is expected to bear a resemblance to the main lineup in Abrams' Star Trek movies, by featuring a combination of fresh-faced (i.e. attractive) rising stars and more experienced character actors; not to mention, a few seasoned franchise veterans who can pass the torch to a new generation (read: symbolically/literally bridge the gap between past Star Wars installments and the new era). As such, although Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are expected to reprise their iconic roles from Episodes IV-VII in Abrams' Star Wars film, their "fit" costars will be the main focus in Episode VII.
Assuming this is the case, then you could accuse the people behind Episode VII of playing it safe, by recreating the formula that evolved the longstanding cult Star Trek movie franchise into a bankable mainstream success (an approach that has left many older Trekkies grumbling). However, seeing how Episode VII will need to feature a number of young stars - some of whom may not be in their acting prime yet - and introduce Lucas' fantastical galaxy far, far away to a generation that hasn't grown up watching the previous Star Wars films, it's all the more important that the film balance innovation with tradition.
No doubt, Abrams and his collaborators are taking all of the aforementioned issues under consideration during the casting and pre-production process for Episode VII, whether we are talking about bringing back original Star Wars trilogy cast members for new movies or relying on a mixture of classic practical effects and modern CGI in the film. For such reasons, it could be seen as an encouraging sign that Episode VII is replicating the Star Trek (2009) model for success, not least of all because members of both the pro and anti-Abrams' camps seem to be in agreement on one matter: his method always felt like it would've been more appropriate on a Star Wars movie than Star Trek, anyway.
Star Wars: Episode VII is tentatively slated to reach theaters by Summer 2015, though it could wind up delayed until the Winter Holiday Season.