Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford's return to the Star Wars universe has been the new trilogy's worst kept secret. Fisher was quoted - frequently and blatantly - as confirming the stars' inclusion, and even Hamill confirmed talks. Then, of course, there were the rumors that J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan had worked over Michael Arndt's Episode VII script, giving more significant roles to the original cast members.
Once Hamill, Fisher, and Ford were spotted in London, it was basically a done deal - Luke, Leia, and Han are back! And hopefully, ready to step back in to the roles that made them superstars. It's been 31 years since Hamill, Fisher and Ford last appeared onscreen as these iconic characters, and expectations will undoubtedly be high.
Which is why it was such a wise decision to have Episode VII occur some 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, mirroring the years that have passed in real time. This ensured that Hamill, Fisher, and Ford would already appear of age for their roles (not that there was really any other option).
Yet, there was still more work to be done for Hamill, 62, and Fisher, 57. They - unlike Ford, 71, who has continued to play action-heavy roles, most recently in Cowboys & Aliens - have for the most part continued their careers off screen. Because of this, the pair had reportedly been each given a "top nutritionist and fitness trainer" in order to get in shape for Episode VII.
And judging by this most recent photo of Hamill - appearing for the first time at Walt Disney World's Star Wars Weekends event from June 6-8 - all that working out and dieting paid off:
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While it's immediately noticeable that Hamill is sporting a beard (the kind favored by many a Jedi Master), you also can't help but notice how much leaner and more fit the actor appears. Luke Skywalker is by no means a young man anymore, but years of training the next generation of Jedi would have surely kept him in decent shape.
Hamill's more fit look could also indicate his role will require some physical exertion. Seeing Skywalker as a full-on Jedi Master with complete mastery over The Force is something fans have been waiting decades to see, and perhaps Episode VII is where we'll see it.
What do you expect of Mark Hamill's role as an older, wiser Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode VII? Do you think his role will be similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi's or will he have a more physically demanding part to play? And how soon until this image has been photoshopped a hundred times over, adding billowing Jedi robes and more?
Star Wars: Episode VII opens worldwide on December 18, 2015.