Despite locking down release dates for their Marvel Studios films up until 2017, Disney has yet to confirm a date for what may be their most-anticipated film of all time - Star Wars: Episode VII. Whether or not the return of the saga and the launch of the new Star Wars live-action trilogy begins in the summer or fall of 2015, director J.J. Abrams and the studio will begin making official casting announcements in the near future, and to date - not a single name has officially joined the cast.
It's all but confirmed at this point that the trio of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill will reprise their key roles as Princess (Queen?) Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, respectively, and as for the new faces of the franchise - we only have rumors and reports to go on.
According to "sources" (indicating more than one) of Latino-Review, actors David Oyelowo (Red Tails, Lincoln) and Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Fruitvale Station) have both gone in for meetings for Star Wars, with Jordan apparently meeting with director J.J. Abrams personally.
[gallery columns="2" ids="314495,352244"]
Jordan's 11 years younger than Brit actor Oyelowo, and both starred together in George Lucas'Red Tails. Both actors have multiple high profile projects in development, with Oyelowo joining the cast of Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, and Jordan continuing to make headlines regarding a possible role as a member of the Fantastic Four reboot for Fox. They're both stars in the making and it's a good time for Disney to lock either or both down for the long-term.
Not unlike the Disney-owned Marvel Studios, actors who make deals with Disney-Lucasfilm will sign a multi-picture contract, at the very least for the Episode 7-9 trilogy and perhaps even longer for the new characters if the saga will continue towards Episode 12. It depends on how far ahead Disney is planning.
It's also important to note that Disney will be releasing at least one Star Wars film every year beginning in 2015. The core episodic installments will likely debut three years apart (the Marvel model with The Avengers installments), allowing for two spinoff movies in between, based stories that are described by Disney execs as "origin stories" with a Han Solo movie reportedly coming first, and other rumors suggesting solo spinoffs for Boba Fett and Yoda.
While some commenters immediately speculated that the pair could be up for the part of a younger Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) in the Han Solo film, if Michael B. Jordan met with Abrams then it's specifically for Episode 7. Although we do want to see more Lando and Han!
[gallery columns="2" ids="315064,359193"]
Other unverified reports and rumors point towards Saoirse Ronan and Benedict Cumberbatch potentially joining the cast of the next Star Wars as well, with names including Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), Ksenia Solo (Lost Girl), Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike), Rachel Hurd-Wood (Peter Pan), and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) potentially having auditioned for roles as well.
Not unlike most high profile blockbuster franchises, seemingly everyone and anyone in Hollywood will have read or at least had their agents seek out a chance to join one of the world's most popular and recognizable entertainment brands in Star Wars.
What's going to be key for J.J. Abrams in relaunching the live-action film franchise is overcoming the stigma associated with the prequel trilogy and special edition releases of the original trilogy. Much of that will be how Abrams presents the story and what style it embraces. We already know that Episode VII will be shot on actual film as opposed to digitally like the prequels, and in an interview with EW, the director explains that he's attempting to craft an experience that feels "authentic".
"I would say we are working really hard to make a movie that feels as emotional and authentic and exciting as possible. Whatever your favorite Star Wars movie is and how to compare it is really sort of subjective."
"It's been nice see that how important it is and to be reminded how important it is to so many people. We all know that [creator George Lucas'] dream has become almost a religion to some people. I remember reading a thing somewhere, someone wrote about just wanting [the new film] to feel real; to feel authentic. I remember I felt that way when I was 11 years old when I saw the first one. As much of a fairy tale as it was, it felt real. And to me, that is exactly right."
Dirty up those ships and interior settings, and reduce the reliance on green screen is what we say. There was a drastic contrast between the sets and aesthetics of the vehicles and locations of the original series compared to the prequels, and if we're going back to the originals on that front - with more practical designs, that's at least one step in the right direction.
Star Wars: Episode VII is tentatively slated to reach theaters by Summer 2015, though it could wind up delayed until the Winter Holiday Season.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.