The next two years or so are big ones for Hollywood blockbusters, with a host of sequels, three-quels, reboots and potential franchise-starters all crowding the multiplexes of America. The granddaddy of them all, however, might just be director J.J. Abrams hotly-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII.
While the plot details remain cloaked in secrecy, which is to be expected with Abrams and his "mystery box" PR strategy, by now we know a few more things than we did at this time last year. Episode VII will take place 30 years after 1983's Return of the Jedi, Girls star Adam Driver is reportedly in final talks to play the main villain, there's a chance that Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhem may return as the fan-favorite Wookie alongside original stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, and Star Wars 7 will be followed by standalone "origins" movies possibly featuring Han Solo and bounty hunter Boba Fett.
Many of the recent casting rumors have pointed toward relative unknowns and newcomers being approached for roles. The shortlist for Episode VII's coveted young male lead supposedly contains Attack the Block star John Boyega, Breaking Bad's Jesse Plemons and Ed Speleers of Downton Abbey. 12 Years a Slave Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o is reportedly in the running for a role as well. Could the younger generation of cast members wind up being almost exclusively made up of unknown actors?
According to Lost alum Dominic Monaghan, this is exactly what J.J. Abrams has in mind. In an interview with DweebCast (via Metro), Monaghan talked about whether or not he'd been approached for a role, saying "We talked about it a few times. Once I knew that he was doing 'Star Wars' I sent him a little congratulatory message and stuff." He went on to possibly spill the beans on Abrams' casting strategy:
We’ve talked a few times about it and he said “We’re putting together a cast of unknowns – we want to follow the ’77 'New Hope' cast because obviously Harrison Ford wasn’t well known at that point, Mark Hamill wasn’t and Carrie Fisher wasn’t either.
According to Monaghan, Abrams' reasoning is less trying to recapture the lightning in the bottle of the 1977 original than keeping the focus off of a handful of famous faces wielding lightsabers, saying:
What he said was, we don’t want to fall into that mistake of people going “Oh it’s that guy from that thing!” and then you’re completely out of the 'Star Wars' universe.
Were he offered a role, would Monaghan be game? Perhaps unsurprisingly, he answered: "Give me a lightsaber, I’ll do anything."
Much of what we know about the next chapter in the saga is either conjecture or unconfirmed, with the buzz around Star Wars 7 mainly a swirl of rumors, such as the report that Gary Oldman and Benedict Cumberbatch have been offered the same role or that the plot for the new film will significantly borrow from the Star Wars Extended Universe (although this is quite likely true to some degree).
With this in mind, is this a case of Monaghan telling tales out of school? In the realm of high-level paranoid thinking the question would be: Did Abrams put him up to a sly bit of redirection? Does it matter either way?
The casting rumors already suggest that the next generation of Jedi and Sith will consist of lesser-known talent, so there could be some truth to this. Audiences will of course pack theaters to see the original cast return to the roles that launched their stars into orbit, but this is Star Wars - the franchise itself gets the top billing.
Still, we've got more than a year a half of rumors and potential rumors to go, and given Abrams' level of secrecy, we'll have to take what information we can get in the meantime.
Star Wars: Episode VII will be released on December 18th, 2015.