It's now officially confirmed that the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One - the first Star Wars Anthology (read: standalone) movie that Lucasfilm will release - will take place after Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) and not too long before Episode IV (A New Hope) and tell the tale of the mission to steal the first Death Star's plans. However, as of right now, the only confirmed cast member in the film is Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), who's playing a Rebel soldier.
Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline) is reported to be circling a Rogue One role - though, presumably, not the male lead role, which such actors as Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul and Édgar Ramírez (Clash of the Titans) were previously said to be in the running for. The latest update on the film's casting process reveals that actors Sam Claflin and Riz Ahmed as now circling key roles in the feature, including the aforementioned male lead.
The Wrap is reporting that Claflin is the front-runner for a starring role in Rogue One, while Ahmed has already entered talks for another key role. Elsewhere, Variety's sources are saying that Ahmed is the top choice for the male lead, citing his chemistry with Jones as having set him apart from his competition. The short of it: both actors seem to be circling important roles in Rogue One; assuming they sign on, we can later sort out who's playing what role (and what those roles/characters even are).
Ahmed appeared in such not-exactly-mainstream films as Four Lions, Centurion, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist before costarring with Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler last year - playing Rick, a fellow who becomes the unwitting assistant to Lou Bloom's (Gyllenhaal) gruesome night-time paparazzi work. That film is foremost a showcase for Gyllenhaal, but most would probably agree that Ahmed certainly held his own with a solid supporting performance.
Meanwhile, Claflin has thus far done some solid work - like his turn as Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and his role on The Pillars of the Earth TV mini-series. However, he also has a handful of less-than-memorable roles under his belt (see: Snow White and the Huntsman, The Quiet Ones), so he's not quite in the same league as some of the other rising stars who've bene courted (or are being courted) for Rogue One at this stage.
So far, then, the Rogue One cast is starting to resemble the new acting roster for this December's Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens - promising up and coming talent mixed with more seasoned acclaimed character actors. Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), when he spoke about the film at Star Wars Celebration this past weekend, said the movie will be very much about ordinary (read: non-Force using) people in the Star Wars galaxy - something the casting approach fits.
Rogue One is based on a script penned by Gary Whitta (After Earth) and Chris Weitz (Cinderella), with the longtime rumor being that Rebel soldiers join forces with bounty hunters on their mission to steal the plans to the first Death Star. In general, actually, it seems the upcoming Star Wars films will be including more morally-grey characters - even the animated TV show Star Wars Rebels has begun to do as much.
Point being: not all of the film's main cast members may be playing admirable members of the Rebel Alliance; they might even start out on the Imperials' side, a la John Boyega as Finn in The Force Awakens. There have always been (and shall continue to be) pure heroes in the Star Wars franchise, but these new characters whose values are not always clear-cut should better help to mix things up - and assist in keeping the galaxy far, far away interesting, as we see more of it on the big screen.
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens opens in U.S. theaters on December 18th, 2015. Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One hits theaters on December 16th, 2016.
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