Star Wars casting: Did fans feel the Force?
- 1 May 2014
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Star Wars experts have been analysing the casting announcement for Episode VII. So did the news make them feel the Force or send them to the Dark Side?
According to the Hollywood Reporter, one of the biggest surprises about the announcement of the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII was the lack of surprises.
Who's who in the new Star Wars galaxy
Best known for his role as Adam Sackler in the US series Girls, Adam Driver is reported to be playing a villain in the new film.
Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay for critics' favourite The Empire Strikes Back (as well as its less well-rated sequel), and fans have welcomed his return for 'Episode 7'. Other highlights of his long career include The Big Chill and The Accidental Tourist.
First cut his teeth as a writer for TV and film before creating the smash hit that was Lost. He went on to reboot the hugely successful Star Trek franchise. Star Wars fun fact - one of the first films he wrote was Regarding Henry, which starred... Harrison Ford.
Originally hired by George Lucas to build sets and read through lines for auditioning actors, the strength of those readings won him a prime role as smuggler Han Solo. He went on to become a household name in the US, following up the space saga with the role of globetrotting archaeologist Indiana Jones.
Newcomer Ridley has played bit parts in TV fare like Silent Witness, ITV’s Mr Selfridge and ‘Fran’ in Casualty. She will soon be seen in The Inbetweeners film sequel. Has also appeared in a Bafta-nominated short film. According to her agent's profile she is highly skilled at jazz singing, dancing and swimming.
She set the hearts of a billion boys racing wearing a gold bikini in Return of the Jedi, but Fisher found life after Star Wars hard. She battled alcohol addiction to write the bestseller Postcards from the Edge which became an Oscar-nominated film, and has kept a high profile thanks to her one-woman show Wishful Drinking.
The 7ft 3in gentle giant from Barnes is a regular on the convention circuit signing photos of his beloved Wookiee character, Chewbacca. Has made numerous appearances on TV and films, mainly in costume. He is now resident in the US.
Co-founded Bad Robot productions with JJ Abrams and has worked on Abrams TV productions including Alias, Lost and Fringe. He also produced Abrams’ films Cloverfield and Star Trek and its sequel. Has a fansite devoted to him called Burky’s World.
Co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg in 1981 and produced his 1982 film E.T. and the Jurassic Park trilogy. In 2012, Kennedy became the president of Lucasfilm. She has been nominated for eight Oscars, mainly for her work with Spielberg - the last being Lincoln in 2013.
The son of Irish actor and Braveheart and In Bruges star Brendan Gleeson. He followed up appearances on stage with roles in Hollywood films Never Let Me Go, True Grit and The Harry Potter franchise, where he played Bill Weasley.
Now 68, the slender actor is once again squeezing into a metallic suit to play the role of android interpreter C-3PO. He reprised the role previously in the three Lucas-directed prequels, starting with The Phantom Menace.
Star Wars catapulted 25 year-old Mark Hamill to stardom, but his career tailed off sharply after 1983's Return of the Jedi. Now best known for his voice-acting roles, often playing villains.
Andy Serkis has built a reputation as a 'motion capture' actor, his physical performance providing the basis for computer-generated characters, including Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and King Kong in Peter Jackson's remake of the classic ape movie.
Guatamalan-born Oscar Isaac collected a number of awards and nominations for his lead role in the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis last year.
Born in Peckham, trained at drama school in Hackney, 22-year old John Boyega starred in Joe Cornish's 2011 'urban sci-fi' movie Attack The Block.
Graeme McMillan wrote that most of the names revealed on Tuesday have been associated with the project for some time.
Original stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are returning to the franchise alongside relative newcomers John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, both of whom are British.
Other actors confirmed include Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis and Max von Sydow,
Little is known about who they will play in the film, due out in December 2015, but fans have been looking for clues in the official photo released to accompany the announcement (see above).
Brian Truitt, writing for USA Today, noted that director JJ Abrams had gathered "an eclectic group of actors for the franchise's future".
With Ford aged 71, Hamill 62, and Fisher 57 he wondered if Abrams might "send them off in style while also passing the torch to a younger generation of potential icons".
Other stalwarts making a reappearance are Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker, as the droids C-3PO and R2-D2, and Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca the Wookiee.
But commentators noted an apparent snub for Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in Star Wars Episodes V and VI.
"Only two people have ever blown up a Death Star: Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian. One is in Star Wars Episode VII and, so far, the other is not," observed Slashfilm's Germain Lussier.
"Sure Mark Hamill is about 15 years younger than Billy Dee Williams but Lando finished Return of the Jedi as one of the primary leaders of the rebellion. Odds are, he'd still be around 20-30 years later. Not seeing his name alongside the rest of the original cast was a huge surprise but that doesn't mean he doesn't play some small role."
The Hollywood Reporter analysis noted that the new production follows the original trilogy's lead when it comes to lack of diversity.
"All but one of the new cast are white, and all but one are male, matching the demographics of the original trilogy a little bit too closely for comfort for contemporary tastes."
It's a theme echoed by Scott Mendelson at Forbes in an article headlined The New 'Star Wars' Cast: Mostly White Guys.
"After teasing us for months over the notion that the new Star Wars film would go against the grain in terms of casting, we still ended up with a bunch of white males with a couple of token women and a couple of actors of colour," he said.
"Abrams and company had a chance to do with Star Wars what Gene Roddenberry did for Star Trek 50 years ago, filling his main cast with actors from a variety of nationalities to showcase the melting pot that is our planet."
He found it ironic that a series so influenced by Japanese samurai mythology has "basically no Japanese or Asian actors".
"We may well see a first film where John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are the co-leads among the newbies, or a situation where Daisy Ridley is the primary heroic figure.
"But the more likely scenario is one where the white males are the main heroes, the actors of colour are the sidekicks, and the lone female is the girlfriend to one of the main heroes. If I end up wrong on that score, you'll hear it here first and I will happily scream to the heavens that I was wrong."
"Hey Star Wars - Where the Hell Are the Women?" asked Annalee Newitz on io9.com.
"There is only one new female character being added to what is arguably the world's most beloved mythic series. It's as if 51 percent of the population cried out in pain, and was suddenly silenced," she wrote, echoing a line from Obi-Wan Kenobi when he senses the destruction of the planet Alderaan.
"Having Ridley is great, but one new female lead in a cast of men? That's how we launch ourselves into the future of this series, which inspires little girls with pink swords, as well as old girls like myself who graduated to sharper weapons long ago?
"Are we seriously still pretending that the universe is comprised almost entirely of men (and mostly white men at that)? Mythic tales are supposed to open up possibilities, not shut them down."
With filming about to start, and some 20 months to go before release date, Star Wars fans can expect more official announcements - and a whole galaxy of speculation.