Star Wars: Episode IX includes Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Billy Dee Williams!

Lucasfilm today announced that Star Wars: Episode IX will begin filming next week at Pinewood Studios, on Wednesday, August 1, 2018!

The movie is being directed by J.J. Abrams, who directed The Force Awakens, and was written by Abrams and Chris Terrio.  John Williams will once again compose the score, as he has done for the previous eight saga films.

Additionally, the official cast list for the film was released.  Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), and Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Konnix) will all reprise their roles from the previous films in the trilogy.  Additionally, the newcomers to the cast are Keri Russell, Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant.  Then, of course, there are the legacy actors who will be returning to iconic roles: Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian… and Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa!

The most notable part of this news is of course the return of General Leia Organa.  After the death of Carrie Fisher, it was unknown how Episode IX would handle the iconic character – who was slated to have a massive role in the trilogy’s finale.  The solution that Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams came up with was announced today: they’re going to use unreleased footage of Carrie Fisher from The Force Awakens to give the General a presence in the film!  “We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” Abrams said in the official release.  “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us.  We were never going to recast, or use a CG character.  With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”

This seems like the best solution that Abrams and company could possibly have come up with, as it will still give Fisher and her character a presence in the film without recasting her or using extensive CGI (both of which were terrible options).  We don’t know what these scenes are or how much of a presence Leia will have, but I’m sure of one thing: seeing Fisher on screen again will sure be emotional.

Also significant is the news that had been widely reported over the last month or two: Billy Dee Williams is back as Lando Calrissian!  I’m super excited about that, too.  And as if there was any doubt (there wasn’t), Mark Hamill is back as Luke Skywalker – and given what we saw from Yoda in The Last Jedi, we may not yet know how much of a role a force ghost can play until Episode IX.

As far as the newcomers to the cast goes, the official release includes three names: Keri Russell, Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. Russell was a late addition to this press release, with it being updated after publication, but she reportedly just came to terms on her contract today. She has a history of working with Abrams, and she was reportedly eyed for a role with plenty of action. Ackie is an up-and-comer who is perhaps best known for her role of Anna in 2016’s Lady Macbeth.  Grant is perhaps most well-known for the films Withnail and I and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and he has also appeared in Logan, Game of Thrones, and a host of other films and shows.

One other interesting thing about the release is the statement made about how “J.J. Abrams returns to direct the final installment of the Skywalker saga.”  We know that Abrams is approaching the film as if it were indeed the final installment of the saga, but it’s still noteworthy that Lucasfilm also acknowledges those intentions openly in the release.  Of course, down the road things could always change, but this is the latest indication yet that this film is intended to wrap up the saga films for good as Star Wars heads in a different direction.

Star Wars: Episode IX is slated to release in December 2019 and is being produced Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Michelle Rejwan, while Callum Greene and Jason McGatlin are serving as executive producers.

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