Some thoughts on the Star Wars: Episode VII casting

Feature Andrew Blair 30 Apr 2014 - 06:07
Star Wars

We take a look at the announced cast for JJ Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII, at who's not there, and what it all means...

So the Jedi have returned again, as is their wont (they basically do it in every film), and this time they've brought some younglings with them. The cast of Star Wars: Episode VII - well, most of it - has been announced.

Accompanying Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker will be John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow. Oh, and John Williams is doing the music again, because Star Wars wouldn't be Star Wars without John Williams.

The New Faces

Of the new names, we have Ming the Merciless himself -  von Sydow - and Andy Serkis. They're experienced pros and bring with them reputations for, shall we say, a certain style of performance. However, their resumes are also full of non-villainous, flesh and blood characters. Star Wars rumours in November last year mentioned the character of a '40-something military man', and Serkis could certainly fit the bill for that part. Von Sydow's casting - and who's not thrilled that he's in the film? - could range from something like Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin to a ghost Kenobi, to a wily elder statesman. Maybe he'll be something to do with trade agreements! History has proven that everyone loves trade agreements.

It's also easy to see von Sydow as a Sith Lord, with his voice like purest moistened evil, and Serkis as a CGI character. It's important to remember that, even if the worst comes to the worst and Serkis is playing Jar Jar Binks (we'd bet sizeable cash that he won't be, incidentally), then this does at least mean that we might get to watch Jar Jar die. If mocap is involved, it's always possible that Serkis will – as with the forthcoming Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – be leading a team of actors playing different creatures, or playing more than one himself, like a one-man Cantina band (assuming, of course, that Dick van Dyke is not available).

Also announced are Adam Driver (Girls), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, The Two Faces Of January), Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Black Mirror, Calvary), John Boyega (Attack The Block, Half A Yellow Sun) and – probably the least high profile name announced so far – Daisy Ridley, who has appeared in low budget horror film Scrawl (and I imagine its makers are pinching themselves right now) and an episode of Toast Of London as 'Stage Hand'. Kudos to her. Matt Berry to Star Wars is one hell of a sideways step, and she's also got the next Inbetweeners movie on her slate.

Driver, Boyega and Isaac were already rumoured to be involved, though Gleeson and Ridley took people by surprise. Ridley is rumoured to be playing the daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leia, so can be fully expected to say the words 'I know' at some point, with some important character moment of bad-assery occurring in the third act. Based on past Abrams films, expect a gold bikini to be involved. Isaac, meanwhile, is on a strong run of form after being a Coen Brothers leading man, and basically no-one seems upset by his casting.

Gleeson, most recently seen in Calvary (literally in my case, I was out watching it while all this was announced. It's very good), is another unknown quantity in Star Wars terms, and he's demonstrated enough range to be on either side of the force. Driver is said to be playing the main villain, a character described as 'in the vein of Darth Vader'. This, as clues go, is unsurprisingly vague, leaving all sorts of possibilities open (including that he's literally in the veins of Darth Vader, like some sort of magic revitalising blood, though I suppose that's a bit far-fetched).

So Who's Not There?

There are some names who are notable by their absence. Zac Efron is yet to be announced despite yesterday's rumours, and 12 Years A Slave's Lupita N'yongo was also mentioned as recently as March. Other casting rumours yet to be confirmed include Benedict Cumberbatch (although he seemed to be ruled out a few weeks ago), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jesse Plemons (who had been linked for a long time), Ed Speelers, Ray Fisher, and Matthew Jay Thomas. The latter four were linked to a role of a Jedi apprentice alongside Boyega. It's understood that the casting is not yet complete, so one or two of these may yet sneak into the line-up.

Billy Dee Williams is not, at the moment, said to be involved (and he's the glaring omission from the original cast). I assume that by the time this article goes up someone will have already tweeted 'You Lando' at JJ Abrams. No Ewan McGregor, though that's not a total shock unless they're going to give him Alec Guinness make-up (and besides, if you're going to put Ewan McGregor in a Star Wars film you have to let him do his adorable little lightsaber duelling run. That man can lift his legs). Ian McDiarmid has spoken of some involvement in the film, but whether this is a cameo or a full blown reappearance is unknown at this time. While he's not in the cast photo, Abrams has a history with trying to keep a lid on spoilers. Place your bets now on McDiarmid being announced as playing someone called 'Bob Notname' in early 2015.

Abrams also, as demonstrated by his work in general, is capable of helping assemble a great cast. Many a career has been boosted by his TV shows, and anyone who contributed to Karl Urban playing McCoy deserves praise. While not all the new Enterprise crew members have had time to shine yet, little of the criticism of those films is aimed at the cast, and there's still a lot of praise for Abram's previous reboot. Indeed, even if Star Trek Into Darkness suffered a critical backlash after an initial success, there's still a lot of fondness for the 2009 movie.

With the main cast presumably in place, we can presume that the majority of returnees will now be cameos (although Harrison Ford's role is said to be more substantive), and with the new films being placed in a different canon to the existing expanded universe, we know little of the story. Don't expect that to change too much until the preview screenings. With a mix of up-and-coming talent and proven brilliance, we can at least be confident about the acting, and that this time there'll not be a cameo by Leonard Nimoy.

The only other news we have regarding Star Wars: Episode VII is that, despite the roughness of sand, it is still expected to feature heavily...

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christ not you and your nonsense again, PLEASE STAY OFF THE DOCTOR WHO THREADS!

Yeah, I must add that I"m a little disappointed that this article doesn't address the complete lack of women in this new movie. Then again, what else could we expect from JJ Abrams? Seriously, it's almost like we're back in 1977(again).

No it's not ridiculous.

It makes for a better movie. the fewer the tokens.

So J-Beef, what's it like being a mangina?

It's women like you that are the reason why we keep getting the non-sensical token useless "tough chick" characters pigeon-holed into every damned movie.

All so that you and your fellow feminists stop whining.

Here's a thought, how about you enjoy a movie for itself and not for how many people in it have your genitals?

I have no problem in saying that these movies will be garbage.

What ruined the prequels wasn't Lucas, but that the original Star wars were a product of another time and another America.

but for some reason Star Wars fanboys don't want to admit this and want to believe that there is somehow something intrinsically wonderfulabout Jedis and light sabers and on and on.

No. It's like those 50's sci-fi movies with giants bugs. They're products of their time.

Sure you can update them (and Star Wars), but the results are garbage, like the Prequels, and like these up-coming ones.

Ah but what do I know. I'm one of those silly people who sees Star Wars as just entertaining movies, not a religion.

"The fewer the tokens"? Please tell me you did not just classify female characters as "tokens", because if you did, that's horribly sexist, and the Star Wars fandom, or any fandom for that matter, does not need people like you.

Presuming that was your intent, having a female character does not automatically make her a "token". Hell, I prefer it if a female character is the protagonist, because there's far too few major movies with female main characters.

If I'm misunderstanding your meaning completely, feel free to correct me, but for now, I feel a little sick at how you just demeaned female characters.

Pretty good Dar. What's it like when you prefer movies to be 'sausagefests'? Women shouldn't have to be 'tokens' as you describe them in previous comments. 50% of folk are women. If you're writing a space fantasy movie (where there is literally no reason for male dominance unlike a World War 2 movie) and nearly all the good characters are blokes, maybe, just maybe you're not that great a writer.

Here's a thought: they should make Star Wars where 8 of the characters are women, and one is a man. The man gets to wear nothing but his underwear in at least one scene. I think that'd be a great movie. Why can't we make that movie?

By the way, considering that you use both 'feminist' and the idea of strong women as derogatory terms - is there something you have against the idea of women being your equals and getting *equal* representation in the media that influences how millions of people think? Is there something you have against strong female characters?

No you're not misunderstanding me.

They are tokens because they are shoe-horned into action movies where they HAVE to be portrayed as "kicking butt".

And it is only being done to appeas people like you who complain.

Thus "token".

"Sausagefests"?

So I guess you don't watch any sports because that's a "sausagefest", right?

And what about "The Godfather" or "2001" A Space Odyssey", an intolerable sausagefest as well.

Damn, if only we can cgi some more women into those films, then we can make J-Beef and all his fellow self-hating men happy.

Funny how women like you only interpete strength in a male way (fighting, aggressive, etc...).

To you, unless a woman character is "kicking butt" like a man, then she's weak.

Seems to me you're the one with a problem, not I.

Also, how come you even like "Star Wars"? The original movies had only one female yet you liked it. NOW suddenly you can't stand it?

Haha. Wow, it really is easy to push your buttons (which is what the sausagefest comment was meant to do). Yes I do watch sports although it's not really the same argument is it?
Godfather is about the mafia in the 40's and 50's which I'm pretty sure was male dominated back then (as was nearly everything else). 2001 was made in '68 when there had been exactly one woman in space (ps I think 2001 is the most overrated movie ever but that's probably for another thread).
I don't even have a problem with the Star Wars films. I've just pointed out they're mostly men (a fact not an opinion). Seriously, my favourite movies are Arnie films and most of them don't exactly push the feminist movement. I just think maybe a female lead could be a good change. Luke Skywalker is a bit lame, Anakin was very lame and Ewan Mcgregor was terrible as Obi. But hey, maybe looking at a picture and noticing there aren't many women in it does make me a mangina.

BRING BACK EWON MCGREGOR AS OBI WAN

This isn't a Doctor Who thread... in fact you could say... this isn't the Doctor Who thread you're looking for :P

Actually, you might notice that my complaint wasn't about the lack of 'strong' women, but about the lack of women. Because, despite the fact that half the world's population is women, apparently in the galaxy far far away they make up about 10%.

I enjoy Star Wars as a story while being aware of its faults - which it has. I'm sure you'd agree that the story has its flaws, given that Lucas made up the whole "Luke and Leia are related" thing about halfway through. In the same way, it has flaws as a product of its time. However, we are no longer in the 70s and 80s. It's been a few decades since then, and I was kind of hoping that this new sequel would keep the good elements of the story but improve on things like representation, instead of keeping its 1970s portrayal of the genders.

So actually, it seems to me like you're the one with the problem of not being able to grasp these siimple concepts.

At this point, what do we know except that we've seen most of the young actors before and they've all seemed to be pretty good actors, and that Ford, Hamill and Fisher are there?

Based on his use of Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek, I think he got the balance right in terms of referencing the past and moving forwards. He wasn't just a useless cameo, but nor did he swamp the film, so hopefully he'll get this right with Luke, Leia and Han.

I don't really understand the problem at this point. It's Disney producing it who seem to know what to do with properties, Abrams directing who has made some decent sci-fi/action movies and Lawrence Kasdan is writing. What do people want? Paul Thomas Anderson in the chair? Werner Herzog? Wes Anderson?

"Because, despite the fact that half the world's population is women, apparently in the galaxy far far away they make up about 10%."

That's a very weak argument, because these movies aren't a "slice of life" look at everyday people, but a look into a very specific episode involving a certain group of people.

You might as well complain that a WWII film doesn't have enough women "despite the fact that half the world's population is women".

All the rebel troops that I saw were men, which makes sense since militaries are usually made up of men.

Now, about these sequels, it depends on the story, but yes if it involves lots of fighting and battles then ofcourse most of the cast should be men.

Also, a "galaxy far far away" need not follow the same social trajectory as the modern West. What? You want the Star Wars universe to have experienced a feminist movement between episodes 6 and 7?

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