The new faces of Star Wars
With only four feature credits under his belt, the 23-year-old Londoner (born to Nigerian parents) made a big impact in 2011’s aliens-invade-the-London-projects film Attack the Block as villain turned hero Moses. The first Force Awakens teaser made us wonder if he was playing another villain thanks to the stormtrooper outfit, but he recently described his role as AWOL First Order trooper Finn as ‘motivated by fear’.
As Finn’s apparent partner in battle, Daisy Ridley, also 23, plays scrap collector and dealer Rey on the desert planet Jakku. With an even lower profile resume than Boyega’s, Ridley is an unknown quantity to Star Wars fans. So far, all we know about her is this; she has a land speeder at least as cool as Luke’s from A New Hope, and she looks great running from explosions.
With a slew of awards behind him and an accomplished thespian career thanks to projects like Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year and Ex Machina, Isaac might be the most artistically lauded among the cast altogether, let alone just the new faces. The 35 year old describes his character, X-Wing resistance pilot Poe Dameron, as the ‘best frickin’ pilot in the galaxy’. How much emoting the controls of one of cinema’s most beloved aircraft allows him will be interesting to watch.
It’s a new age of equality and female empowerment, so why shouldn’t a woman wear the most iconic stormtrooper armour since the original design? Another Brit, the 36 year old actress is best known for her role as Game of Thrones’ Brienne of Tarth, so she has no shortage of fantasy genre cred, and the reflective chrome armour of Captain Phasma will only cement her place in geek history further.
The sandy haired Irishman was still best known for soapy love story About Time even after he played a heroic WWII pilot in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and a programmer in Ex Machina (alongside Force Awakens co-star Oscar Isaac). But his role as First Order officer General Hux will cast the 32-year-old in a whole new light. As Gleeson let slip during 2015’s Comic Con, Hux commands the Starkiller base, in homage to Luke Skywalker’s surname in the original A New Hope script.
With his intimidating height, distinctive features and eccentric air, 31-year-old Adam Driver seemed the weirdest choice to play the romantic foil to millennial feminism’s poster girl (Lena Dunham) in Girls. He continued in drama and romance until the seemingly perfect casting as Kylo Ren, an ally of the First Order determined to destroy the resistance and the Jedi. His self-built crossguard lightsaber, which emits a beam like the Ghostbusters proton packs, became the talk of the internet after the first teaser.
The 51-year-old Brit once joked about getting motion capture dots tattooed on his face permanently, and his role in The Force Awakens is going to be another where we see a computer-generated rendering of his movements rather than the actual guy. He plays Supreme Leader Snoke, who masters the dark side of The Force in the years following the Battle of Endor, establishes the First Order to depose the rebel alliance and becomes a teacher to Kylo Ren.
Of all the new faces in Star Wars, the Mexican born, Kenyan raised Nyong’o made the most searing impact on moviegoers. She played slave Patsey in 2013’s Best Picture Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave, suffering the most brutal treatment at the hands of a monstrous plantation owner (Michael Fassbender). Like Andy Serkis, The 32-year-old will play her character – pirate queen Maz Kanata – using motion capture, appearing on screen as a totally CGI figure.
Max von Sydow
The Star Wars name has always been synonymous with European elder statesmen of the performing arts, and the 86-year-old Swedish legend joins luminaries like Alec Guinness and Christopher Lee. After playing the original journeyman philosopher in Bergman’s immortal The Seventh Seal, Father Merrin in The Exorcist and King Osric in Conan the Barbarian, you might wonder how many other enduring movie universes the multi award winner can possibly lend his name to. Answer: the biggest.
After a few years as a writer for hire (Taking Care of Business, Regarding Henry, Armageddon, Joyride) the fourth director to helm a Star Wars film became a big name on TV with Felicity, Lost and Alias. But Abrams soon fashioned himself into Spielberg’s creative successor, revitalizing the moribund Star Trek franchise and out-Spielberging his mentor with Super 8. If we’re honest with ourselves, he’s a better director than George Lucas ever was and the Star Wars universe seems in good hands.
A one-time assistant to screenwriter John Milius (Conan), secretary to Steven Spielberg and longtime Spielberg producer along with her husband Frank Marshall, Kennedy was on the front lines of the cinema heyday in the 70s and 80s Star Wars itself helped generate, so it’s only fitting she returns to the franchise. George Lucas appointed her to the position of LucasFilm chief to shepherd the 2012, $4bn sale of the company to Disney, and she remains as President.
The old guard of Star Wars
Though being Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds’ daughter made her Hollywood royalty, Fisher only had one small role to her name (in Warren Beatty vehicle Shampoo) before Star Wars made her the biggest actress in the galaxy. She’s worked ever since with surprising consistency considering her very public battles with drugs, alcohol, relationships and mental illness, parleying her highs and lows into a self-effacing and hilarious spoken word performance tour that’s played around the world.
The question most asked in the years following Return of the Jedi about the then 32-year-old star was; ‘what happened to him?’ While co-star Harrison Ford enjoyed a career of one iconic role after another, Hamill couldn’t maintain the same profile. Aside from a second life of geek worship thanks to his role voicing The Joker in the first of several animated Batman series in 1993, his resume has been peppered with forgettable movies… until now.
The one-two punch of the most beloved characters in cinema history – Han Solo and Indiana Jones – earns Ford a free pass for life, so it’s easy to forget how long it’s been since he starred in a decent movie (Hollywood Homicide or K19, anyone?). He also seemed pretty dismissive of everything Star Wars until recently, but told the 2015 Comic Con crowd he was glad to be part of it again thanks to Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan’s script.
Seemingly the epitome of typecasting, Daniels was a classically trained stage actor before a bearded American director approached him to play a robot that talked like a slick, sleazy used car salesman. Daniels instead suggested a stuffy, neurotic butler, made the role of C-3PO his own and has barely played anything else since. He’s also a good sport about his signature role, recently telling The Guardian; ‘I don’t think I’m very good at other things.’
If Star Wars had been born in another era, Kenny Baker, now 81, might have stayed on the UK puppet show The Wombles forever. R2-D2 would be the sort of character done completely in CGI (and indeed was during many scenes of the Star Wars prequels). But after the role as everyone’s favourite movie droid he enjoyed a rich career during the era of 80s fantasy spectacle cinema that followed Star Wars in films like Willow, Labyrinth and Flash Gordon.
Like his costars Daniels and Baker, the 7’3″ Mayhew has made a very respectable living out of the role that defined him. Lucas offered the former hospital orderly either Chewbacca or Darth Vader, and Han Solo’s sidekick became the then 33-year-old’s screen debut. He’s an avid con attendant and never seems to run out of enthusiasm for playing a creature that scared kids and which Princess Leia dismissed as a ‘walking carpet’.
Preview of the upcoming Star Wars Films
Star Wars: Rogue One
Arriving almost a year to the day after Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 16, 2016, Rogue One is the first of (we hope) many standalone stories connected to the events or characters of the whole Star Wars universe.
Starring Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal), Alan Tudyk (Serenity) and Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom), it tells the story of the race to secure the Death Star plans that gave the Rebel Alliance the crucial advantage in the Battle of Yavin.
Though it isn’t referenced by name, Operation Skyhook delivered the plans into the hands of rebel leader Leia Organa, who hid them in an R2 unit when her ship came under attack by an Imperial cruiser. You might remember the scene as the one that changed cinema – no, entertainment – forever.
Rogue One comes with almost as good a pedigree as The Force Awakens. After blowing critics and audiences away with his hand-tooled debut Monsters in 2010, British director Gareth Edwards did for Godzilla what JJ Abrams had done for Star Trek in 2014.
Edwards promises a grittier experience than the fun, roller-coaster spectacle of Lucas or Abrams, saying when the project was announced that the tone of the movie could be found in the title – Rogue One would be a war movie.
Star Wars VIII and IX
Director Rian Johnson seemed a strange choice until he proved his sci-fi chops with 2012’s Looper, and now he’s lined up for both Star Wars VIII and IX in various capacities.
We know very little about the May 2017 part VIII. It’s part of the canon and a continuation of The Force Awakens rather than a spin-off, and we don’t even have a name yet (although in early October the website Moviepilot.com claimed to have inside knowledge it would be called Star Wars: The Order of the Dark Side).
Story details have been more scant than those of The Force Awakens, but the world was a-twitter in September with the news Benicio Del Toro would play the lead villain. Still, we have a clue about who’ll survive – the IMDb.com page for the film lists both Luke (Mark Hamill) and Poe (Oscar Isaac).
Johnson is set to both write and direct part VIII (he’s also writing the script for Star Wars IX), so hopefully it’ll be a truly auteur effort if LucasFilm and Disney give him as much leeway as they’re undoubtedly giving Abrams.
Cameras are supposedly rolling right now so the Star Wars industry is in full swing for the forseeable future.
Star Wars: Han Solo
Among the hottest rumours about standalone characters in the anthology films are the stories that we’d see a proper introduction to Han Solo became a gambler, smuggler and scoundrel before he became a war hero and lover.
No fools to what fans want, Disney announced we’d get exactly that on May 25, 2018. It’s being directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the wunderkinds behind the 21 Jump Street reboot, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and The Lego Movie. The writing team of Lawrence Kasdan and son Jon makes perfect sense, but isn’t the Lord/Miller appointment a little weird?
Not in the least. Think about it – their movies have been among the funniest of recent years, and if there’s one thing that defines Han Solo it’s his disdain for self-important pomp and pageantry and his wry sense of humour.
The question of who’s going to play Solo remains. Said to be in his late teens or early 20s, we might not even know the actor who dons the iconic vest yet, and it seems to put early suggestions of Chris Pratt and Ryan Gosling out of the running. How about Liam Hemsworth, Ansel Elgort, Jai Courtney or (for a joke) Shia LeBeouf?