Who’s in Star Wars: Episode VII?

It’s like May the 4th came early. In a press release at the official Star Wars website, the entire principle cast was announced with plenty of familiar names, a few notable rising stars and some relative unknowns. We still have no idea what the story is or who the newcomers will play, and that’s where we step in. After the jump, we’ll break down the new cast, who they might play and look at some of the actors who are notably absent from the list.

Who’s In

John Boyega – While he’s still an unknown to most, Boyega should be a familiar face to sci-fi fans. Boyega starred in the fantastic sci-fi action comedy Attack the Block in 2011 and has seen his star rise ever since. He’s set to play a pivotal role in the 24 mini series Live Another Day and now he gets the biggest break of them all. Despite his brooding demeanor in Attack the Block, it seems more likely that Boyega will play one of the heroes of Episode VII, especially if rumors that J.J. Abrams is going with the three heroes formula like the original trilogy prove to be true.

Daisy Ridley – There was talk that Abrams was looking to cast a trio of unknown actors as his heroes, and no one in this cast is more unknown than Daisy Ridley. She has just eight credits on her IMDB page, most of which are small roles on television, so it’s safe to say that this role will immediately put Ridley on the map. While we know close to nothing about Ridley as an actor, it seems pretty obvious that she will be one of our three heroes.

Domnhall Gleeson – You probably know Domnhall Gleeson and don’t even realize it. He’s already starred in one mega franchise, playing Bill Weasley in Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2, and now he’s in the most mega of mega franchises. His star has been on the rise ever since Harry Potter, as he’s starred in True GritDredd and most recently the sci-fi romance About Time. Gleeson makes the most sense as the final piece of our heroic trio.

Oscar Isaac – It seemed like 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis was destined to be Oscar Isaac’s big breakout, but it’s safe to say that 2015 will have a lot more in store for the talented actor. Isaac was spectacular in the Coen brothers Inside Llewyn Davis and had a memorable supporting role in 2011’s Drive. Isaac maybe isn’t the typical hero type, but he certainly doesn’t seem like he has some dark side in him either. From all indications, Abrams is sticking with many of the story elements that helped the original trilogy become a pop culture phenomenon, and I think Isaac makes sense as a Han Solo type, a grizzled outsider with quick wits and a constant chip on his shoulder.

Adam Driver – A co-star of Oscar Isaac’s in Inside Llewyn Davis, Driver is best known as Lena Dunham’s love interest in the hit HBO series Girls. In the film world, Driver has caught the eye of some of Hollywood’s best directors, including the Coen Brothers, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese, but Star Wars will still represent his big breakout to the public. And it should be quite a breakout if previous rumors about Driver’s role prove to be true. Variety previously reported that Driver will be the main antagonist in Episode VII, and he would make sense as a young Jedi who rebels against his own father (and mother?).

Andy Serkis – He’s one of the two most notable new actors to be named today, and most people wouldn’t even recognize Andy Serkis if he was sitting right next to them. Serkis has legitimized the art of motion capture acting with revolutionary roles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong and the rebooted Planet of the Apes series. It would seem obvious that Serkis will be donning the funny dots on his face to bring a new Star Wars creature to life. Whether or not he plays a motion capture character, Serkis would make a lot of sense as a Sith lord that takes Adam Driver’s character under his wing.

Max von Sydow – Alec Guinness brought some much needed prestige to the original Star Wars, which was originally viewed as a goofy and weird gamble. That view of the sci-fi series is certainly not true anymore, but it never hurts to have an actor of Max von Sydow’s caliber on board. With over 150 acting credits to his name, including The Greatest Story Ever ToldThe Exorcist and Minority Report, von Sydow has been apart of both the Hollywood and international film landscape for over seven decades. He makes sense as a Jedi master, but that seemed to be a role already reserved for Mark Hamill as an older and wiser Luke. Of course, there is always room for more Jedi’s, and the idea of von Sydow playing a long lost Jedi would be very intriguing.

The Original Heroes – It’s been unofficially confirmed for almost a year, but as expected Mark HammilCarrie Fischer and Harrison Ford are back to reprise their roles as Luke, Leia and Han. Their beloved sidekicks return as well, with Anthony DanielsPeter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker getting back in costume to play C-3PO, Chewbacca and R2-D2 respectively. Mayhew has had some recent health problems, so it’s especially nice to see that he will be back as the big hairy wookie. How they will factor in to this new Star Wars remains to be seen, but Hamill will probably be playing Luke as a Jedi master, Leia could be in a position of political power in the new Republic while C-3PO, R2 and Chewwie will probably tag along with our new and old heroes. As for Han Solo, it reamins the biggest mystery of them all. The most recent rumors say Han will have a huge role in the first film, one that might dictate where the rest of the new trilogy goes.

Who’s Out

Benedict Cumberbatch seemed like a shoe in for quite some time. Rumors have attached him to the movies since last year, and when he was asked about it (right next to Harrison Ford of all people) it seemed like he was having a hard time keeping himself from making the big reveal. That big reveal apparently was that he is not in Episode VII. There are still two more Star Wars  movies in this new trilogy and a whole slew of spin-offs, so maybe we just had him in the wrong movie.

Another notable omissions who were once rumored were Gary Oldman, who was going to play a Sith lord in a rumor from a few months back, and Zac Efron, who, like Cumberbatch, seemed to be having quite a bit of fun hiding the fact that he was set to eventually (not) be in Star Wars. But maybe the most obvious absence, and one that will upset many fans, is Billy Dee Williams, a.k.a. Lando Calrissian. Like his original trilogy co-stars, Williams had been hinting at the fact that he would be returning to a galaxy far, far away. But here we are, and Williams is nowhere to be found in the principle cast. It’s a major disappointment, and frankly a huge surprise. Here’s hoping that once Episode VIII rolls around, we make a return to Cloud City.

We’re still a few days away from the unofficial celebration of all things Star Wars, and despite today’s huge news May 4th should probably bring another huge announcement. Let us know what you think about the cast, who they might play and who you wish was included. There’s still so much we don’t know, so let the 597 days of speculation begin. Star Wars: Episode VII will be released in theaters December 18th, 2015.

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