Looking at the 'Star Wars: Episode VII' Cast and Their Potential Roles
by Ethan Anderton
April 30, 2014
Out of nowhere, the primary cast of Star Wars: Episode VII was finally announced, meaning that not much of note will be revealed on Star Wars Day, May 4th, this weekend. And now that we have an assemble of returning heroes and new cast members together to continue the sci-fi saga nearly 10 years after Revenge of the Sith hit theaters, we're already looking forward to when we might get a title (with Comic-Con being the next best time for a new reveal). However, there might be some Star Wars fans out there who aren't entirely familiar with our new cast members, so we thought it would be nice to run through the line-up. Plus, some discussion about the roles and acting career of our classic heroes couldn't hurt. So here we go…!
John Boyega - Let's start with the first name in the press release sent out by Disney and Lucasfilm. If any sci-fi fans out there haven't seen Boyega's breakthrough role in Attack the Block, then you're missing out on some top notch sci-fi and also evidence as to why Boyega deserves to be a lead in a film like Star Wars: Episode VII. The actor was already on the rise and was even being sought for a role in Terminator: Genesis, but the more iconic sci-fi franchise won out instead. Boyega also gives a solid performance in the Sundance selected street drama Imperial Dreams, and this will undoubtedly turn him into a household name.
Who Could He Play? - Well, Boyega is undoubtedly playing one of the two lead roles that we've been hearing about for months now, and he's definitely a hero. However, we're not sure if Boyega will be a Jedi or merely just a formidable young man suited for battle like Han Solo. We've seen our fare share of male Jedi heroes in the original and prequel trilogies, so it would be nice if the role of our lightsaber wielding protagonist was handed over to a female this time. Speaking of which…
Daisy Ridley - Easily the most unknown member of the revealed cast, Ridley is a British actress who has mostly been seen on TV series in the United Kingdom like "Silent Witness," "Youngsters" and "Mr. Selfridge." There's a good chance you haven't seen Ridley in anything unless you're keen on importing TV shows from across the pond (or you live there), so this will be a real test for the actress. Of course, considering how long and arduous this casting process has been, J.J. Abrams clearly thought she was the best actress for the role, so we'll just have to trust in his judgment.
Who Could She Play? - Ridley is the other lead role that Abrams has been trying to fill, and it seems to be a character that is a descendant of Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, those who have poured over every pixel of that image of the cast gathered for a table read have taken noticed that Ridley is sitting close to Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, which might imply that they share a fair amount of scenes together, and thereby also imply that she might be one of Han and Leia's kids. As we said above, it would be nice if Ridley ended up playing a female Jedi, since we haven't really seen one in a primary role on the big screen with the exception of the animated Clone Wars feature.
Adam Driver - One of the few previously reported new cast members that actually made the final cut, Adam Driver is one of the better known actors entering a galaxy far, far away, mostly because of his work on the popular HBO series "Girls" as Lena Dunham's quirky, odd boyfriend. Driver has a unique screen presence that is strong, but without being overpowering. He can be charming, but also disturbing and creepy. If you're looking to acquaint yourself with Driver, we also recommend checking out Frances Ha and Lincoln for solid but small supporting roles, and also Inside Llewyn Davis (which also stars another new Episode VII cast member) for a completely different side of the actor.
Who Could He Play? - Though the press release doesn't get specific, previous reports pegged Driver in a villain role. However, it's not clear if that villain role will turn out to be a Sith again, or maybe some other sort of bad guy, like a bounty hunter or a remnant of the Galactic Empire. Is there a chance that maybe he'll turn out to be a Dark Jedi? That would be pretty great. But the real question is why he becomes a force to be reckoned with for our heroes, and if he has any ties to the returning original trilogy cast members. While we wouldn't expect Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan to go for an Empire Strikes Back twist with this villain, he still needs some kind of tie to our heroes to make a real impact.
Oscar Isaac - Over the past few years Oscar Isaac has landed some fantastic roles in films like Robin Hood, Drive, Sucker Punch and The Bourne Legacy. However, his most praised work on the big screen came last year in the Coen Brothers' folk music centric Inside Llewyn Davis as the title aspiring musician. Isaac has intensity and handsomeness, and an impressive range that should allow him to play a very complex character. Much like Driver's role in Inside Llewyn Davis, if you want to see a role unlike most of his other big screen work, check out the high school reunion indie 10 Years.
Who Could He Play? - Isaac has proven that he can be handsome, rugged and charming in various roles, and that kind of variety would make him a prime candidate to take a Han Solo type role as a space pirate scoundrel in Episode VII. At the same time, Isaac can also be deceptive and slimy, which would make him prime to play a more shadowy character who may not necessarily be a villain, but also couldn't easily be called a hero. He's the right age to be one of the offspring of Han and Leia, but who knows how many kids they have following Return of the Jedi.
Domhnall Gleeson - With a small role as one of the Weasley children in the Harry Potter franchise, a good chunk of the target audience of Star Wars might already be familiar with the son of actor Brendan Gleeson. However, the young actor's work is much more prominent and worthy of recognition in films like the sadly overlooked About Time and the period drama Anna Karenina. The actor has shown a great range from comedy to drama, many times mixing the two, especially in the Sundance selected films Frank and Calvary, which couldn't be more different. He's going places, and we're glad Star Wars is one of them.
Who Could He Play? - This one is a little harder to speculate on since Gleeson is presumably taking a smaller supporting role, but that doesn't mean it couldn't turn into a bigger role as the new trilogy develops. Perhaps Gleeson plays some kind of skilled pilot or smuggler, maybe a good friend of one of our two leads, or even a romantic interest. It's hard to say, but we'll find out soon enough.
Andy Serkis - By now, most people have become familiar with Andy Serkis due to his outstanding work as a motion-capture performer as the titular giant ape in King Kong, the slimy, double-crossing Gollum in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and also the super-intelligent ape Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and this summer's sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Outside of a motion-capture suit Serkis unfortunately hasn't been seen in many live-action roles, but they range from a small amusing turn in 13 Going on 30 to Burke & Hare with Simon Pegg. But he's a fantastic actor who is a welcome addition to Episode VII.
Who Could He Play? - Due to his more prominent motion-capture roles in previous blockbusters, it's a strong possibility that Serkis will be playing some kind of alien creature that requires heavy digital special effects (this is Star Wars after all). However, maybe J.J. Abrams has decided to use Serkis without hiding him behind some visual effects. Serkis could make for some interesting comic relief as some kind of in-between character that helps our heroes in some capacity, like Watto in The Phantom Menace or Lando Calrissian in Empire Strikes Back. And if that's the case, he could stick around for more than one movie.
Max von Sydow - Without a doubt, von Sydow is the most seasoned actor in this new ensemble. Younger audiences might recognize him from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Robin Hood, Shutter Island and Minority Report. But von Sydow has been acting since 1949 with iconic roles in The Seventh Seal (along with plenty more work with director Ingmar Bergman), The Exorcist, The Greatest Story Ever Told and a wild turn as Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. And just for fun, he also voiced Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II. Those are the highlights, but we recommend seeking out more of his obscure titles as well.
Who Could He Play? - The easy prediction would be that von Sydow could end up playing some sort of Sith Lord, not unlike Emperor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) or maybe even just an older, lower level Sith like Count Dooku. However, we're betting Abrams is going to stray away from the usual two Sith villains formula in order to shake things up (though Driver would make a great apprentice). Perhaps von Sydow will have some sort of role as a remnant of the Empire, perhaps a higher ranking commander akin to Grand Moff Tarkin. No matter what, von Sydow is an incredible addition that will lend weight to the sequel, much like Robert Redford did for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Harrison Ford - As the most consistently working actor out of the original hero trio from the classic trilogy, Ford is the most experienced when it comes to being an aging hero. The actor recently revived his iconic adventure character Indiana Jones in a lackluster sequel, but his continued work in films like Cowboys & Aliens and this year's The Expendables 3 prove that he's not done with getting into action. Of course, Ford has never really been keen on constantly discussing his part in Star Wars, whether it's with fans or press, so we hope that he's not just going to phone it in. Recent rumblings have pegged Ford as having a big role, so we'll see what happens.
What's His Role in Episode VII? - The most recent word on Harrison Ford's involvement have pegged him as having a rather sizable role compared to returning companions Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. This makes us wonder if this will be Ford's chance to put Han Solo behind him. After all, most Star Wars fans by now know that Ford thought Han Solo should be killed off, but George Lucas, in his infinite merchandising wisdom, didn't think that would be good for action figure sales. Maybe Ford will get his wish and go out in a blaze of glory in Episode VII. That would be a tough death to swallow.
Carrie Fisher - Following her work in the original Star Wars trilogy, Carrie Fisher has never really ventured back into sci-fi. Instead, she's chosen to stick with films like When Harry Met Sally, Soapdish and The 'Burbs, not to mention a slew of tongue-in-cheek appearances in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Scream 3, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Charlies Angels: Full Throttle, Fanboys and Sorority Row. Fisher has also had fun on shows like "Family Guy" and "30 Rock," while bridging comedy and personal drama in her one-woman-show "Wishful Drinking." Now she's slimmed down considerably to reprise her role as Princess Leia.
What's Her Role in Episode VII? - Considering their romance in the original Star Wars trilogy, it would be shocking if Fisher's royal Princess Leia wasn't married to Ford's Han Solo. But what would she be up to now that the Empire has been defeated? Maybe she's part of some sort of rebuilding of the Galactic Senate? Could she possibly have received some Force training from her brother Luke Skywalker? Or has she been busy just being a mother, since we assume she and Han Solo have at least one child between them? It's hard to say, but we're betting her role won't be much more than a decent-sized cameo.
Mark Hamill - Much like Carrie Fisher, the actor who brought Luke Skywalker to life never really returned to live-action sci-fi after Star Wars. In fact, his career in front of the camera has also been fairly limited since his breakthrough, iconic role as a Jedi hero. However, Hamill has carved out an impressive and lucrative career as a voice actor in dozens of animated series, video games and more including titles like "Batman: The Animated Series," "Metalocalypse," "Spider-Man," "Scooby-Doo," "Avatar: The Last Airbender," and many others. But now he's back to being Luke Skywalker all over again.
What's His Role in Episode VII? - We're not sure how big of a role Luke Skywalker will play in Episode VII, but what's most interesting to think about is what does a character like that do after saving the galaxy from the tyranny of the Empire and confronting his Sith father? Did Luke attempt to bring back the ways of the Jedi and train some new students? Or has has become a bit of a recluse, keeping to himself, not unlike Master Yoda in his later years. Will Luke wield a lightsaber again and have to face a new enemy alongside our new heroes? Or will he merely be a bystander and mentor?
Kenny Baker & Anthony Daniels - The duo are best known for playing the droids C-3PO and R2-D2, and if you look at their filmography, that's easily the biggest roles they've had. Daniels has voiced C-3PO in pretty much any piece of Star Wars pop culture, not to mention suiting up as the gold-plated droid in all the the Star Wars films, so it's no surprise that he's back for more. Meanwhile, Baker's role as R2-D2 is moreso for fan service than anything since digital effects now allow R2-D2 to be created from scratch as opposed to being controlled by the dwarf actor from inside the droid itself like the original trilogy.
What's Their Role in Episode VII? - The beauty of the droid characters is that the never age, but 30 years later, will they still be relevant technology ripe for more adventures and impending danger? They might just be sticking around and hanging out with Han, Luke and Leia, but we don't know if they'll be jumping around the galaxy again. Of course, it wouldn't feel like a Star Wars film without these two bickering and getting into trouble.
Peter Mayhew - The very tall (7' 2") actor is best known for playing the big walking carpet Chewbacca, and that's pretty much been the extent of his acting career. He was under the suit throughout all of the Wookiee's appearances in the Star Wars films, including the dreaded "Holiday Special," so it's only appropriate that he's back as Han Solo's loyal sidekick and co-pilot.
What's His Role in Episode VII? - Since Han Solo is rumored to have a large role in Episode VII, will Chewbacca be at his side in the Millennium Falcon once again? Or will the hairy companion have too much gray hair to join him on another adventure? It's hard to say, but one indicator might be that Mayhew isn't in the best health physically, so much that the actor has difficulty walking, even with the help of a cane. Mayhew's inclusion mostly seems to be fan service like the use of Kenny Baker for R2-D2, and if he's having trouble getting around, it might not always be him under the hairy Chewbacca suit. Though he does provide some help on set for pacing of dialogue and character interaction.
So there you have it. And just in case you think we're done with Star Wars: Episode VII casting, THR reports that J.J. Abrams is still on the hunt for another actress to take a prominent female role. That's good news since there were more than a few articles following the official casting announcement complaining about the lack of female roles in the sequel. For some reason, that's always been a problem with every Star Wars film, but maybe Abrams can fix that by giving a lead hero role to Daisy Ridley. It would be nice to see a female villain pop up once in awhile too. Anyway, stay tuned for any updates on Star Wars: Episode VII.