Disney CEO Bob Iger decided to drop some big news during this morning’s earnings call. In addition to revealing that sequels to Pixar’s The Incredibles and Cars are in the works, he provided a brief update on Star Wars: Episode VII, revealing that the sequel will take place 30 years after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Moreover, and possibly even more surprising, Iger confirmed that filming on Episode VII begins in May despite the fact that not a single castmember beyond R2D2 has been officially announced.
While speaking during today’s earnings call, Bob Iger said that Star Wars: Episode VII will take place 30 years after Return of the Jedi and will star “a trio of new young leads along with some very familiar faces.” He then went on to say that filming on the J.J. Abrams-helmed follow-up begins in May. 30 years is not a major timegap in between the original trilogy and this new trilogy of films, which makes it quite easy to involve Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in the central plot of the film.
We know there was tension between original screenwriter Michael Arndt and Abrams over how much the original cast would be involved in the Episode VII story, with Abrams favoring a Luke/Leia/Han-focused Episode VII before handing the reigns over to the younger characters in episodes VIII and IX. Arndt was replaced by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan as screenwriter, which suggests that Luke, Han, and Leia will have a significant presence in Episode VII.
Very little is officially known about the film at this point, which makes the May production start-date kind of shocking. Adam Driver is the closest to a confirmed cast member we have right now, with multiple trades reporting that the Girls actor is in negotiations to play the villain. Most recently, 12 Years a Slave actress and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has been mentioned in connection with a role and a shortlist surfaced for the male lead, but again, nothing official. If filming does begin in two months, expect more official press releases to start flowing soon. That said, I also expected the official leads to be announced before the holiday break last year, so who knows at this point.
Read the most recent official press release below (via StarWars.com), followed by links to all of our recent Star Wars coverage:
Disney and Lucasfilm are excited to announce that principal photography on Star Wars: Episode VII, directed by J.J. Abrams, will commence May 2014, and will be based at London’s historic Pinewood Studios.
- March 22, 1976 – The first day of principal photography in Tozeur, Tunisia, for Star Wars. A crew of 130 ventures into the desert in 42 trucks and cars, including eight army trucks full of equipment. The first shot was completed at 9:35 a.m.
- March 5, 1979 – The first day of principal photography in Finse, Norway, for The Empire Strikes Back. The crew endures the subzero temperatures, frostbite, heavy winds, and avalanches to pull off the first shot within 65 minutes of setup.
- January 11, 1982 – The first day of principal photography at EMI Elstree Studios outside of London for Return of the Jedi. Although inside a studio, the set must weather a sandstorm in a scene that would ultimately be cut from the film.
- June 26, 1997 – The first day of principal photography at Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire, England, for The Phantom Menace. Ending a long absence from the director’s chair, George Lucas shoots a sequence in a bluescreen-lined set with actors Ian McDiarmid and Ray Park.
- June 26, 2000 – The first day of principal photography for Attack of the Clones at Fox Studios Australia. In their new home Down Under, the production crew once again photographs actor Ian McDiarmid three years to the day after Episode I started shooting.
- June 30, 2003 – The first day of principal photography for Revenge of the Sith at Fox Studios Australia. The first scenes shot feature Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, respectively, along with R2-D2.
It has also been confirmed that Star Wars: Episode VII is set about 30 years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, and will star a trio of new young leads along with some very familiar faces. No further details on casting or plot are available at this time.
Star Wars: Episode VII will release in theaters on December 18, 2015.