Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in the latest 'Star Wars' trilogy. Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in the latest 'Star Wars' trilogy. Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in the latest 'Star Wars' episode. (Photo: Disney)

An extremely, ridiculously early look at 'Star Wars: Episode IX'

From the state of the script to the start date for filming, here's what we know about the next chapter in the 'Star Wars' franchise.

Warning! This post contains potential spoilers for "Star Wars: Episode IX". Proceed at your own risk!!

Filming hasn't even begun yet, but that doesn't stop the throngs of "Star Wars" fans from beaming with anticipation for "Episode IX." So join us as we kick off our trip to this next chapter in the "Star Wars" universe a bit early and pull back the curtain on the magic happening behind the scenes.

New faces set to appear

'Episode IX' director JJ Abrams and actress Keri Russell during a Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2017. 'Episode IX' director JJ Abrams and actress Keri Russell during a Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2017. (Photo: Shutterstock)

In addition to returning cast members such as Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver, "Episode IX" will also carry on the tradition of weaving some new characters into the "Star Wars" tapestry. While their roles have yet to be disclosed, it's been confirmed that British actor Matt Smith ("Doctor Who," "The Crown), American actress Keri Russell ("The Americans," Mission: Impossible III"), British actor Dominic Monaghan ("Lord of the Rings", "LOST"), Swazi-English actor Richard E. Grant ("Game of Thrones," "Logan"), and British actress Naomi Ackie ("Doctor Who," "Lady Macbeth") will all feature heavily. In addition, American actor Billy Dee Williams will reprise his role from the original trilogy as Lando Calrissian.

What what can we derive from some of the above casting reveals? Keri Russell certainly stands out, especially in her roles as a spy, as a physically skilled actress who can bring the fight. We expect her to play a major role in leading the resistance against the First Order. Richard E. Grant exudes that rare mix of evil and charm, with memorable roles opposite Australian star Hugh Jackman in "Logan" and as the domineering head of a theater troupe in HBO's "Game of Thrones." We're also going to speculate that Monaghan will be joining the mix as some form of comic relief and that Smith and Ackie will be climbing the ranks of the First Order.

As for Billy Dee? Well, there's one thing Han Solo taught us in "The Empire Strikes Back," it's that you can't necessarily trust that old rogue. Here's to hoping that Lando is still firmly on the side of the good guys.


Colin Trevorrow is no longer directing 'Episode IX'

Colin Trevorrow, seen here on the set of 'Jurassic World,' will both write and direct 'Star Wars: Episode IX.' Colin Trevorrow, seen here on the set of 'Jurassic World,' will both write and direct 'Star Wars: Episode IX.' (Photo: Jurassic World)

Despite earlier reports that "Last Jedi" director and writer Rian Johnson would be penning a treatment for "Episode IX," a first draft of the script actually came from former director Colin Trevorrow. The American filmmaker took a stab at the story in collaboration with his "Jurassic World" scribe Derek Connolly. "You know, we're throwing 110 percent of our souls into it, so there will be nothing left of me when I'm done," Trevorrow told MTV at CinemaCon.

While he might not have written the treatment, Johnson's influence will still be reflected in Episode IX's pages. To make sure the film's themes provided continuity with those in "The Last Jedi," Trevorrow worked closely with Johnson during the writing process. “A story must evolve or perish, and Rian and I are working closely together to make sure our stories build off of each other and continue to evolve and take us to new places, and I think that’s what the fans expect and what they want,” he told Entertainment Tonight last year.

Unfortunately for Trevorrow, studio executives did not agree with the direction he was taking and announced on September 5, 2017, that the filmmaker would no longer be involved with the project.

“Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ,” they said in a statement. “We wish Colin the best and will be sharing more information about the film soon.”

With prolific Israeli producer Ram Bergman and well-known American producer Kathleen Kennedy once again helming the film's development behind the scenes, whomever Disney to brings on to helm this final chapter in the latest Star Wars trilogy will quickly be brought up to speed.


'The Last Jedi' gives some direction

Rey in a scene from 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.' Rey in a scene from 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.' (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Have you seen 'The Last Jedi' yet? No? Then stop reading.

Based on the events crafted by Rian Johnson, as well as the unfortunate passing of Carrie Fisher, it's clear that Poe Dameron (played by Guatemalan-American actor Oscar Isaac) will likely be the leader of the resistance in "Episode IX." I mean, honestly, there just isn't anyone else left. We're also pretty sure that Mark Hamill's days of appearing as Luke Skywalker have not yet come to a close. Like Yoda and Obi-Wan, it's almost a guarantee that Rey will have a guardian force ghost to help guide her.

Perhaps the biggest thrust of "Episode IX," however, will be the efforts of the Resistance to recruit and rebuild its numbers. Leia's calls for help to the farthest corners of the galaxy at the end of "Jedi" went surprisingly unanswered, a clear sign of just how alone the rebels find themselves against The First Order. The next chapter will likely take place several years into their campaign to rebuild and overthrow Kylo Ren and Co.

And speaking of Ren, we can expect his victory over Snoke to embolden him further to embracing his fall into the dark side, After all, as supreme leader, Ren has exceeded even the elevated position held by his grandfather, Darth Vader. In "Episode IX," don't be surprised if Ren's descent into evil subtly begins to twist him physically into something resembling Emperor Palpatine and Supreme Leader Snoke.


J.J. Abrams is back in the director's chair

JJ Abrams directing Mark Hamill in a pivotal scene from 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.'JJ Abrams directing Mark Hamill in a pivotal scene from 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.' (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Wasting little time, Disney announced that J.J. Abrams will direct "Episode IX," closing out a trilogy he helped launch with 2015's "The Force Awakens." The American filmmaker, who also helped reboot the "Star Trek" franchise, will co-write the ninth film with "Batman v Superman" and "Justice League" scribe Chris Terrio.

"With 'The Force Awakens', J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy,” Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Abrams shared why he was so determined to come back.

"When the opportunity presented itself to finish a story that we had begun with these new characters, to tell the last chapter of their story, it felt like there was a chance to do it in a way where we could go beyond, and do better than we did in Seven," he said. "I learned so much in that movie and I saw that this was a chance to sort of realize something that we hadn’t quite achieved – and part of that was it was simply the beginning of these new characters and their story. The opportunity to sort of take what we had learned, to take the feeling of who these characters are and what they are and give them a final chapter that felt in the spirit of what we begun? It was too delicious of an opportunity to pass up."


Filming began in summer 2018

During Japan's D3 Expo earlier this month, director J.J. Abrams announced via video feed that filming on "Episode IX" would officially kick off in the summer of 2018. He added that he's hard at work at co-writing the script with fellow scribe Chris Terrio.

Late last year, one luck Redditor who managed to score a meet and greet with Abrams and Terrio said that the duo are planning something fresh and surprising with "Episode IX."

"They said that they're going to be brave and there will be big surprises," he shared. "I got the impression that JJ felt like he had to refresh previous Star Wars moments for a modern audience in TFA, and now it feels like they have free reign to do what they want. Apparently they've had no interference from Kathleen or Pablo or the Lucasfilm Story Group. 9 is also the film which unites all three trilogies and brings everything together. That's all they would tell me."


One lucky fan already knows the full plot

While Disney is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to anything "Star Wars," the studio recently made an exception for a good cause. During "Night of Too Many Stars", a live benefit for programs that support people with autism, host Jon Stewart announced that J.J. Abrams would personally whisper the overarching plot of "Episode IX" to the highest bidder. Comedians Rob Corddry and Gilbert Gottfried further raised the sakes by promising to reveal both the plot lines to "Hot Tub Time Machine 3" and "Sharknado 5: Global Swarming." After a fan offered up $10,000 for the honor, both Abrams, Corddry, and a screaming Gottfried simultaneously revealed their secrets.

Needless to say, while the mics for both Corddry and Gottfried were on, Abrams predictably had his turned all the way down. For now, the secrets of how the latest "Star Wars" trilogy ends are safely tucked away in the highest bidders' ears and (likely) ironclad NDA.


The story originally included a large role for General Leia Organa

Before Carrie Fisher's passing, the character of General Leia Organa was to have a major role in 'Episode IX.'Before Carrie Fisher's passing, the character of General Leia Organa was to have a major role in 'Episode IX.' (Photo: Vanity Fair)

Before her untimely passing in December 2016, Carrie Fisher turned to executive producer Kathleen Kennedy and made her expectations for her role in "Episode IX" clear.

"She was having a blast [filming The Last Jedi]," Kennedy said in a Vanity Fair article. "The minute she finished, she grabbed me and said, ‘I’d better be at the forefront of IX!’ Because Harrison was front and center on VII, and Mark is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been."


It will feature an emotional end to the trilogy

The cast of the original 'Star Wars' trilogy as seen at the end of 'Return of the Jedi.' The cast of the original 'Star Wars' trilogy as seen at the end of 'Return of the Jedi.' (Photo: Return of the Jedi)

While very little concerning the plot for "Episode IX" is known, Colin Trevorrow did reveal that what's coming will pack a serious emotional punch. Speaking with Screenrant, the director praised the talented team of producers and writers who all contributed to mapping out where the final installment in the current trilogy would go.

"I mean, these are the best minds available and everybody's engaged in making sure this is the most satisfying and emotionally resonant conclusion that we can possibly deliver," he said.

Trevorrow added that in terms of Carrie Fisher's passing, "Episode IX" will pay homage to the memory of the late beloved actress. "I feel like our options are limited mostly by ourselves, in that there is only certain things that we are willing to do," he said. "But I can guarantee it will be handled with love and respect, and all of the soul that Carrie Fisher deserves."


Casting began summer 2017

Until a title is revealed, Disney is fine with letting Roman numerals define the last chapter in the Skywalker saga. Until a title is revealed, Disney is fine with letting Roman numerals define the last chapter in the Skywalker saga. (Photo: Star Wars Episode IX)

A recent casting call seeking "new lead and supporting roles" for "Episode IX" let slip a pre-production start date of July 2017. According to the notice, principal photography will take place at "the Pinewood Studios in London, England and surrounding areas." If you're not interested in appearing in front of the camera, the listing is also seeking experienced crew and production staff for the U.K. shoot.


It will be shot on 65mm film

Trevorrow has revealed that 'Episode IX' will be filmed on 65mm. Trevorrow has revealed that 'Episode IX' will be filmed on 65mm. (Photo: Star Wars Episode IX)

While both "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi" bucked digital filmmaking in favor of traditional 35mm, "Episode IX" will take this approach to the next level.

American cinematographer John Schwartzman, best known for his work behind the camera on films like "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Jurassic World," will shoot the entirety of "Episode IX" on 65mm. This format, commonly used in IMAX theaters, allows a filmmaker to capture a much larger field of view with exceptional quality.

The switch to 65mm by filmmakers comes as firms like Kodak have increased their support for the format. "The film comeback is accelerating, and the epic, big-screen experience is well and truly back," one Kodak executive commented. "The creative and aesthetic distinctiveness of 65mm film is still well beyond the capability of digital capture, so when discerning filmmakers want to a create work of memorable grandeur and lasting visual quality, they know that only real film delivers."


The release date has been moved up

'Star Wars: Episode IX' will deviate from its predecessors in the trilogy by arriving in May 2019 and not during the holiday season. 'Star Wars: Episode IX' will deviate from its predecessors in the trilogy by arriving in May 2019 and not during the holiday season. (Photo: Disney)

Sticking to the December releases of "The Force Awakens," "Rogue One" and the upcoming "Last Jedi," "Episode IX," will bow out in similar fashion. With J.J. Abrams now on board, the last film in the Skywalker saga is slated for December 20, 2019.


General Leia Organa will not make an appearance

Carrie Fisher The Force AwakensHow will the final chapter in the new 'Star Wars' trilogy address the passing of actress Carrie Fisher? (Photo: The Force Awakens)

After Carrie Fisher's passing in December, speculation was rampant as to how producers Ram Bergman and Kathleen Kennedy would address the loss on film. Based on set photos, it was clear that there was likely a good chance of a Skywalker family reunion in "The Last Jedi," but how would General Leia Organa's story play out in "Episode IX"?

In early April, Fisher's brother Todd told the New York Daily News that the family had given permission to Lucasfilm to use previously shot footage of Fisher for the upcoming films.

“She’s as much a part of it as anything and I think her presence now is even more powerful than it was, like Obi Wan – when the saber cuts him down he becomes more powerful," he said. "I feel like that's what's happened with Carrie. I think the legacy should continue."

In an interview shortly after Todd's statement, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy countered his claim by saying the late actress would not be appearing in "Episode IX."

"We have not read a script yet," she said. "Obviously, when Carrie passed away in December, that was a huge blow for all of us and it caused us to sit with Colin and really rethink where we’re headed with 'Episode IX.' Carrie was a significant part of that story – that was something she very much wanted and we very much wanted. But given the circumstances, we would not carry on with that."

As for "The Last Jedi," Kennedy confirmed that Fisher's performance will remain untouched. “We finished everything [with Leia] in Eight, and Carrie is absolutely phenomenal in the movie," she told ABC News. "And we’re so happy that we were able to complete shooting in the summer."


John Williams will likely compose the score

John Williams, who has scored every 'Star Wars' film to date, will likely be involved with 'Episode IX.'John Williams, who has scored every 'Star Wars' film to date, will likely be involved with 'Episode IX.' (Photo: Disney)

Composer John Williams, 85, is one of Hollywood's greatest living legends. He's also in no hurry to slow down.

Since he's been the maestro behind all of the "Star Wars" episodes' iconic music, it's likely the studio will keep Williams conducting to score "Episode IX." While he's not yet confirmed for the gig, you can bet Disney already has him penciled in.

Speaking with the LA Times in December 2015, Williams says he felt a "renewed energy, and a vitality, and a freshness" from throwing himself once again into the "Star Wars" universe. "To continue to work, to continue to love what you do, is certainly a contributing element to one’s longevity and health,” he added. "And I am so lucky to be working in a field that you never grow tired of."


It may return to a familiar planet

"Star Wars: Episode IX" may return audiences to Rey's homeworld of Jakku."Star Wars: Episode IX" may return audiences to Rey's homeworld of Jakku. (Photo: The Force Awakens)

Take this one with a grain of salt, but two extras from "The Force Awakens," English artist Mel Pickup and DJ Mark Pickup, are claiming that production for "Episode IX" will return to Abu Dhabi; aka Rey's desert home world of Jakku.

"I've heard wind that number 9 is starting to be filmed next year, and they are doing a scene back in Abu Dhabi," Mark Pickup said on the Everything Geek Podcast.

Is Rey heading back to Jakku? Will her parents finally return for her? Who are her parents?! We have no idea what the answers to these questions are, but we can't wait to find out!


The end of one trilogy, the beginning of another?

'Episode IX' will mark the end of one trilogy and the likely beginning of a whole new one. 'Episode IX' will mark the end of one trilogy and the likely beginning of a whole new one. (Photo: The Force Awakens)

Unlike the previous Star Wars' trilogies, Disney has absolutely no intention of taking off a decade or more until the next one. Speaking at a tech conference last March, Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed that the studio has every intention of creating another "decade and a half" of "Star Wars" films. In addition to the standalone films like "Rogue One" and the upcoming "Han Solo" film, it's clear that the conclusion of "Episode IX" will mean the beginning of a whole new generation of trilogies.

As The Hollywood Reporter noted, the quasi-conclusion offered by "Episode IX" will be a tricky thing to pull off. "'Episode IX', by comparison, will arrive before an audience who will likely know the release date, plot and cast of another couple of subsequent 'Star Wars' movies; no matter how much it tries to offer a conclusion to events, audiences will know that it's not the end, or even the end for awhile," writes Graeme McMillan. "Instead, there'll be another chapter coming along, most likely in the next year. How can a movie successfully provide closure when everyone involved knows that the story isn't actually closing?"

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An extremely, ridiculously early look at 'Star Wars: Episode IX'
From the state of the script to the start date for filming, here are some early facts about Star Wars: Episode IX.