Episode VIII Episode VIII Episode VIII will include several returning characters from 'The Force Awakens,' including BB8 and Rey. (Photo: Lucasfilm / Disney)

You've seen "The Force Awakens": Here's what's next

'The Force Awakens' is only the beginning of a new Star Wars trilogy. Here's what's coming next...

You've seen "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," cheered on the new villains and heroes, and witnessed one incredible cliffhanger of an ending. So what comes next? Where do we go from here with Rey, Fin, BB-8, and the rest of our favorite characters from a galaxy far, far, away?

For starters, the release date of the film has been pushed back six months to December 2017. Below are some more of the rumors, confirmations and other news concerning Star Wars: Episode VIII. And yes, some of these tidbits can be considered spoilers, so proceed at your own risk!

1. The script is finished

episode VIIIThe title page of the script for "Star Wars Episode VIII," as tweeted by director Rian Johnson. (Photo: Rian Johnson/Twitter)

Rian Johnson, the man behind the sci-fi hit "Looper" and some critically acclaimed episodes of "Breaking Bad," is both writing and directing "Episode VIII." With prolific Israeli producer Ram Bergman and well-known American producer Kathleen Kennedy, it's safe to say that whatever J.J. Abrams launches with "The Force Awakens" will be in good hands.

“It’s a thrill to see [Johnson] take things and elevate them beyond what we had imagined at the time,” Abrams said earlier this summer. More recently, he confirmed that the treatment for "Episode VIII" is complete. "The script for 'VIII' is written," Abrams told Wired. "I'm sure rewrites are going to be endless, like they always are."

Rewrites aside, at least one actress has already read the first draft of "Episode VIII" and given it a big thumbs up. "It’s very good; very good," Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, told Variety.

Not to get too ahead of ourselves, but it was just announced that Bergman and Kennedy are also on board for "Episode IX."


2. Skellig Michael Island will once again be featured

skellig michaelSkellig Michael Island, off the cost of Ireland, is home to the ruins of an abandoned monastery from the 12th century. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Back in September, before the script was even finished, a production team for "Episode VIII" was in Ireland shooting scenes for the film. The location? None other than Skellig Michael Island, a dramatic natural setting off the coast that will also be featured in "The Force Awakens."

Skellig Michael, rising 715 feet above the sea, covers an area of 54 acres and is home to the ruins of a former monastery that was abandoned in the 12th century. No one knows for sure how the island will factor into the "Star Wars" universe, but here's one consistent hint: Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, was spotted on location each time the filmmakers visited. Could this be where his character has been hiding for the past 30 years? Either way, we know one thing for sure: Hamill is re-growing his Jedi beard and is most definitely in "Episode VIII."


3. Benicio Del Toro has a big role

benicio del toroBenicio Del Toro will reportedly play a villain in "Episode VIII," though the actor says not all is as it seems. (Photo: Tinseltown/Shutterstock)

After a brilliant cameo in "Legends of the Guardians" as The Collector, Benicio Del Toro's next turn in sci-fi will come courtesy of "Episode VIII." The 48-year-old has confirmed he has a role, but has been quick to dismiss that it's necessarily one aligned with the Dark Side. "I don't know if he's a villain," he told Entertainment Tonight. "People are saying that, but it's like they read a different script than I read."

But seriously, we can't imagine Del Toro as anything but the perfect "Star Wars" villain. So who would he play? Current conjecture has him taking on Grand Admiral Thrawn, a cold and calculating Imperial officer beloved by fans of the "Star Wars" expanded universe. The other possibility, and one that might tie into Del Toro's hints above, is the role of Talon Karrde, a smuggler and overall shady character who sells his services to the highest bidder.


4. The return of Darth Vader?

Darth VaderIs Darth Vader, or a version of him, about to make a return to the 'Star Wars' universe? (Photo: Star Wars)

One of the more disputed, but nonetheless intriguing, rumors regarding "Episode VIII" is that actor Hayden Christensen will reprise his role as Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. Yes, he's a ghost (having perished at the end of "Return of the Jedi"), but sources from Lucasfilm's UK creature shop have reported seeing a working version of Vader's electronic chest plate. Then there's this additional tidbit given to the site Making Star Wars: "A team in the U.K. are soon heading to the U.S. to begin training Hayden Christensen for a 'Star Wars: Episode VIII' appearance of some sort."

If this all sounds completely ridiculous, you're probably right. While we wouldn't be surprised if Darth Vader in full armor makes some kind of appearance via a flashback, there's absolutely no need to have Christensen as the guy under the suit.


5. Snooping Drones Not Welcome

Episode VIII droneAerial drones, no matter no benevolent, will not be welcome over Episode VIII filming locations. (Photo: Chaikom/Shutterstock

While robotic droids are a welcome part of the Star Wars universe, their flying earthly counterparts have been less warmly received by Pinewood Studios. The UK film and television giant, where several scenes from "The Force Awakens" were shot, was caught off-guard last year after a drone operator revealed leaks from the set that included shots of the rumored Millennium Falcon and other ships.

The studio will once again serve as the home base for Episode VIII (as well as the Star Wars spin-off "Rogue One") and this time, they're not taking any chances with spies in the sky. In addition to a implementing a new service called DroneShield that alerts of trespassing aircraft, the studio is also considering the means to bring them down with water canons or through collisions with their own remote-controlled drones. The Force is strong with this studio. Leave your drone at home.


6. Its release date will be hot on the heels of another 'Star Wars' film

Rogue OneThe cast of "Star Wars: Rogue One," slated for release on December 16, 2016. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

While the wait between the last "Star Wars" film in 2005 and the upcoming "The Force Awakens" has felt like an eternity, the future for anyone who loves the franchise is decidedly much brighter. Not only will Disney release the spin-off film "Rogue One," about a group of rebels who steal the plans for the original Death Star, in December 2016, but "Episode VIII" is now slated for release 12 months later in December 2017. Looking even further ahead, a standalone origin story about Han Solo will arrive in 2018, followed by "Episode IX" in 2019.

"If everything works out for Disney," Adam Rogers recently wrote in his Wired treatise on the films, "and if you are (like me) old enough to have been conscious for the first Star Wars film, you will probably not live to see the last one. It’s the forever franchise."

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