Monday 23 June 2014

Laugh it up, Fuzzball! #3: New Directions

Barely a week goes by without more news on Star Wars Episode VII hittting the headlines - here are my thoughts on the latest casting confirmations, set photos and news on other Star Wars projects. 

New Cast Members

New additions to the Star Wars cast
A few weeks back it was announced that two new cast members had been added to Star Wars Episode VII; Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie. Who? Well, let me tell ya'.

Nyong'o is best known for her Best Actress Oscar winning performance in 12 Years A Slave and her equally brilliant role in Liam Neeson's action-thriller Non-Stop (jokes, obviously). This announcement caps off a remarkable year for the actress, with 12 Years A Slave being her first feature length film. From winning an Academy Awards on her d├ębut to a galaxy far far away in less than six months - not bad, eh?

I'll be interested to see how her role fits into the Star Wars universe, with the cast list ever expanding, the movie is looking increasingly busy (unless some big names are playing fringe roles). Along with people like John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, it's really cool that Disney are mixing new and upcoming actors with more established ones like Oscar Issacs, Max von Sydow and Andy Serkis.

Gwendoline Christie meanwhile is a familiar face to fans of Game of Thrones, having played the role of Brienne of Tarth on the hit HBO fantasy show since 2012. She is also scheduled to appear in The Hunger Games Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 as Commander Lyme. I'm not familiar to her work, but Game of Thrones is renowned for its brilliant ensemble cast, and I'll be keen to hear about what role Christie slots into for Star Wars.

On-set photos

JJ Abrams on the set of Episode VII
We also recently got some sneak peeks at the Abu Dhabi set for Episode VII, including this gem with JJ front and centre (right). Look! It's not CGI! It's an actual person in an actual costume! *faints*

This picture is on the right is for a competition to put a lucky fan in the movie, but I can guarantee pretty much everyone was too busy being excited by the cool puppet creature which is not-so-subtly dropped into the background to say "look, we're doing this movie properly!"

The other on-set photos were leaked by TMZ and showed us glimpses of the Millennium Falcon, some recognisable Tatoonie architecture and new creatures - really nothing much to get whipped into a Wookie frenzy about, but still a tasty titbit.

It was enough for JJ Abrams to post a really cool retort on Twitter however, which did make me chuckle - check it out here.

Spin-off Directors

Josh Trank is lined-up to direct a Star Wars spin-off
In other Star Wars news, it has been confirmed over the last few weeks which directors will be taking the helm of the first couple of character spin-off movies being put into production over the next couple of years.

Disney have been quick to leap into action following the immense success of Godzilla by poaching the services of its director, Gareth Edwards, for the first character-based spin-off set in the Star Wars universe.

For me, this is great news as the visual design in Godzilla, especially in the final third, was gorgeous. Applying the same method to the Star Wars universe could be a match made in heaven. Hopefully, Edwards can pair this artistic flair with the established canon and produce one hell of a movie. What character his movie will be centred on, your bet is as good as mine.

The second director to be confirmed for a Star Wars directorial role is Josh Trank, best known for his work on 2012's moody teenage superhero movie, Chronicle. He's currently hard at work on next year's Fantastic Four reboot, but again, this is an exciting signing that shows Disney's ambition to link up with directors who are young and ambitious.

It reaffirms something I posted a column on last month, about new directors being handed big projects. It's exciting to see guys like Abrams, Edwards and Trank (along with others like Colin Trevorrow and Marc Webb) having faith put in them by big studios. You can read more about this in my column here: Hitting it Big.

These spin-off movies are supposedly going to intersperse the new trilogy, with Episodes VII-IX and spin-offs being released on alternate years. By this reckoning, we'll see Gareth Edwards' Star Wars movie (based on an as of yet unconfirmed character) released in December of 2016. Trank's won't be hitting screens until 2018, after he has completed work on the two new Fantastic Four movies currently in production.

It was also unveiled that Rian Johnson, best known for sci-fi time-travel movie Looper, will be sat in the directors chair on Star Wars Episode VIII, supposedly pencilled in for 2017. Again, another savvy choice given his impressive work in the genre before now, and the imaginative visual work and VFX from the hugely popular Looper. I was surprised that JJ wouldn't be returning, and a little sad if I'm honest. I'm really excited to see what approach he is taking, and it's a shame he won't be directing the follow-up to Episode VII.

Thanks for reading the latest entry into my regular Episode VII column - click here to read up on everything else Star Wars I've done in the past, and be sure to subscribe and keep your eyes peeled for more Star Wars news later.


  1. I'm actually far more interested in Rian Johnson's take than I am Abrams'. We've already seen Abrams' take twice with the Star Trek movies, and I expect essentially the exact same thing from Episode VII, which is why he's such a boring and uninspired choice, IMO. Johnson, however, is a VERY interesting pick, and I'm very much intrigued by what he'll bring to the Star Wars franchise. Equally interested in those spin-offs as well. :)

    1. Boring? I don't know, I think sensible is the right word to go with. In terms of getting fans interested, picking a life-long Star Wars fan with a track record in sci-fi might be 'boring' but I think it's a savvy choice on Disney's part. At least for the first film, to get the series back on its feet. Agree with you on Johnson though, the direction in Looper was great and that scene where everything freezes/slows down made my jaw drop!

      Glad to see some interesting picks going on for new Star Wars - if they can match Marvel for quality and quantity, I'll be rapt! Thanks for commenting Chris! :)



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