Happy Star Wars Day, everyone, and May the 4th be with you!
With the unofficial Star Wars holiday upon us, I wanted to spend a little time shifting away from video games and onto film for the day. A mere five days ago, director J.J. Abrams and the rest of his team announced, to much internet reaction, the principle cast of Star Wars: Episode VII.
Probably the more exciting news for longtime fans is the return of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), and Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa Solo), the stars of the original trilogy. Sure, we're excited that Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) are back, too, but I think the three human leads are easily bigger news.
However, I'd like to spend some time looking at the new cast members. Most of these folks are well (or not-so-well) known actors with a resume, at least one of them (Daisy Ridley) is a virtual unknown, much like Hamill's original casting as Luke Skywalker, which is a nice talking point for Abrams. How much can we really tell from a cast list? Very little, to be honest. But in the spirit of May the 4th, I'll share my initial reactions to each of the new cast members.
We don't too much about about British actor John Bogoya, but his Wikipedia page sure has a lot about his theatrical studies, which bodes well for anyone still shuddering at the terrible acting featured in Episodes 1-3. But it's worth noting that he is listed first (of the non-returning actors) in most cast lists since the announcement, likely solidifying his spot as the new hero. I haven't seen him in anything, but he looks like he can balance the line between likable and serious action. He was slated to do an HBO special playing Mike Tyson, which speaks to his physical prowess--a necessity to battle...whatever's replaced the Empire.
Who wasn't hoping for the Girls and Stars Wars universes to collide? That's right, the sort of annoying guy from Girls is going to be in the company of jedis and astromech droids. Will Lena Dunham have a cameo as Leia's personal assistant, only to be wooed yet again by Mr. Driver? In all seriousness, though, I can only imagine Driver as the wry sidekick, spitting out quips about how he's kind of weird-looking and awkward.
The actor from Inside Llewyn Davis, Oscar Isaac, will bring some additional weight to the cast in the acting department. It remains to be seen whether any haunting folk tunes will make their way into a galaxy far, far away. Also, of note, he's one of the only two non-UK, non-US actor of the bunch, having been born in Guatemala. I wonder if he will use a natural accent to solidify his character as someone from a new, distant planet or exotic culture.
Gollum, gollum! Andy Serkis is joining Star Wars, finally bridging the gap between Middle Earth and Hoth, Endor, and all of the other planets we haven't even seen yet. But what does this casting mean? Will Serkis get the chance to play a human character or will he be typecast as a creature because of his ability to act behind CGI "makeup"? Either could be good, depending on how J.J. Abrams handles things--and one can only hope that we won't have another Jar Jar Binks debacle. Serkis is a great actor, though, so I wouldn't mind him just getting to be himself and leave the CGI in the proverbial dressing room.
Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson has quite a name, but he brings yet another tie to another major series. That's right, it's Bill Weasley from Harry Potter! I'm not sure if the casting director was thinking that getting some recognizable faces from LoTR and HP would help increase the number of crossover fans (oh, sorry, and all the Girls crossover fans), but it does seem at least a little suspicious. Still, this another great actor to add to the list. It will be interesting to see which of these new faces might end up on the dark side of the Force. Could Mr. Gleeson be a villain? He's certainly had some darker roles.
With only one new female actress, English-born Daisy Ridley, it seems that Star Wars has a good chance to once again fail the Bechdel Test, which serves as a measure for whether a movie features at least one scene with two women talking about something other than men. The prequel actually passes the test, but this is Carrie Fisher's first chance to redeem Princess Leia in this regard. Hopefully Ms. Ridley's character gets a few chances to have some meaty dialogue with Leia. That aside, it will be interesting to see if we get another princess character (Leia, Amidala), if she'll be a little more street-wise, or if she'll end up being, as rumored, Han & Leia's daughter.
Like Oscar Isaac, she's another singer, so maybe that Star Wars musical could happen after all.
MAX VON SYDOW
Easily the heaviest hitter of the new cast, Swedish/French actor Max von Sydow brings a ton of gravitas to the new film. I mean, this is the guy from The Seventh Seal, for crying out loud. It would be great to see him either as a wizened advisor to the heroes or a treacherous villain--I'm just glad he's on board with the cast, as it nicely rounds out the spectrums of both age and acting experience (although his real name already sounds like the name of a Bond villain). I have a lot of confidence in Abrams' ability to wring out a fantastic performance from von Sydow, and I expect him to be a scene stealer no matter role he's playing.