UPDATE: The official press release has now been amended to include the casting of Keri Russell.
The ninth film in the original “Star Wars” series and the third in the newest trilogy — the currently-untitled “Star Wars: Episode XI” — is set to begin filming at London’s Pinewood Studios on August 1, 2018, Walt Disney Pictures has announced. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” filmmaker J.J. Abrams is returning to direct what has been billed as the final installment of the Skywalker saga. Abrams co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio.
Returning cast members include Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd. Veteran “Star Wars” stars Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams (who will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian for the first time in this new trilogy) are also set for the film.
The film will include new cast members Naomi Ackie (a British actress known for her work in “Yardie” and “Lady Macbeth”) and star of stage and screen Richard E. Grant in currently undisclosed roles. The announcement makes no mention of Abrams’ frequent star Keri Russell, who was rumored to join the project earlier this month.
The official press release also makes clear one big question as to further casting: who will play Leia Organa after the death of original star Carrie Fisher? The answer is Fisher herself. “The role of Leia Organa will once again be played by Carrie Fisher, using previously unreleased footage shot for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,'” the release notes.
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” said Abrams in an official statement. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in ‘Episode IX’ by using unseen footage we shot together in ‘Episode VII.’”
Fisher passed away in December of 2016, just one year before Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” hit theaters with what was then believed to be Fisher’s last on-screen role.
Composer John Williams, who has scored every chapter in the “Star Wars” saga since 1977’s “A New Hope,” will also return for this incarnation.
The film will be released in December of 2019.