Halloween is an important holiday. New Year’s Day is a big one, too. And of course, Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, humanity’s lord and savior to many people… well, that’s up there, too.
But today is another sacred time in our galaxy’s history: May the 4, or, Star Wars Day.
This day of lightsabers and TIE Fighters has a rich and long history.
It began in Toronto in 2011 (okay, maybe not that long and rich) and created a following from there. The date was chosen because of its familiarity to one of the greatest lines in film: ‘May the Force be with you,’ first uttered by General Dodonna (no, not Obi-Wan Kenobi) on the moon Yavin 4 before the attack on the Death Star in 1977’s ‘A New Hope.’
Today, Star Wars nuts like myself wish an enthusiastic ‘May the Fourth be with you!’ to our geek brethren.
Of course, this year is bigger than ever, with a brand-new trilogy under way set 30 years after the events that took place in ‘Return of the Jedi.’ Better yet, it’s directed by geek-god J.J. Abrams, who also revived the ‘Star Trek’ film franchise.
On that note, a great tremor in the Force was felt Tuesday.
The cast for Abrams’ Episode 7 — slated to be released on Dec. 18, 2015 — was announced.
To say I was excited would be an understatement. I nearly did a backflip off my desk.
In my mind, I was dancing with furry little Ewoks on the planet Endor after the Rebel Alliance once again squashed the Empire.
Then, when I saw the stylized black-and-white wide shot of the entire cast with Abrams talking about the new film in a round-table discussion in his London studio… well, it was like I was seeing Princess Leia in her slave-bikini for the first time.
So many emotions.
While much of (and by much of, I mean nearly all of) the story has yet to be spoken about by Abrams — he’s notorious when it comes to keeping the plots of his films top-secret till the movie opens — there are some things we do know, and having the cast announced certainly helps.
Let’s take a look at who we’re going to take another ride with in a story from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
OLD FACES RETURN
Pun intended. It’s been a long time since we saw the major players from the original Star Wars trilogy. It’s been known for quite some time now that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher would reprise their roles as farmer-turner-Jedi Luke Skywalker, smuggler-turned-hero Han Solo, and princess-turned-fighter Leia Organa.
We’ve also learned Peter Mayhew would return as the wookie Chewbacca, Solo’s best friend and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, and that Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker will return as droids C-3PO and R2-D2.
As many fans know, numerous books have been written about the post-‘Return of the Jedi’ Star Wars universe and some, like Timothy Zahn’s ‘Heir to the Empire’ made huge waves in 1991 and is considered part of the canon.
In Zahn’s book, the story takes place five years after ‘Return of the Jedi’ and follows Luke, Han, Leia and the rest of the bunch as they fight off the remnants of the fallen Empire. Later books in the series - known as the ‘Thrawn trilogy’ — explore Han and Leia’s twin-children, who end up being trained as Jedi knights by Luke, who has revived the Jedi Order.
Disney — which now own the Star Wars franchise - has announced the new trilogy wouldn’t be based off Zahn’s popular writings, but many suspect some of ideas from the books will be used, especially that of Han and Leia’s twins.
The rest of the cast is full of actors largely unknown to the majority of the public. However, one name certainly sticks out: Andy Serkis.
Seeing this name led me to double fist-pump into the heavens.
As many cinephiles know, Serkis made himself famous as the voice of Gollum in Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. More informed fans know Serkis also wore a body suit and physically acted out Gollum with the actors during shooting using motion-capture technology. His body was dubbed with a computer image of the character in post-production.
Fellow actors said having Serkis physically a part of the scenes increased the quality of their performances, and many critics felt his overall performance - because the films used the expressions of his face as a part of the special effects for the character — should have earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. To put it simply, this guy is incredible. And in a universe like that of Star Wars that allows for all sorts of aliens and creatures, adding a versatile actor like Serkis in the mix makes me more excited than the possibility of witnessing a Jar-Jar Binks death scene.
BIG DEBUTS… AND ONE ‘EXORCIST’
As I said before, the rest of cast is full of actors who’ve made their bones in smaller film roles or on TV.
Adam Driver, the first name to be leaked as a part of the new Star Wars cast a while back, played a minor role as a telegrapher in 2012’s ‘Lincoln.’ The 30 year-old also has been featured on HBO’s ‘Girls.’
Oscar Issac, 35, starred in the Coen brothers’ ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ last year and played the arrogant Prince John in 2010’s ‘Robin Hood.’ He was also in the Ryan Gosling- vehicle ‘Drive’.
Issac has a dark look to him and played those parts in the movies mentioned above. Will he continue his path to the Dark Side? We’ll see.
Domhnall Gleeson, 30, is an Irish actor who has a very Skywalker look to him (one of Leia’s twins, perhaps?). John Boyega, 22, also is rumored to have a significant role in the new trilogy.
Daisy Ridley, also 22, is a British actor and perhaps one of most unknown of the new cast. Most of her credits include British TV series and she is rumored to have a major part in the new Star Wars saga.
In the Zahn books the twins were a boy and girl. Could Ridley be the girl? The Force is strong in this assumption.
Finally, the new cast is rounded out by veteran actor Max Von Sydow.
Sydow, easily the oldest (which is an accomplishment considering Ford is in the mix) of the cast at 85, is most remembered as ‘The Exorcist’ himself — Father Merrin — in the 1973 horror classic.
With the casting of Sydow, we know the film has its heavy. Which heavy will be the question, because Sydow has played both the light and dark side of the Force.
In 1965 he played Jesus in ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told,’ and he played the devil in Stephen King’s ‘Needful Things’ in 1993.
Another fun fact? Sydow played Ming the Merciless in 1980’s ‘Flash Gordon.’
Will he be the reincarnation of the original trilogy’s evil Emperor? Or could he play a role akin to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s wise elder adviser to the heroes?
I don’t know. But I do know I’m excited.
And that’s mostly what we know so far. It’s hard to truly explain my excitement for these movies, so I’ll have the giant fuzzball himself, Chewbacca, describe it for me: ‘Garrrrr rraaffff garrrrhhhh ga hargggg!’
Well said, Chewie, and May the Fourth be with you! (And all of you, too.)