How about some Star Wars casting news to cap off your evening? With J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the can, pre-production is underway on the next new Star Wars film, an untitled Star Wars spinoff to be directed by Godzilla helmer Gareth Edwards. Screenwriter Gary Whitta, who was the first writer on the project and has been working with Edwards on the script for a year, recently departed the film under seemingly amicable terms, but things continue to be moving full-steam ahead as production is set to get underway this year. The first thing Edwards needs is a star, and it’s been revealed that Rooney Mara, Tatiana Maslany, and Felicity Jones are in various stages of testing/being eyed for the film’s lead role.
Per THR, Maslany—a brilliant actress who’s been shining on the hit BBC America series Orphan Black for the past few years—is testing for the female lead in Edwards’ Star Wars spinoff, and Mara is due to test for the role this week. Additionally, The Theory of Everything actress and recent Oscar nominee Felicity Jones is said to be on the “wantlist”, but there may be scheduling issues as she’s due to shoot Ron Howard’s Da Vinci Code sequel Inferno this spring and summer.
The most exciting thing to come out of this news is this: the film is led by a woman. Hollywood has a tendency to write/cast a white male in the principal role in nearly every major blockbuster, so it’s kind of incredible that the first new Star Wars movie will be led by a black actor and a woman (John Boyega and Daisy Ridley), and the second—Edwards’ movie—will apparently be led by a woman as well.
All three of these actresses are tremendous talents, so this is one of those rare times when the shortlist is a win-win-win. Reading and testing for the film apparently began in the U.K. in December and has now moved Stateside, as Edwards continues to fine-tune the script. While rumors surfaced recently that Simon Kinberg—a producer on these new Star Wars films—was coming onboard to replace Whitta as the screenwriter of Edwards’ movie, THR says there are no plans for him to take over and the film is currently seeking writers.
All in all, this is an incredibly exciting development. Edwards’ film will be released on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII written and directed by Rian Johnson in December 2017. Chronicle director Josh Trank is also attached to helm a Star Wars spinoff for a likely release in 2018, but a firm release date has yet to be set.