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Star Wars Weekly: Episode IX casting and the Obi-Wan movie

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Jul 13, 2018

Time again for STAR WARS WEEKLY, the SYFY WIRE series that rounds up the most important news of the week from a galaxy far, far away. Think of us as your own personal Star Wars Holocron.

LANDO CALRISSIAN'S BACK?

First reported over at Fantha Tracks last month, rumors of Billy Dee Williams' return to Star Wars slowly picked up steam over the last few weeks. After that initial report, he started canceling convention appearances this fall. Then The Hollywood Reporter, following on the heels of the initial rumblings and rumors, broke a story about his appearance with more confirmations (here's our story on it).

Although this is cool to hear about, it's important to remember that we still have no official confirmation. Neither Lucasfilm nor Disney has said anything about it. And I have to wonder if this was news that they would even have wanted to come out. Perhaps this was planned as part of a surprise reveal in the film that would have hit a lot harder if online media wasn't the way it is. I have heard rumblings from some fans that they would much prefer to have been surprised by Lando's appearance.

The good news is that there's no indication what role Lando Calrissian might play in Episode IX. He could be the ally in the outer rim that wasn't able to help the Resistance on Crait, or he could be a saloon keeper like Maz Kanata. In the recent novel Last Shot, he had an interest in manufacturing droids, so perhaps he'll help the Resistance with a droid army?

We have no idea. And we have just over 500 days until we find out.

KERI RUSSELL JOINS EPISODE IX CAST?

Billy Dee Williams wasn't the only actor whose name came up in tandem with Episode IX this week. Keri Russell, who has a history of work with J.J. Abrams, is reported to be in talks to join the cast of the new Star Wars film.

Variety isn't going any further than saying that she's in "early talks" to join the cast, so everyone crowing about her casting one way or the other is still a bit premature. The film is supposed to start principal photography this month, so casting announcements should be happening officially sooner rather than later. That is unless J.J. Abrams is holding his cards closer to his chest than Lando Calrissian. It's interesting to see how it's reported, too.

They tweeted about it with certainty:

But then in the report said "early talks." They also got a lot of key information wrong in the first version of the story. They tried to credit Lawrence Kasdan as co-writer of this new installment instead of Chris Terrio. They also credited Adam Driver with reprising his role twice, which led many to wonder if we were getting Kyylo Ren in this new film.

MARK HAMILL SHAVES BEARD

There are few people on Earth who could cause headlines after simply shaving, but Mark Hamill is definitely one of them.

He posted this tweet this week with a freshly shorn face:

…and then launched a thousand conspiracy theories about whether he will be appearing in Episode IX. Is Force Ghost Luke going to make an appearance or not? If he does make an appearance, could it be sans beard? Could he have shaved to better accommodate motion capture dots to de-age him to his Return of the Jedi guise so he could appear younger, as his father did? One even wonders if he could have already shot his scenes, given the way Rian Johnson filmed early scenes with Luke and Rey on Ahch-To long before principal photography began on The Last Jedi.

We won't know for sure for quite a while, but it's interesting to ponder.

OBI-WAN SHOOTING IN BELFAST?

This is one of those news stories going around the internet, and it simply doesn't pass the smell test. The Belfast Telegraph, an Irish paper, is reporting that in 2019 their local community will play host to the crews making a new Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars film. They included the following paragraph from the report, which is… too much to believe:

"Star Wars creator George Lucas was in Belfast before Christmas checking out locations for a new stand-alone film centering on the life of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi - with Ewan McGregor reprising the role he first played in 1999 prequel The Phantom Menace."

For one, George Lucas hasn't been involved in the development of a Star Wars film since the earliest days of The Force Awakens, and he left quickly after that. Second, a Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan film would most likely film in desert climes.

This report sounds more like wishful thinking from the local studio who doesn't seem to know better. And if Lucasfilm had been checking out this Belfast studio, this report seems to be proof positive that they can't keep their mouths shut.

THE FANDOM MENACE

I've been talking about a swell of fandom for a few years now that acts in bad faith and shames those who don't like Star Wars the same way they do. I've been calling them "The Fandom Menace," but they've adopted that term lately to describe themselves, which is a level of self-awareness I wasn't sure they were capable of.

But it might be worse than we thought.

The new movement in toxic fandom, led by some of the same people behind Comicsgate (you can read more about that from SYFY here), these Star Wars Wars are bearing a lot of similar hallmarks out of that Gamergate/Comicsgate playbook. There's a lot of outrage and harassment, people are falsely stating that it's about ethics in journalism (they call those writing about Star Wars in any positive fashion "shills" now), and they're targeting their abuse.

Most recently, sights were set against Andi Gutierrez from The Star Wars Show for simply having posted a selfie with a coffee mug that read "Fanboy Tears" in 2015.

The Daily Dot did an excellent writeup explaining the situation and why this might get worse before it gets better.

LEONARD MALTIN'S GEORGE LUCAS INTERVIEW

It's been 23 years since Leonard Maltin sat down with George Lucas to talk about the future of Star Wars for the 1995 VHS release of the only slightly modified original versions of the original Star Wars trilogy.

It's a fascinating interview and well worth revisiting. This was our first real hint that the Special Editions were coming, and this was the first time Lucas talked publicly about the prequels in a meaningful way and offered a timeline.

Check it out:

If you wanted more, I managed to get a chance to talk to Maltin (who is busy doing the Maltin on Movies podcast, in addition to all of his normal work) about this interview. Listen in.