It's been three weeks since Star Wars: Episode IX began filming at London's Pinewood Studios, and we still know very little about the film. Obviously we know it will pick up the story where The Last Jedi left off, and we know it will feature the return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and the final appearance of the late Carrie Fisher (through previously shot footage) as Leia Organa, but apart from who the other new and returning cast members are, there's not much to talk about. That means, as it often does with films under the mystery box guidance of writer/director J.J. Abrams, that we're left to cling to any clues we can find.
One of those clues supposedly came late last month, when new Star Wars cast member Richard E. Grant liked a tweet that was one of a chain of replies that included fans drawing comparisons between him and Grand Admiral Thrawn, the fan-favorite Star Wars Expanded Universe character who was re-introduced to the main Disney canon via the Star Wars Rebels animated series. It was a very, very small potential hint, but it ignited speculation anyway, as some fans wondered if Grant was trying to point them in the right direction in an extremely subtle way.
Well, it turns out that's not true. Radio Times managed to catch up with Grant and ask him about the Thrawn comparisons being made, and he pretty clearly denied any association with the character.
“I’m not playing the Star Wars character you just mentioned,” Grant said when Radio Times asked him how he's preparing for Thrawn. “I’m not allowed to tell you anything. Otherwise I would be fired. It’s a complete lockdown on any information whatsoever."
So, that's an outright denial from Grant, not just a "no comment" or a non-answer with the production's extreme secrecy as an excuse, though the secrecy certainly does get a mention. Is it possible he's lying? Sure it is. We all still remember how often we heard Khan wasn't the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, right? It's also worth considering that, if Grant was playing Thrawn — an established Star Wars character already appearing in Disney TV shows and novels — there might not be any good reason to keep it a secret. Of course, Abrams hasn't necessarily needed a good reason for such surprises in the past, so perhaps that's overthinking it.
Whatever the case, we may find out more about Grant's character as we get closer to the film's release. Even if we don't, though, we don't have that much longer to wait. Star Wars: Episode IX arrives in theaters December 20, 2019.