With Solo in the rearview mirror and no animated series on the air, all the eyes watching Lucasfilm are turning towards Star Wars: Episode IX, which—even though it’s a year and a half away—is already getting people talking, thanks to a couple of pieces of casting news and a surprising fan theory that’s getting a lot of traction. It might be a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away, but turns out that Star Wars is all around us, all the time.
Episode IX Signs Up a Fake American
The Source: Hollywood trade paper Variety
Probability of Accuracy: We won’t know for sure until Lucasfilm confirms it, but let’s go with “very probable.”
The Real Deal: Things are apparently moving along on the next Star Wars installment, with Variety reporting that Keri Russell—formerly of The Americans and, as many have pointed out, Episode IX director J.J. Abrams’ Felicity—has signed on to appear in the movie. Quite who she’s going to play is, of course, a complete mystery at this point, but that’s half the fun of Star Wars casting announcements: The fan theorizing that will spring up over the next few months before real information starts appearing. Just don’t believe anyone who says that Russell will play a reincarnated Princess Leia; they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.
Another Original Trilogy Cast Member Returns For Episode IX
The Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Probability of Accuracy: Again, until Lucasfilm says so, it’s not 100 percent, but really, it’s like 99 percent.
The Real Deal: While we’re talking about Episode IX casting, The Hollywood Reporter followed up on some recent rumors and reported that, yes, Billy Dee Williams will in fact be returning to the franchise to play Lando Calrissian in the next movie. This is still unconfirmed by Lucasfilm, but once it’s shown up in the trades, it’s all-but-guaranteed. Williams’ return has been anticipated by fans for some time, especially following Donald Glover’s debut as the young Lando in Solo: A Star Wars Story; Williams had already revived the character for videogames and animation—he voiced two episodes of Star Wars Rebels, and appeared a number of times in Lego Star Wars animated projects—but, let’s be honest: Won’t it be good to see the old rogue on the big screen one more time?
Will Episode IX Return to a Familiar Place?
The Source: Fan speculation based on a shooting location
Probability of Accuracy: This one’s a bit of a stretch, but not necessarily too much of one.
The Real Deal: It’s not only who’ll be appearing in the new movie; fans are already paying attention to where the movie will be shot. Specifically, they’re noticing that Cardington Sheds, a location from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that recreated the temple from the original Star Wars, is being used for the new movie, leading some to wonder whether there’s going to be a return to that location in the final chapter in the saga. Well, The Last Jedi did see the Resistance revisit old haunts in an attempt to find safe haven from the First Order… (Wait, is this how Lando would come back into the narrative? Is the Resistance going to go back to Bespin in the next movie?)
Could Han Solo Make a Triumphant Return in Episode IX?
The Source: A fan theory based a close reading of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Probability of Accuracy: While not impossible, this seems pretty unlikely.
The Real Deal: What if Han Solo… just didn’t actually die in Star Wars: The Force Awakens? That’s a theory advanced by Nerdist writer Donna Dickens, who suggested that, just because we saw Han stabbed and plunged into a seemingly bottomless pit, it doesn’t mean that he’s actually dead. Indeed, she argues, because Starkiller Base uses dark matter to power its weapons—as defined in The Force Awakens novelization, which is canon—then, “regardless of origin, Han Solo definitely fell to his alleged death inside a weapon that punches holes in space and time. That leaves open a lot of possibilities.” This theory holds some kind of water—let’s not forget that Luke Skywalker was also injured via lightsaber and fell down a well in The Empire Strikes Back, only to survive—but at this stage, how likely is it that Harrison Ford would return for one final movie that undoes what most consider to be a perfect exit two movies earlier? Then again, the next Indiana Jones movie has been delayed for mysterious reasons…
Star Wars Fandom Eats Itself
The Source: The damned internet
Probability of Accuracy: Sadly, this seems pretty on point.
The Real Deal: To say that Star Wars fandom has been active lately is putting it mildly. As trolls and those who follow their lead continue to complain about Star Wars: The Last Jedi and proclaim the imminent end of the franchise, Rian Johnson is tweeting about Gamergate and James Mangold—rumored to be directing a standalone Boba Fett movie, although he’s hinting otherwise—is also posting about the perils of fan backlash, writing that “work writing & directing big franchises has become the emotionally loaded equivalent of writing a new chapter of The Bible” and suggesting that “a lot of bolder minds r gonna leave these films 2 hacks & [corporate] boards.” That didn’t stop the trolls from going after Star Wars Show host Andi Gutierrez for a three-year-old photograph of her drinking out of a cup marked “Fanboy Tears,” which was seen as “proof” that there is an agenda to upset fans at Lucasfilm. The latest push was incited by podcast Rebel Force Radio, and response was swift: In addition to fans defending Gutierrez, the podcast’s Twitter page disappeared and the show was removed from StarWars.com’s fan directory. Will any of this be enough to make fandom reassess its current attitude? Probably not, but there’s hope…