'Star Wars Episode VII' Cast Members: Who They Are And What Their Roles Could Be

By Peter Sciretta, Russ Fischer, Angie Han and Germain Lussier

The announcement of the full cast for Star Wars Episode VII sent a ripple of excitement through the movie world. Not only because the official announcement ends of months of speculation, but because this cast is excellent. The lineup Abrams has chosen for Episode VII is one we'd be excited to see in any film, so it's a good first move for Star Wars.

While we know little about the relative newcomer Daisy Ridley, who plays the female lead, the rest of the new cast is a collection of great talent drawn from a variety of acting backgrounds: John BoyegaOscar Isaac, Max von Sydow, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis and Domhnall Gleeson.

That's a great group of guys. The pleasure of that roster is diminished only by wondering how there can't be any room for more than one major new female role. The classic Star Wars status quo (one woman, and a bunch of dudes) is almost a running joke at this point, and we hoped that Abrams might have broken that barrier as he cast the new film. An offset, however, is that Daisy Ridley could have a particularly important role. If she ends up being one of the true leads of the series, that would change things just a bit. And while this cast remains predominantly white, John Boyega held point position in the official announcement, giving rise to the assumption that he's the lead. Boyega, born in London to Nigerian parents, is not the typical face of Star Wars. If he's the lead, that's a significant step in a new direction for the series.

Below, read up on the backgrounds of each of the new additions to the Star Wars universe, along with speculation and what actual data we have about the roles for each cast member. 

John Boyega

John Boyega in Attack the Block

You know John Boyega as Moses, the star of Joe Cornish's awesome Attack the Block. He's a charismatic, super-likeable actor who has made plenty of smart choices since that debut. He did an HBO pilot with Spike Lee; has a role in the upcoming 24: Live Another Day; and shows real acting chops in this year's Sundance film Imperial Dreams, as a father, recently released from prison, raising a young son. He dropped out of a Jesse Owens' biopic to take this role in Star Wars.

While we don't know exactly who he'll play, it's a safe bet with his age and physicality, he's some kind of young Jedi. And the fact he was listed first in the announcement suggests he might be the lead character. Plus, in this early confirmed casting breakdown, he meets the requirements for a "A late twentysomething male, fit, handsome and confident."

Daisy Ridley

Daisy Ridley

Daisy Ridley is the one actor revealed for Star Wars Episode VII that you probably don't know. Her name was literally never mentioned once in past conversations about the film, yet she's nabbed what's likely one of the lead roles in the entire new trilogy. Rumors long suggested J.J. Abrams wanted this new trilogy to star a woman, and also create a new star. In Ridley, he potentially gets both.

Ridley is probably playing the daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leia — a supposition bolstered by her position at the table read between Ford and Fisher — or potentially the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a long rumored character. If that role is still in the script she'd have to be playing it, as she's the only new female added to the universe, a curious decision indeed. T

As for her previous work, her IMDB has a few small TV credits, most notably the Jeremy Piven show Mr. Selfridge. Plus you can head to her agent's page for a quick history lesson. A demo reel of her previous work was circulating on YouTube this morning, but has been pulled. That reel led some to think she'll play a sort of wisecracking badass — not unlike Han Solo, perhaps — but that is yet another unconfirmed detail.

Also of note, in the original casting breakdown, there was a role for a "Late-teen female, independent, good sense of humour, fit." That seems to fit Ridley, however at that time there was a second female too, described as "A second young female, also late teens, tough, smart and fit." The script likely changed at some point as there seems to be only one lead female. UPDATE: Or is there?

Adam Driver

girls-adam-driver

For the past few months, the one new name everyone was banking on being a part of the film was Adam Driver. Driver, best known for his work on HBO's Girls, has become a rising star of late. He was in Inside Llewyn Davis (with now-Star Wars co-star Oscar Isaac), Frances Ha, J. Edgar, Lincoln and many more. He's also soon scheduled to work with Martin Scorsese. But now, he steps into the spotlight for what's rumored to be the Darth Vader-type lead villain role.

Driver's got a unique, otherworldly look, with an acting range that goes from goofy and fun to downright creepy and frightening. It's no surprise Abrams would want him for this series. In the early cast breakdown, Driver definitely fits the role of "Thirtysomething male, intellectual. Apparently doesn't need to be fit."

Oscar Isaac

oscar-isaac-1

I guess, like us, J.J. Abrams really liked Inside Llewyn Davis. Not only did he cast Adam Driver, he got the film's star too. Though Isaac had become a pretty hot commodity in Hollywood after the Coen Brothers film, it wasn't until this week that he was named as a possible cast member before Tuesday's confirmation. You might also know him as the bad guy in Sucker Punch, Prince John in Ridley Scott's Robin Hood and from a smallish role in Drive.

As for what role Isaac could play, while can easily be pegged as playing bad guys, I see him as a leader of the Rebellion. A man of importance, but maybe not a man of the Force. I'm thinking kind of a Admiral Ackbar or Lando Calrissian type. Maybe even a scoundrel in the mold of Han Solo. As for the early casting breakdown, he sounds very much like the "Forty something male, fit, military type."

Andy Serkis

Andy Serkis

Andy Serkis was a surprise addition to the Star Wars cast — out of all the many rumors that bubbled up about the new lineup, it wasn't until today that his name was mentioned in conjunction with the new project. Serkis started in television in 1989 and worked steadily through the next decade, but his role as Gollum (and Gollum's human half, Smeagol) in the Lord of the Rings films really pushed him into stardom. Despite playing some live-action roles in the films that followed, the high points for Serkis have been almost entirely in motion-capture roles, and the actor is basically synonymous with mo-cap at this point.

So the obvious question with Serkis is whether he'll play a live-action role, or if he'll be acting in a mo-cap suit. If JJ Abrams wants a creature that can also emote, Serkis is an obvious choice. Star Wars is a story framework that is loaded with creature possibilities. But could we see Serkis in human form in the Star Wars universe? We've heard he might be playing a live-action role.

Serkis could fit into two of the descriptions from the early breakdown, either the "Forty something male, fit, military type" or "Thirtysomething male, intellectual. Apparently doesn't need to be fit." Or, he could be a whole new character.

Domhnall Gleeson

domhnall-gleeson-in-anna-karenina-4

Domnhmall Gleeson has some experience with big franchise pictures, thanks to his role as Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Here, he likely won't be a supporting character, as we'd expect Gleeson to play one of the trio of core new characters that will travel through all three of the upcoming Episodes. Gleeson is the oldest of the three characters we'd expect to be the lead trio. (With John Boyega and Daisy Ridley being the other two.) He's got great comic chops, as seen throughout About Time and in the upcoming Frank. He's got a much wider range than that, however, as About Time, Anna Karenina, and yes, Harry Potter all show.

Plus, he's the perfect embodiment of this early casting description: "Young twenty-something male, witty and smart, fit but not traditionally good looking."

Max von Sydow

max-von-sydow

If J.J. Abrams needed a powerful elder statesman for Star Wars — whether good or evil — he has turned to the right man. Max von Sydow is basically the original Jedi. In one of his earliest films, 1957's The Seventh Seal, he played a knight who encounters Death while on the way home from the Crusades. Sydow's extensive work with Igmar Bergman cemented him as a mainstay of major world cinema, and his role as Father Merrin in The Exorcist dropped him right into the New Hollywood movement and the popular explosion of genre pictures that all led to the point we're at today.

Sydow also played Ming the Merciless in the 1980 film Flash Gordon — ironically, George Lucas originally created Star Wars as a channel for his interest in Flash Gordon. Now the two have combined. (Oh, and he was the voice of Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II.) And those are just some of the most obvious moments in his career — Sydow's film roles could be the subject of a small library's worth of reading. Sydow's age means he probably won't play a character who leaps into battle (unless Abrams wants to work the sort of digital magic George Lucas applied to Christopher Lee) but he'll be powerful nonetheless.

In the original casting breakdown, Sydow sounds almost exactly like the "Seventy-something male, with strong opinions and tough demeanour. Also doesn' t need to be particularly fit."

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford played Han Solo

Harrison Ford,  in the original trilogy, played played Han Solo, a smuggler who was caught up with the Rebel Alliance and helped Luke Skywalker destroy the Death Star (twice). Harrison Ford wanted Han Solo to die in Return of the Jedi "to give it some bottom", but according to Ford "George [Lucas] didn't think there was any future in dead Han toys." The fact that Ford has returned for the new Star Wars chapter may be telling. There have been rumors of a one-film contract, which could mean that Ford might finally get his wish and be the Agent Coulson of this new saga.

Since Star Wars, Ford has gone on to star in the Indiana Jones franchise, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, the Jack Ryan movies Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, The Fugitive, Air Force One, Cowboys & Aliens and Ender's Game.  An interesting bit of trivia, Ford starred in JJ Abrams' first produced feature film screenplay Regarding Henry.

Carrie Fisher

30 Rock

That Carrie Fisher will be back as Princess Leia, is no great surprise — particularly since the actress has been telling people she'd be back since about 2012. Moreover, she's actually been spotted recently in London, where Episode VII is shooting. She's jokingly suggested that Leia, post-Episode VI, might have cheated on Han Solo and eventually developed sundowners syndrome. Those suggestions probably won't pan out, but as of now we don't know exactly what Leia will be doing in the movie.

Since the original trilogy ended in 1983, Fisher has been all over the stage and screen, often poking fun at herself or her iconic role. Among her many non-Star Wars films are The Burbs, When Harry Met Sally..., Scream 3, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Fanboys. Fisher's also an accomplished writer. Her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep in 1990, and she wrote and performed in an acclaimed autobiographical one-woman stage show called Wishful Drinking which she later adapted into a book.

Mark Hamill

Mark Hamill Criminal Minds

Mark Hamill's return to the franchise was also a no-brainer. Along with Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, he's been the subject of rumors from the very beginning, and was recently seen in London as Episode VII begins shooting.

After Episode VI, Hamill did several live-action films and Broadway shows. He still appears onscreen from time to time, and has a lead role coming up in the fact-based crime drama Minkow. But these days, he's better known for his illustrious voice work career. He's voiced a lot of characters over the past few decades, earning particular acclaim for his work as the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. More recently, he's had roles in the animated series Turbo FAST, Adventure Time, and Dragons: Riders of Berk.

Anthony Daniels

C-3PO

As with most of the original trilogy veterans announced today, word that Anthony Daniels would be reprising his role has been swirling for months. In October, he accidentally sort-of confirmed his involvement in Episode VII by pointing out that he'd be the only actor to be in all seven films.

In truth, Daniels has played C-3PO a lot more than seven times. He's played the character in dozens of TV shows and video games, and most recently made a voice cameo as the neurotic gold robot in Warner Bros.' The Lego Movie. But C-3PO isn't all he can do. He recently provided narration for the web series Dirigible Days.

Peter Mayhew

Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca

Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca in Episodes IV-VI (as well as in a small, almost cameo role in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith), serving as Han Solo's co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon. The character is aligned with Solo and is likely going to be at his side in the next chapters. In the book The Hutt Gambit, we learned that Chewbacca had a life debt to Han Solo because Solo, then an officer in the Imperial Navy, saved the Wookiee from slavery. While this Extended Universe backstory has become part of the character's legend, it is still extended universe material, which means it might not appear in the movies.

In recent years, the actor has had some serious health issues, which are the topic of a Kickstarter documentary called Standing in the Stars: The Peter Mayhew Story. While he is improving, some might speculate on how mobile Mayhew could be in these new films. Maybe Chewbacca will be old and bedridden in the next chapter? Very unlikely if they go with Ford's plans for Solo's character. Abrams could easily employ stunt doubles for any sequence which involves a lot of movement. Wikipedia has a fun cautionary tale about the result of that on Empire Strikes Back:

When cast in the role, he studied the movement of large animals at the zoo to come up with an authentic sense of movement for Chewbacca. When Mayhew grew ill in the shooting of The Empire Strikes Back, a similarly tall stand in was used, but the actor could not match Mayhew's studied movement style and the scenes had to be re-shot upon Mayhew's recovery.

Kenny Baker

Kenny Baker played R2-D2

Kenny Baker played R2-D2 in all six of the Star Wars movies thus far. The British actor was inside of R2-D2 for all of the films. He was originally going to play Wicket, but when he fell ill the role was awarded to Warwick Davis. Baker also played an additional role in Return of the Jedi: Paploo, the Ewok who steals an Imperial speeder bike. We have no idea what role this famous astromech droid will play in the new film, but George Lucas has said since the beginning that R2-D2 and C-3PO would be the only characters at the center of the action for all three Star Wars trilogies. While JJ Abrams is rumored to be taking his own path and not following George Lucas' original treatment, its a safe bet that the droids will be central in the next installments.

And, as the voice of two of the primary characters mentioned above, there's always room for mention of the voice of Star Wars,

Ben Burtt

Ben Burt

Ben Burt was previously announced as returning as a Star Wars crew member. Star Wars fans should recognize the name, as he worked with George Lucas on the sounds for all of the Star Wars films and the Indiana Jones adventures. He created the voices of R2-D2 and Chewbacca, and will continue to perform those character's voices in the new films. Burt also helped Spielberg design the voice of E.T. and was the voice of WALL-E and M-O in Pixar's WALL-E. He has a long history with Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas and also JJ Abrams, having previously collaborated with JJ on Star Trek, Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness.