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A Complete History of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Casting Rumors

Don’t get cocky, kids.

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Don’t get cocky, kids.


This piece was originally published in April of 2014, back when the first casting was announced for what is now known as Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Yesterday was a big day for the Star Wars franchise; arguably, the biggest since Star Wars: Episode VII was announced back in October of 2012. After literally a year and a half’s worth of speculation, the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII was officially announced, sending the internet into a tizzy and pretty much dominating the entertainment news of the day (and the way it looks, the week.) But the confirmation of the film’s cast didn’t happen in a day: no, it was a long and rumor filled road that this sequel took to get its cast, and I thought it would be fun to take a look back at just all the crazy casting rumors that popped up in the time it took for this cast to form together. Here’s the complete history of Star Wars: Episode VII casting rumors.

Now when I mean “casting rumors,” I’m also including stuff like actors talking about how they want to come back, or be a part of the series in the future. So with that said, let’s delve into this sucker…trust me, it’s a long ride.

October 30, 2012 — Disney announces that they purchased Lucasfilm, and that Star Wars: Episode VII was officially in development.

November 5, 2012 — No surprise, the first actor to be question about his involvement in the film was Harrison Ford, who told EW that he was “open” to the idea.

November 7, 2012 — Just two days later, Carrie Fisher was approached by TMZ about Episode VII, and she provided a similar answer to Ford (albeit more Carrie Fisher-y, of course)

November 13, 2012 — Peter Mayhew is approached by Huffington Post about reprising the part of Chewbacca, and he too was willing to come back for the sequel. Yeah, none of these guys seemed to be particularly busy, I guess.

December 8, 2012 — Samuel L. Jackson says “Hell yeah” to appearing in Episode VII despite the fact that, well, he was long dead. Don’t tell Sam Jackson what he can or can’t do.



December 29, 2012 — Another prequel cast member sounds off, as Ewan McGregor mentions that he would take part in Episode VII if asked. (Spoiler alert: He was not.)(FUTURE SPOILER ALERT: Actually, he was!)

January 30, 2013 — Going into the new year and the official hiring of J.J. Abrams, Keri Russell mentioned that she would be “waiting by her phone” for the Episode VII call. Assumingly, that’s where she remains today.

February 15, 2013 — The first official “scoop” of the Episode VII casting mill. Latino Review (oh is this far from the last time they will be mentioned) made the claim that Harrison Ford was officially cast in Episode VII, and was the first actor to do so. Overall they were right, but who’s to say if he was already attached by this point. Honestly, we’ll probably never know who was “first” to be cast.

February 20, 2013 — Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, finally speaks up about the progress of Episode VII, claiming that he had been “talking to” Lucasfilm about the sequel.

February 26, 2013 — Billy Dee Williams begins his elaborate campaign to become a part of Star Wars: Episode VII. At time of this writing, he is not a part of Star Wars: Episode VII. It’s like a Greek tragedy or something.

March 1, 2013 — Even esteemed theater actor/Darth F-ing Vadar James Earl Jones gets in on the Episode VII discussion, saying (SHOCKER) he would return if he was asked. Something tells me he wasn’t.

March 25, 2013 — Thought the prequel actors would finally shut up about returning? You were wrong. Ian McDiarmid said that he would be interested in seeing the Emperor in other Star Wars properties, despite the fact that his death was like, the conclusion of the first trilogy. The idea of the Emperor returning floated up in various stages of the rumor mill, but clearly that one was majorly off base, right?

April 11, 2013 — Anthony Daniels hints that he could come back for Episode VII…because that was something we were all so unsure about, right?

May 19, 2013 — Here it is, the first official rumor regarding a new actor joining the Star Wars series. Can you guess who reported it? Yup–Latino Review, who said that The Tudors star Jonathan Rhys Meyer was being eyed for the lead role in the film.

May 30, 2013 — In one of the funnier Episode VII casting rumors, Leonard Nimoy talked about the idea of joining the Star Wars franchise, I’m sure much to the chagrin of Trekkies. Ha ha, nerd wars are the best.



July 24, 2013 — Everything was quiet for a spell when it came to Episode VII casting rumors, but good ol’ rumor machine Latino Review came and dropped two names who were reportedly being eyed for parts in the film: Zac Efron and Ryan Gosling. They also claimed that Leonardo DiCaprio was approached, but declined offers. Who’s to say if any of that happened, but one thing’s for sure: none of it came to fruition.

August 15, 2013 — Ah, but Latino Review weren’t done yet! A mere three weeks later the site posted a “scoop” claiming that Obi Wan Kenobi would be returning for the film as played by Ewan McGregor. Well it’s not out of the realm of possibility for the actor to pop up as a force ghost in a cameo, as of this time, he’s not involved in the film.

August 28, 2013 — TRIPLE STRIKE: Latino Review reports that Rachel Hurd Wood and Alex Pettyfer were being approached to star in Episode VII.

September 2, 2013 — Taking a break from Latino Review scoops, Film Chronicle broke a rumor claiming that Benedict Cumberbatch had been cast in Episode VII. Cumberbatch being involved in the film then became the talk of the town, and for months after you would read reports of how he was hinting he was, or denied it, or confirmed it, or anything else in between. I won’t talk about anymore of them, but Cumberbatch in Star Wars was pretty damn big.



September 18, 2013 — And aha! Latino Review again. Always the busy bodies, the site leaked that Saoirse Ronan had auditioned for a part in Star Wars 7. For what it’s worth, this one proved to be correct, as Ronan was one of the few people who came out and admitted she had done an audition. Then again, that was way back in the Michael Arndt script phase, so it’s not even a given that the role she auditioned for remains in the film.

September 19, 2013–24 hours later Latino Review posted another rumor post, saying that David Oyelowo and Michael B. Jordan had taken a meeting about being in the movie as well. Whew, this is when things start to get really exhausting.

September 30, 2013 — Since it becomes firmly established at this point that Latino Review is the only website on the internet, they reported here that 300: Rise of an Empire star Sullivan Stapleton was taking a meeting about being in the film. So was everyone else in the world, apparently.

November 2, 2013 — Chiwetel Ejiofor is reportedly spotted sitting in J.J. Abrams office waiting room, presumably for an Episode VII movie. Or maybe the two just play cricket together, who knows.

November 19, 2013 — R2-D2 becomes the first character confirmed for Episode VII. It might have been assumed by everyone and he might not even be human, but it was something right?

November 20, 2013 — Just a day later, and we’re back to rumors, as Doctor Who star Matt Smith reportedly met with Abrams.

December 9, 2013 — Brit actor Jack O’Connell also reportedly meets with Abrams about being in the film.

January 10, 2014 — Things start to get real at the beginning of 2014. Jesse Plemons of Breaking Bad had his name thrown into the mix, and the internet proceeded to get all hyped up.

January 11, 2014 — A bunch of folks are tossed about, like Michael Fassbender, Hugo Weaving, and Adam Driver. This is the first time that an actual cast member of Star Wars: Episode VII was first named. Yeah, it only took a year and a half to get to that point.

February 7, 2014 — Gary Oldman claims that he was contacted by Lucasfilm about the sequel, but doesn’t say much more than that. Because he’s Gary Oldman, and thus doesn’t need too.

February 17, 2014 — Ain’t it Cool said that Transformers: Age of Extinction star Jack Reynor was being eyed for the lead in Star Wars 7.



March 12, 2014 — Things start to get a little more concrete in March, as THR leaks a shortlist for the lead that includes people like the aforementioned Jesse Plemons, Eragon’s Edward Speeler, and Attack the Block’s John Boyega.

March 14, 2014 — But how about one more Latino Review scoop for fun, huh? This is when Lupita Nyong’o has her named dropped for the first time.

April 7, 2014 — Peter Mayhew becomes the first confirmed human cast member in the film, returning as the character of Chewbacca.

April 9, 2014 — Oxford actress Maisie Richardson-Sellers is rumored for a major role in Episode VII.

April 28, 2014 — On the eve of the big announcement, Deadline drops the name Oscar Isaac, and hammers down John Boyega and Adam Driver again.



April 29, 2014 — Lucasfilm officially announces the returning and new cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. But just in case you were worried all this fun would soon be over, there is reportedly still one major female actress who hasn’t been named yet (and,apparently, wasn’t present at the table read.)

But for now at least, that’s the complete history of Star Wars: Episode VII casting rumors. Such an insane list, no? It really goes to show how much attention was put on this film, and how many rumors and “scoops” were divulged in the time it took for things to actually become real. But now we have an almost completely assembled cast, so there’s only one thing we can do at this point: speculate and find rumors about the title! Ah, the cycle never ends.

Star Wars: Episode VII hits theaters on December 18, 2015.

-Matthew


Originally published at www.geekbinge.com on April 30, 2014.

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol’ ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)

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The Spider Man: Into The Spider-Verse Teaser Trailer Creates One Hell of An Eye-Popping Debut

Sony’s Animated Spider-Man movie looks better than expected, thankfully.

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Well, if you can say anything about Sony Pictures, it’s that they tried. Sure, that phrase is likely going to be engraved on their headstone a decade from now, but it doesn’t make it any less true — Sony is going through every single one of their brands, digging through them endlessly for any ounce of blockbuster potential they may have. It would be almost impressive, if it also didn’t seem so creatively empty.

But, hey, it doesn’t have to be. Sure, no one in the goddamn world is itching for a Mobius the Vampire Movie, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great. Even something born out of needless franchising can be a work of artistic value. And there’s no two men you don’t have to tell that too than Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

The pair have been able to turn creative bankruptcy into brilliance for years now, and Sony recently set them loose on the crown jewel of milked-dry brands: Spider-Man. Together the pair wrote the script for a Spider-Man movie that would be created by Sony Animation (who the duo worked with on the Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs films) All we knew about the project for a while now was that it would involve the character of Miles Morales (played by Dope’s Shameik Moore.) But with the film coming out next Christmas, Sony decided that now would be the best time to give the film its first grand showing.

And what a showing it is. Though the trailer is brief, and honestly doesn’t tell us a lot about the finished product, it being simply a “teaser” probably helps. We don’t get a lot of strictly “teaser trailers” anymore — those have unfortunately morphed into the far less gratifying “trailer teasers,” whose distinction is actually super important so, shut up, YOU’RE the crazy one. But brevity is the sole of marketing (that’s the quote, right?), and it’s pretty impressive how the Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse teaser trailer comes in, establishes exactly what it is, and exits in style.

“Style” being the key here. While I was worried an animated Spider-Man film would end up looking like a boring computer generated, flat mess, Into the Spider-Verse actually looks pretty great. It has a very unique look, one that is clearly trying to emulate the look of a comic (like most animated comic book movies), but also throwing in static backgrounds and 3D character models. Hell, it even seems to cut inand out of stylized 3D to flat comic art when it wants to, which could be pretty cool (if not overused.) The movements even have a little bit of stop-motion jitterness going on (ala The Lego Movie.) This might seem like too much for one animated Spider-Man movie to handle but, at least in this initial tease, it seems to work for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Story wise, we only get a brief introduction into what is going on, with the “Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask” providing most of the grunt work. It’s a bit of an out there pitch for a Spider-Man movie, and I do have to wonder if the finished product might end up suffering from indeed having too many spidermen. But if the main complaint of your movies existence is that it makes too many competing Spider-Man uses all at once, why not lean into the complaint, right? Once again, Lord and Miller got great results out of doing similar with 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, and The Lego Movie. Why not Spider-Man?

And really, like all the movies they make, my trust in Lord and Miller is what has me on board. The pair have yet to let me down with anything they have gotten their hands on, and though they aren’t directing the movie (that honor goes to animation vets Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti), they are producing and writing the script. And with their time recently getting cleared up, I’m hoping their influence is all over this thing. After all, in Lord and Miller I trust.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse might end up being a desperate bid to squeeze ever dollar out of Sony’s cash cow…AND it might actually be a pretty good movie, at the end of the day. After all…in Lord and Miller I trust.


Also published on Medium.

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Alita: Battle Angel Trailer – James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez Made A Sci-Fi Blockbuster Together, And It Looks Weird As Fuuuuuck

The first trailer for this manga adaptation is…something, all right.

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For as long as I’ve been reading about movies on the internet, I’ve been reading about Alita: Battle Angel. The live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga is the definition of “long-gestating” — in fact, James Cameron first announced his intentions to make the film as a follow-up to Titanic in freaking 2000! Yes, the year 2000, with no numbers or anything! That puts its rough time in development at 17 years, which is insane really. Cameron always said it was a project he would get to at some point, but then a pesky little thing called Avatar got in the way, and the project got put on the backburner. Again, and again, and again. Seriously, just take a look at the film’s Wikipedia page — the “Development” tab is one hell of a roller coaster.

But now, nearly two decades after Cameron first expressed interest in making it, Alita: Battle Angel is a real thing…although its form is not quite what we were promised initially. Since Cameron made the decision to devote the rest of his life to making 6000 Avatar sequels, the writer/director finally made the executive decision to give the project to someone else. That someone else ended up being Robert Rodriguez, who finally got the film into production last year. And now the first fruits of that labor have arisen in the form of the Alita: Battle Angel trailer…and it creates one hell of a first impression, I’ll give it that.

Is it a good first impression though? Honestly…no. While I love the concept behind this, and appreciate the ambition of what Cameron and Rodriguez are trying to do — oh boy, there’s something spectacularly off about everything in this film.

Most of that weirdness can be directly attributed to the Alita character, who is one distinct looking main character. Appearing like an anime character come to life, Alita has the classic huge anime eyes, and overall looks absolutely bizarre. And, sure, that’s reasonably part of her character — she isn’t human, so should look a little bit off. But the problem isn’t that she doesn’t look like a normal human: it’s that she looks like a cheap CGI construct of a creature, moving around freely in a cartoon world with reckless abandon.

I tend to not like to using this comparison as it feels awfully insulting to video game, but there are complete shots of this trailer that do indeed look like a CGI cutscene — or even worse, Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within. From the beginning, Cameron pitched this film as being very CGI heavy. Hell, he even conceptualized the Alita character as a completely CGI created character back in the mid-2000’s which, at the time, was a pretty nuts thing to even imagine. But now we live in a time where fully CGI characters are commonplace, and quite a lot of them end up looking pretty great when in action.

But Alita does NOT look great, at least in these trailers, and it’s not just the huge ass eyes either. Just the way she moves is off-putting, and the way Alita’s entire face looks grafted on to her body makes her a distracting presence every moment she pops up. And, honestly, I’m going to put most of the blame on this lack of graphic fidelity directly on the hands of Robert Rodriguez. The dude is at his worst when using an abundance of computer-generated imagery, mostly because he doesn’t seem to care whether or not any of it looks “realistic” — I honestly think he likes things to look ridiculously cartoony. I mean, have you SEEN images from The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl? 

*Shudder*

And, yet, he doesn’t seem to care. Ever since he started Troublemaker Studios, his go-to has been shooting everything he does in his garage, set against a green screen, style be damned. And well that’s “fine”on a Spy Kids movie (or even something like Sin City, which is so heavily stylized it can paint its rough edges in a pretty noir coat), it absolutely does not work on a $200 million dollar, would-be sci-fi epic. Say what you will about Avatar or James Cameron, but even with his love of computer-generated imagery, he remains a perfectionist to his core. Avatar NEVER looked cheap or even overtly cartoonish, at least not in the same way Alita: Battle Angel so far looks.

Then again, Cameron’s perfectionism is probably what kept us waiting nearly 20 years for this movie in the first place. Maybe what it needed was a Robert Rodriguez, who will bang out a film in a year and consider it a win if things look “good enough.” But, once again, Alita: Battle Angel is Rodriguez working on a scale he never has before. And from what I see so far, I’m not so sure it’s him playing to his strong suits.

I’m still interested in the movie simply due to Cameron’s involvement (and his script, which he co-wrote with Laeta Kalogridis), but I feel like this is a project that’s already doomed from the get-go. It’s a super niche adaptation, and a costly one at that. And though I will never claim to speak to the masses, I can’t help but feel that if I’M creeped out by what I see, the mainstream will be even more turned off. It also doesn’t help that the film has very little star power to speak of: I love Christoph Waltz as much as the next guy, but he isn’t going to put asses in seats here. Jennifer Connoly has also been off the A-list for a very long time, and Mahershala Ali, well great, is still very much an up-and-comer. It’s a decent cast for a film fan, but it doesn’t seem like a particularly bankable one.

But, ultimately, it’s all about the feel of the movie here, and this trailer does a rough job presenting anything but a feeling of “WTF did I just watch?” There might yet be a fun and exciting sci-fi adventure in Alita: Battle Angel, even when watching through that mode. But if the old saying about the eyes being the window to the soul is accurate, then this movie has one FUGLY soul at its core.

Alita: Battle Angel will hit theaters right in the middle of next year’s summer fray: July 20, 2018. Good luck to it there, I guess — my gut can’t help but feel like this one is going to be another Ghost in the Shell level disaster for Fox, but maybe some cautious optimism could do me some good here. After all, I should know better than to doubt the power of James Cameron at this point. And who knows: maybe audiences will be hypnotized into buying a ticket by the horrifying uncanny valley that is Alita’s soul-sucking bug eyes? I’m sure that’s what Fox is hoping for, at least.


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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Trailer – Really? This Is The Best They Could Come Up With?

Well, at least it has Jeff Goldblum.

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Like many other folks on the internet, I was not a fan of 2015’s Jurassic World. It was not the worst movie ever (and, hell, probably isn’t even the worst Jurassic Park sequel), but it was still pretty far from “good” in my mind. And it is a movie that my opinion has only lessened on the farther away I get from it — never a good thing, really. So, for that reason, I was clearly not SUPER PUMPED for its sequel, next summer’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. But even then though…really, Fallen Kingdom? Is this all you got? Is this really you putting your best put forward to get people expected? Cause it’s weak.

The above trailer has been (EXTREMELY ANNOYINGLY) released in piece meal over the past week, but the full thing landed last night during Thursday Night Football. And, as a trailer, I will say it’s not terrible — it is well edited, and certain parts of it look good, at least visually. Then again, the section in which the volcano is exploding and Chris Pratt is (rather ridiculously) running down the mountain looks pretty bad, so clearly the visuals here are a bit of a mixed bag.

But what concerns me more about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t so much the look, but the plot. Honestly, it seems pretty unspectacular from what we can see of it so far, with the “rescue mission” to save the dinosaurs from an exploding volcano feeling like a rather lame set-up for more dino action. For what it’s worth, making sequels to Jurassic Park was always a difficult thing — the original very much feels like a “standalone” adventure, with pretty much every follow-up feeling like an inorganic way for Universal to milk people’s love of the first movie. Finally they landed on an interesting concept for a sequel in Jurassic World (what if the park actually opened, and then bad shit went down?), and proceeded to squander the opportunity by introducing a lot of other dumb shit (invisible dinosaurs, trained raptors, etc.) But even that undeniable “fresh start” for this accidental franchise wasn’t enough to propel this into a new set of stories.

…But that of course wasn’t going to stop Universal, who made over a billion dollars with Jurassic World, and were going to continue the series no matter what. And if this trailer is any indication, there hasn’t been a ton of thought put into making this sequel work — any reason to go back to the island, even a dumb one, is all Universal was asking writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connoly to come up with. And they shrugged, came up with the first idea that popped into their heads, and cashed their check.

Even putting the plot aside, the character motivations are already pretty irksome. One of my main issues with Jurassic World was the way it treated the dinosaurs, specifically Chris Pratt’s “pack” of trained raptors. The last thing I am looking for in these movies is some emotional bond between our leads and the dinosaurs, but that seems to be ALL these movies can come up with for why these humans keep doing dumb things. This is especially a problem because the Jurassic World series wants to have its cake and eat it too — they want to instill the idea of the dinosaurs being creatures who humans can bond with, but also want to create a Jurassic Park movie in which dinosaurs try to eat everyone. That contradiction is what gave birth to the stupid hybrid dinosaur (who was the REAL villain, you see), and I’m sure will lead to even dumber “upping of the stakes” in this one.

I’ve kind of lost myself in a pile of rants here that don’t really have much to do with the trailer itself, but that just goes to show how little this trailer convinces me that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is something worth caring about. Jurassic World just did such a poor job of rebooting this franchise in an exciting way, that I find myself apathetic to following it up. For instance: who gives a shit about those stupid-ass transportation pods again — they weren’t cool the first time, and I’m not looking forward to our heroes being bobbed around in an aimless CGI blur for half the movie, screaming their heads off as a way to present terror, but not having anything scary actually happening. Give me a colorful jeep any day.

Seriously. Fuck. Those. Pods.

Hell, this is the kind of trailer that can’t even make JEFF GOLDBLUM a promising sight. It’s just him spouting out standard Ian Malcolm lines (MEMBER “LIFE FINDS A WAY?”), and it’s lame that all we really see of him is in a courtroom, giving some speech. Maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions, but something tells me from this trailer that he will be an outside influence on the action, likely appearing towards the beginning in a couple of exposition scenes, but disappearing once our main characters return to Isla Nublar.

You know, our main characters, one of whose name is Owen. I completely forgot that, since it meant so little in the first film. And don’t even ask me the name of who Bryce Dallas Howard is playing. They’re both lame characters only marginally bumped up by the actors playing them, and to say I have no interest in seeing them on continued adventures is an understatement. Then again, I could say that about this whole damn movie in general, with this trailer doing absolutely nothing to convince me this might be an improvement over the first. And without the intriguing premise to support him, my expectations are pretty damn low.

At the very least, that whole stupid “MILITARY DINOSAURS!” thing has been tabled…for now, at least. Giving guns to dinosaurs is Universal’s mechanical spiders, for some reason. One day they’ll get their stupid, stupid, stupid dino soldiers though, and once that happens, I’ll 100% know this series is no longer for me.


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