Following J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, the second film in the new Star Wars trilogy (the yet-to-be-subtitled Episode VIII) will hit theaters on May 26th, 2017. That’s 40 years and one day after the very first film, A New Hope, premiered in 1977. Disney CEO Bob Iger also confirmed that Star Wars: Episode VIII will be written and directed by Looper filmmaker Rian Johnson (that’s technically been known since last June, but this is the first time Disney’s confirmed it).
Episode VIII will arrive more than one year after The Force Awakens, which is coming December 18th of this year. In between that will be the first standalone Star Wars film, which is now known as Rogue One, which is scheduled for December 16th, 2016. That spinoff is being directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and written by Chris Weitz (Antz, The Golden Compass). Felicity Jones, who garnered an Academy Award nomination this year for her performance as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything, is the first and so far only confirmed casting for Rogue One.
While we don’t know if Jones is the star or simply a star, that she’s the name Disney is choosing to lead with is an exciting sign that we could be getting a Star Wars film with a woman in the primary lead. J.J. Abrams also appears to be bringing more diversity to the series with Episode VII and includes a woman among the film’s main cast, but we’re yet to really see how big any given actor’s role is.
There have been a lot of rumors that the Star Wars standalone films could explore the backstories of major or peripheral Star Wars characters, including Han Solo and Boba Fett, but Disney casually suggests that we could see wholly new adventures. It writes that Rogue One and other standalone movies will explore “the characters and events beyond the core Star Wars saga.” That doesn’t discount the possibility of seeing well-known Star Wars characters, but it also suggests the more interesting possibility of getting brand new adventures exploring its galaxy.