10 Actors We Would Like To See In J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII

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With J.J. Abrams having finally been announced as director of Star Wars: Episode VII, it is finally starting to feel as if this recent spate of crazy Star Wars news is real. There truly is a new film on its way, and with a promising writer and excellent director confirmed, plus backing by Walt Disney Pictures itself, there is no denying the fact that in a couple of years, we will be sitting down to watch more adventures in a galaxy far, far away.

And while I have never personally been crazy about the idea of a new Star Wars film, even I must admit that Abrams’ hiring has gotten me excited about the possibilities, especially where actors are concerned. Abrams is tremendous at discovering and nurturing major talents, and given how character-driven Star Wars has always been, I am extremely excited to see which actors and actresses will show up in the new film.

I have, therefore, put a list together of the performers I would be most interested in seeing in a new Star Wars film. This is not a particularly easy task, the difficulty being that Star Wars has, historically, introduced audiences to many new up-and-coming talents. For audiences in 1977, much of the joy of the original film came in discovering Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher, three little-known actors who took everyone by surprise with their great, iconic performances. The same happened in the prequel trilogy. While Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen were busts, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman were fantastic discoveries very few saw coming (Portman had impressed as a child actress, but Star Wars proved she had the chops to make it as an adult).

So while we can fantasize about current performers we would like to see don Jedi robs or Sith garb, the actors we will enjoy most when 2015 rolls around, if J.J. Abrams understands this series as well as we think he does, will be ones we have never heard of before. If Star Wars Episode VII is a success, Abrams needs to find fresh, new blood to populate the franchise, and if he does, the film will be a major treat indeed.

But for now, we can at least offer some wishful thinking on actors we are familiar with who could play roles in the new trilogy; it is not as if Star Wars has not employed countless recognizable faces in the past. These are the 10 performers I, personally, would be most excited to see in a new Star Wars film. I have tried to stay away from acting legends or major faces from other franchises – having already cannibalized the Star Trek director, Star Wars need not incorporate aspects of other notable series – and also weighed the list in favor of younger performers, as Star Wars heroes are typically young adults.

And I did, as a word of warning, totally cheat on my #1 choice. But we shall get to that in due time…

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10. Daniel Day-Lewis

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Look, this will never in a million years actually happen, but if J.J. Abrams were to work magic and somehow convince Daniel Day-Lewis to join the cast of Star Wars? I would cry with joy. Day-Lewis is an absolute legend for obvious reasons, and while I have, as previously stated, shied away from ‘legends’ on this list, Day-Lewis is such a chameleon, tackling every role he takes with the maximum amount of transformative power, that I can easily imagine him appearing as a wise Jedi master. Think Alec Guinness as Ben Kenobi, or Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jin – famous and respected thespians who appeared to lend their respective Star Wars films credibility, and offer guidance to younger characters. Day-Lewis could achieve all that and so much more. Just think what he might do for Star Wars if he took all the energy and dedication utilized to bring Daniel Plainview or President Lincoln to life and put it towards this franchise. The results would be staggering, and I would love to visit the alternate reality where this casting is an actual possibility.

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9. Eva Green 

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One of my very favorite contemporary actresses, Eva Green has proven herself endlessly talented in a variety of contexts. She has never done anything quite like Star Wars, but she is arguably best known for a major role in a modern blockbuster classic – Casino Royale – and she is one of the few recognizable performers I can see slipping into the rhythms and tone of Star Wars without missing a beat. I sense she would be best suited as a villain in this universe – a female Sith, perhaps, just to mix things up? – and she has played effective antagonists in other fantasy stories (Starz’s Camelot and Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows). In any case, I think she would be a highly compelling addition to the Star Wars universe, a familiar face who could offer the series a very unique dynamic.

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8. John Noble

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An Abrams alum best known for his wonderful work on Fringe, John Noble is a versatile character actor whose exaggerated, theatrical style would be right at home in Star Wars. I can so easily imagine him playing a Sidious-esque villain, similar to Denethor in The Return of the King but darker and more menacing. There are many actors who could fulfill a similar function – I also considered Terry O’Quinn, another performer from the Abrams wheelhouse – but there is something about Noble that just seems right, and even if Abrams and company are going in a very different direction with the antagonist, Noble could still make for an interesting heroic or mentor figure. There are many possibilities, and Noble would be a top-notch choice no matter what. 

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7. Brit Marling 

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One thing I would really like to see Abrams do in his Star Wars film is populate the franchise with more female characters. He has found great female stars for projects before, most notably on Alias and Felicity, and I would even be excited to see him cast a female protagonist for the new movie. While I think I have an even better idea for who that could be later on down this list, indie actress Brit Marling would be an interesting choice to consider. She probably reads a bit too mature to play a main Star Wars character – series protagonists are typically a tad younger – but there is a mysterious, ethereal quality to her work – especially in the fascinating Sound of My Voice – that would make her a truly compelling Jedi. We have not, in fact, seen many female human Jedi in the past, but I think Marling could offer a singular and intriguing interpretation, especially if Episode VII revolves around a new era and order of Jedi.

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6. Keith David

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If the idea of Keith David in Star Wars does not excite you, you are obviously unfamiliar with the man’s work. It is as simple as that. As a voice actor – in video games like Halo and Mass Effect and films such as Coraline and The Princess and the Frog – he has demonstrated one of the most powerful and iconic aural presences of the modern era, and unlike many vocal greats, he is an equally adept live-action performer. There are countless ways Abrams could use him in Episode VII – hero or villain, vocal or physical, Jedi master or active-duty warrior – and each would be as interesting as the next. One thing is for sure: David would fit this franchise like a glove, and I would love to see him come on board for the new trilogy.

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5. Summer Glau 

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This pick is a bit of a cop-out, as I would, as a point of fact, like to see Summer Glau in everything, let alone Star Wars. But Glau is an innately talented actress capable of profound feats of performance, and has only rarely been used to her fullest effect. While I liked what she did on Firefly, it was Glau’s work in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles that suggested she may be one of the most promising actresses of her generation, and I have always been bummed that no one cast her in anything major since. But Star Wars would be the perfect chance to rectify that, as her unique acting skills and more-than-adept physicality – she is a classically trained ballet dancer, and would therefore work beautifully with a lightsaber – qualify her for the job and then some. I am not entirely sure what sort of part she would play – I think she would work better in Star Wars as a quirky supporting character than the main protagonist – but no matter what, Abrams should absolutely consider casting her.   

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4. Andy Serkis 

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This choice may be both simple and obvious, but given the number of CGI characters that are sure to inhabit Abrams’ Star Wars, the master of performance-capture is absolutely worth consideration. One of the prequel trilogy’s failings was its inability to use modern technology to craft memorable, compelling alien characters – sans Yoda, who was based on pre-existing physical designs – but Andy Serkis has proven, time and time again, that he can breathe life and personality into absolutely anything. If Episode VII requires a major animated character and Serkis is not hired for the part, the filmmakers should probably be labeled legally insane, for Serkis is not just a great pioneer of modern technological performance, but a tremendous actor in his own right. And while he is ‘famous,’ his work is so versatile and transformative that audiences would have no trouble whatsoever buying him in a new context. We have done so many times before, and always been happy for it.

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3. Rooney Mara

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One of the most talented and versatile 20-something actresses working today, Rooney Mara seems capable of just about anything, and despite a stirring turn in David Fincher’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, she has not had the break-out, star-making moment a Star Wars film would provide. I would, as noted before, be extremely interested in seeing Episode VII feature a female protagonist – be she Han and Leia’s daughter or someone else entirely – and Mara is not only the right age for the part, but has also displayed a quiet, latent power in her work, a deceptively formidable physicality and heightened sense of intelligence that would serve her well as a Jedi warrior. Her work in Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects, coming out this Friday, is arguably her most varied and surprising performance to date, and further cements my opinion that she has the strengths necessary to work within this universe.

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2. Josh Holloway 

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The recent suggestions that, given Abrams’ involvement with the project, Josh Holloway should be hired to play Han Solo (the two worked together on ABC’s Lost) are asinine and thoughtless – you do not, under any circumstances, recast Han friggin’ Solo – but it is true that Holloway would be a more than perfect fit for the Star Wars franchise. Much of the series was originally conceived around basic Western archetypes, and in his years on Lost, Holloway proved himself to be one of the most compelling and talented anti-hero performers of the modern era. He should not play Han Solo, but if he played a character who filled a similar function, Episode VII would be stronger for it. Part of what made the prequel trilogy so underwhelming is that it lacked the rogue, cynical energy Harrison Ford lent the original films. Star Wars is a space opera, and operates on such a vast level of fantasy and impossibility that a grounded, sarcastic voice actually humanizes the action in profound ways.

Holloway could fulfill that function spectacularly, and is such a gifted actor that he could do so without simply recreating Han Solo. He has undeniable star power, and while the qualities he displayed on Lost are definitely Ford-esque, his talent is unique and identifiably singular. Abrams will need someone on board who does not belong to a clear, easy bubble – Jedi or Sith, Dark side or light – and Holloway is as good a choice as any to satisfy that need.

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1. The Original Cast

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Chewbacca, Billie Dee Williams, etc. 

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Yes, this number 1 choice totally and completely violates the spirit of a “10 Actors” countdown, but hear me out.

My opinion on this new Star Wars film, ever since it was first announced, has been fairly apathetic. Return of the Jedi ended the original Star Wars story, and it ended it very well. I do not, therefore, have any burning desire to see an Episode VII – a film which, given its title, will presumably follow its predecessors directly – and would be vastly more interested in something set outside the standard, thirty to forty-year continuity of the original saga.

But if J.J. Abrams and company are making an Episode VII, and intend for it to follow in the wake of Episode VI, they need to have the original cast and characters on board. I do not need Luke Skywalker and friends to be the stars of the movie – that would be a mistake, I think – but they need to be present, at least in a ‘passing-of-the-torch’ capacity. That, for me, is all I would need to really and truly justify an Episode VII, and if I saw a trailer with Hamill, Ford, Fisher, and others back in their original, iconic roles, I would probably faint with excitement. These are some of my favorite characters of all time, and if there is a chance to see where they are all these years later, I would take great pleasure in seeing it.

The thing is, I do not know if I would have said anything like this before Abrams came on board. But if I am sure of one thing about J.J. Abrams directing Star Wars, it is that he loves these characters, understands them deeply, and would respect the original cast and use them organically in his film. Want proof? Just look at how spectacularly he utilized Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek, not just as a way to please fans of the original series, but to effectively and emotionally pass the franchise beacon to a new cast. That is exactly what Star Wars needs, and with Abrams directing, the original performers are the actors I most want to see in Star Wars: Episode VII. 

What do you think of these picks? Would you want to see any of these actors in a new Star Wars film? Which actors can you think of who would work well in this context? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

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  • Grape Ape

    YES on John Noble!! I thought the same thing when JJ was announced as director. I love him in LoTR and I’m currently watching “Fringe” and think he is marvelous as Walter Bishop!! I also like Keith David to at the very least do a voice of an alien creature if not fully acting (which I would like). And I think the talk of Josh Holloway is more of him playing Han Solo’s son instead of recasting him AS Han Solo. But I would like him too if he’s in it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.suggs Stephen Darryl Suggs

    You had me at Eva Green, you kept me at Keith David.

  • Solgazer

    Apart from the first and last (only because not exactly likely) that was a really fascinating selection of people. Surprised and agreeing in equal amounts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mongoose.maelstrom Mongoose Maelstrom

    Strong list – in particular: Glau, Noble, Holloway & David. Summer Glau is a superstar waiting to happen.

  • Shade Draws

    “How’d you get the beans above the frank?!”

  • Anubis2705

    John Noble would be great. But speaking about former Lost-actors: I want Michael Emerson as Sith-Lord. Just imagine this big eyes in red ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Borg/1393239349 Dan Borg

    Summer Glau for Jaina Solo!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1227940414 Shahryar Niazi

    Stick with the original cast, because episode 7 takes place 20-30 years later after the events of Episode 6 which means the original cast are growing old which makes sense. Also use Dark Empire storyline, of Luke using his father’s vader armor in war.