Hot on the heels of an Oscar nomination for her luminous performance as Jane Wilde in Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, Felicity Jones has eclipsed competitors including Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, The Fantastic Four‘s Kate Mara and Side Effects‘ Rooney Mara for the lead role in an as-of-yet-untitled Star Wars spinoff. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Lucasfilm and Disney zeroed in on the acclaimed actress after a series of highly secretive readings and screen tests.
Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) will direct from a script by the recently-hired Chris Weitz (About a Boy). The project has been in the works for over a year, with Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) having penned a previous draft for the stand-alone pic. Sources say that Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul and Deliver Us From Evil‘s Edgar Ramirez are in contention for the part of the male lead, but the Los Angeles meetings, readings and tests last week were entirely focused on which actress would snag the coveted lead female role.
Details on the project are being kept under wraps, though rumors persist that it will center on a group of bounty hunters who are hired by the Rebel Alliance to steal blueprints for the first Death Star, a weapon of mass destruction which destroyed Princess Leia’s home world of Alderaan in Episode IV: A New Hope, out from under the Empire’s nose. Some sources say that this means the pic will be set before A New Hope, though at this point, everything outside of the names attached is speculation.
The Star Wars spinoff will hit theaters on December 16th, 2016, serving as the second installment in Lucasfilm and Disney’s relaunched franchise (the first, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, arrives on December 18th this year).