The conversation around the Star Wars franchise is a constantly shifting landscape that moves from peak to valley according to studio announcements and film releases. Now that we’re heading towards the arrival of Solo: A Star Wars Story, that conversation is increasingly focusing on actor Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, and 1983’s Return Of The Jedi.
Though we’ve seen original trilogy actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew return to the big screen in recent years, Billy Dee Williams has been notably absent. Solo is bringing that absence into sharp relief, too, by including in its plot a young Lando, played by Donald Glover.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight at a recent AARP Movies For Grownups event, The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson reiterated that he hoped to see Williams return to the cinematic part of the Star Wars franchise, saying:
“God, I hope we do, I love that character so much. And I think, especially when they see him in Solo, they’re going to want to see more of him immediately. As a Star Wars fan, I’m just crossing my fingers we’ll get to see Billy Dee back in the cape.”
In the years since Return Of The Jedi, the character of Lando Calrissian has been an integral part of the expanded Star Wars universe. He’s featured in comic books, novels, video games, and animation – with Billy Dee Williams providing his voice when necessary – but thus far, the new Star Wars film trilogy has failed to acknowledge his existence.
For his part, Rian Johnson’s previously explained that he briefly considered having Lando fill the role of DJ (Benicio Del Toro) in The Last Jedi, but concluded that the role required a character with whom audiences were unfamiliar with, in order for his treachery to truly pay off. And quite frankly, we do agree with that.
Could it be though that a groundswell of support for the return of Williams’ Lando Calrissian to Star Wars will see him brought back into the cinematic fold in J.J Abrams’ Episode IX? Perhaps, and as always, we’ll be watching closely for any indication of that.