‘Star Wars Episode VII’: Actors Battle for Lead Role (EXCLUSIVE)

Star Wars Casting

'Downton Abbey' thesp, 'Attack the Block' actor among contenders for Jedi part

With Adam Driver in line to play the villain in the next “Star Wars,” the next order of business for Disney and Lucasfilm is finding the right Jedi to challenge Driver and the evil empire.

After meeting with several young actors this past year, sources tell Variety that “Downton Abbey” thesp Ed Speleers, “Attack the Block” star John Boyega, Jesse Plemons and theater actors Matthew James Thomas, and Ray Fisher are among the men J.J. Abrams is eyeing for the lead role. Though some insiders warn the search is still ongoing, multiple sources confirm to Variety these actors have moved to the top of the list in recent weeks.

Disney had no comment.

SEE ALSO: Adam Driver to Play ‘Star Wars’ Villain (EXCLUSIVE)

Exact details of the character are vague but the part is believed to be a Jedi apprentice. The original draft by Michael Arndt was said to focus on Han Solo and Princess Leia’s kids, however, Abrams and Kasdan’s recent rewrite reportedly puts their offspring in a supporting role.

Sources also indicate the reason for the delay has to do whether execs and creatives want someone of a different ethnicity from the previous Caucasian leads. Abrams has said on numerous occasions that he wants to have a diversified cast, which is why actors like David Oyelowo and Michael B. Jordan tested early on.

As previously reported, Abrams is expected to surround the less-familiar actor with more recognizable stars for supporting parts, including original “Star Wars” cast members Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill.

Star Wars Episode VII” will begin shooting in the late second quarter or early third quarter in London’s Pinewood Studios.

Produced by Abrams, his Bad Robot partner Bryan Burke and Lucasfilm head honcho Kathleen Kennedy, “Star Wars Episode VII” hits theaters Dec. 18, 2015.

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  1. chris says:

    Thank you for your racism.

    • dosse says:

      He’s trying not to be racist by casting who he thinks is the best actor for the role instead of picking someone because they are caucasian.

  2. Dustin Howard says:

    Who care what race they are. Just don’t fuck up my childhood.

  3. bgp says:

    I’ll be surprised if the casting goes against the grain;LOL!!!!
    Even though it says in the article that the lead might be a Jedi that isn’t a Skywalker or Solo.

  4. andrew says:

    Seeing as all we know is “Young Jedi lead” I recommend casting younger. Twenty-five is “too old to begin the the training.” This franchise will be running for a long time. You want very youthful unknowns with extreme talent to fill your lead roles for at least a decade’s worth of work. From the list, Ed Speleers seems most likely to hold his youthful appearance and did a decent job playing Eragon. Then again, Matthew James Thomas has that confidence that goes with being live on stage and to do special effects work in that setting makes his resume extra impressive. Ray Fisher would also bring some of that live theater stage presence.

  5. if the main is jacen solo, Liam James is perfect, he is 17, all his characters had something about “who am i”, just like JS, and he rocked in each 1 of his roles, that has all a jacen personality, what makes me see him as the perfect jacen solo

  6. Dave F.M. says:

    Matthew James Thomas USE THIS GUY , TRUST ME , GOOD NICE …

  7. Jorge says:

    Idris Elba

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  10. some dude says:

    stephen amell.

  11. rebel scum says:

    If Lupita Nyong’o is cast in a major villain role as rumored (Sith apprentice to Adam Driver?), of which I heartily approve, then that greatly decreases the odds of a black male in the lead role. Disney would be okay with a black female second-banana villain if the lead is a white male, and JJ gets his “diverse” cast. PS, Lupita was born in Mexico, so she counts as Hispanic, too! :D Plus she’s a hot commodity now with that Oscar win. One of the white guys will get this role, I’m rooting for Plemons but if Disney wants someone prettier, the Downton Abbey guy will get it.

  12. Heather Hurley says:

    I think my son, Todd Grimes, would be perfect! He’s extraordinarily talented and very handsome!

  13. FelipeV says:

    Alex Pettyfer

  14. Danial says:

    Stephen Amell, Aaron Paul or Tom Welling

  15. LAVINIA B. says:

    BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, definitely!!

  16. Alex Jang says:

    Dane Dehaan for god sake

  17. mister X says:

    ryan gosling

  18. Elena says:

    I thought Jonathan Rhys Meyers was cast in a role. Now that would be interesting!! None of the Actors above are all that thrilling.

  19. Cash McAllister says:

    please let it be a black jedi, that’s so cool

  20. david_james says:

    why does a diversified cast = casting black people, where did the rest of humanity go?

    • Tammy says:

      Um… okay… let there be a black, Asian, Native American, whatever-of-color Jedi. That would be great! Why, David James? Because “diverse” means: Multiple, varied, assorted, mixed, dissimilar.
      Just sayin.’

    • stephie says:

      Didn’t JJ whitewash Khan too? lol

      • stephie says:

        @ Tammy
        I know what you mean, Tammy. I don’t care about what race a character is in movies, t.v etc. either since I’m not paying money for that because honestly I think it is silly when people get really mad at these kind of things and should know that a character should be more than the color of the skin. And I’m a Latina and I just like to laugh for fun at these “issues”. Just deliver something great, that’s what should matter the most.

      • Tammy says:

        I know what you mean, Stephie.
        It’s just that I love it when a director casts someone who is completely different from the original role. It’s so cool when someone says they were cast for a role that wasn’t supposed to be female, or of a certain race, or only American and not British – and vice versa – or of a certain age….
        THAT is what the creative process of acting is all about: Jumping outside of your skin while performing and helping the audience forget about appearances – unless looks are an integral part of the story.

      • stephie says:

        @Tammy
        Oh by all means, I don’t have a problem with Cumberbatch since he is great and he wasn’t the one in charge of casting decisions. I just find it funny that JJ would be okay to whitewash a character that wasn’t originally black.

      • Tammy says:

        Ha! Good one!
        (But I must admit, it was a creative move. And the “whitewash” was quite yummy-looking! Grrrr!!!) But not only is Benedict Cumberbatch a gorgeous man, he is VERY talented and has played diverse roles that makes you forget that he’s the same guy from “Sherlock,” “August: Osage County,” “12 Years A Slave,” etc… WONDERFUL actor!!!

  21. Adam says:

    Stephen Amell is perfect for the role! He does an awesome performance on Arrow.

  22. Niklas says:

    Sam Witwer

  23. Stephen Ammell. I don’t care how old he is, dudes already a Jedi in my book.

  24. Dan J says:

    What’s with all this Steve Ammell and Benedict Cumberbatch love? These guys are in their thirties. Clearly they are trying to cast people in their very early twenties.

    • Tammy says:

      Plus, if the character is a Jedi master, or a Sith master, the person would have to be slightly older than the… teen…20s character to help get across the whole age/wisdom/been-there-done-that-and-am-now ruling-it thing. Right? (Not that 30-something is old at all. Just sayin.’_

    • Tammy says:

      Nothing wrong with being in your 30s. Plus, 30 is the new 20. (Says the lady who’s slightly older.) *Wink*

  25. David says:

    “The original draft by Michael Arndt was said to focus on Han Solo and Princess Leia’s kids”.

    As it should, that would be a STAR WARS movie, as opposed to whatever JJ is now doing.

  26. rebel scum says:

    Wild-ass predictions: Zac Efron will also be in this movie, playing Jacen Solo or a character like him under a different name (Han & Leia’s son, has a twin sis) and he & sis will be intro’ed in this film and then become leads of a different movie, probably the next one. Adam Driver is NOT playing Jacen or Darth Caedus, and will last for multiple movies as a recurring villain. Jaina Solo will be played by…wait for it…Natalie Portman! Wow, didn’t see that coming! Splitting image of grandmawmaw, easily could be the twin of Efron.

  27. bitter trekkie says:

    I have a feeling Plemons already has the part. He’s been rumored for a month or two. Is this all just Kabuki theater, with the other contenders keeping Plemons in line for salary negotiations and the two black guys there so Abrams can say he’s not a total racist, it’s all Disney’s fault? (I can’t see risk-averse Disney tapping a non-white actor who is also a no-name for a role this big. Maybe in future movies when they’ve got a few successes under their belt.)

  28. Kiel roach says:

    Take a long look at a new up and comer, Mike Brownyard

  29. Mari Palacio Cadavid says:

    Mike brown

  30. Tom Tte says:

    Looks like a red head in keeping with Luke and Mara’s (red head) son Ben. While many say that the amazing and cohesive EU novels are not necessarily going to be embraced by the films, the fact is that they have an amazing body of cohesive work that would be de-valued if canon were re-written. Even in this story, there is mention of the Solo’s kids, which is EU canon. Why devalue valued assets needlessly. It’s great stuff, the Solo’s kids, Mara, etc. No need for them to ruin the value of those assets. Looks like Ben to me.

  31. Mike Crew says:

    I would like to see Elijah Kelley, Donald Glover a.k.a Childish Gambino, Gauis Charles,
    Chadwick Boseman, Ashley Waters, Pooch Hall, Corbin Bleu, Columbus Short, Brandon T Jackson, Tristan Wilds. All of these men are committed to other projects, but they would be free by the time production starts.There are many other talented men than those five that could play the lead in this film. Please cast a wider net J.J.Abrams for the lead role. I definitely think there should be a diverse cast, but not at the cost of the plot, story, and narrative of the film series.

  32. Eva Foster says:

    Stephen Amell, Matt Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch!!

    • jeff says:

      Oh god please none of those. I will not have cumberbath/matt smith fanboys ruining star wars.

      Plus I don’t like either of them

    • Tammy says:

      Absolutely agree with the Cumberbatch suggestion!!! However, I see a lot of posts for Stephen Amell. I know he’s in the show “Arrow” and I watched one episode. But has he been in anything else? I’m sorry, but other than the TV show, I don’t know him. I’m interested to see his range as an actor. (No disrespect, or anything. I just don’t know him.)
      Thanks!

  33. Ronny says:

    what about Asa Butterfield(he may be too young, same with Callan McAuliffe) Dane DeHaan, Dave Franco, Jeremy Irvine, Ezra Miller, Tom Hiddleston, Max Irons, Theo James, Christian Cooke, Shawn Ashmore, Lucas Till, Kit Harington, Ben Whishaw, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Josh Bowman, Joseph Morgan, Aiden Turner, Andrew Garfield, Alex Pettyfer, Jamie Bell, Nicholas Hoult, Douglas Booth or even Robert Pattinson is better then the candidates they have lined up. I know some of the guys i mention, have obligations to different projects already, but this is just a fast written line-up of actors i think will be better for star wars then the announced actors that are on the short list. All they suck, and i would be so dissapointed if any one of those guys gets the job.. And hoping Mr. JJ Abrams knows something i dont.

    • Ronny says:

      I forgot Cumberbatch. He would rock. What’s it all about that everyone want Steve Arnell??? He do not belong in a starring role in star wars.. He is to plain. He is good on Arrow, a tv-show, that’s it. I agree with joseph gordon Levitte, he would be great.

      • Ronny says:

        Jesse Plemons!!!!!!!!! REALLY!!? PLEASE, NO!!! If he wears alot of makeup, sith makeup, he could play a bad ass sith like maul but that’s it..

  34. MarkP says:

    Joseph Gordon Levitt or Benedict Cumberbatch

  35. My suggestion would be any one of the people who auditioned for this movie, as they deserve a shot at the limelight and not people who already have connections.

  36. Erik simonsen says:

    Stephen Amell

  37. Kat says:

    Stephen Amell

  38. Alex says:

    Stephen Amell would be a great choice

  39. kaylie says:

    Stephen Amell hands down!

  40. Ola says:

    Stephen Amell for sure.

  41. Nomad says:

    Benedict Cumberbatch, without doubt.

  42. Geeby Snax says:

    Stephen Amell is one of my favorite actors lately! He definitely has a lot of acting talent, and can play such a dynamic range of roles flawlessly. Once again, Stephen Amell for the win!

  43. sara says:

    Norman Reedus

  44. Emme says:

    Consider john Cho for the lead Jedi

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