"Your journey nears its end." Those are the words of Emperor Palpatine, heard during the D23 sneak-peak of Star Wars 9, officially titled Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. And while we can surmise that Darth Sidious may be talking to either Rey or Kylo Ren, his words also apply to the entire Skywalker saga.
Star Wars 9 will cap off a story that started all the way back in 1977 with Star Wars: A New Hope. JJ Abrams, who previously directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has been tasked with taking the Death Star-sized hype surrounding the concluding chapter to the saga and landing it smoothly. That, of course, is easier said than done.
The first Star Wars 9 trailer was revealed to the roaring masses at Star Wars Celebration 2019, teasing the return of an old villain. How exactly the Emperor is back, considering he was last seen plummeting to his presumed death in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and whether he will face off against our hero Rey, remains to be seen. The second trailer, which premiered at D23, teased a few extra details, including Rey holding a red lightsaber and C3PO with red eyes.
There’s enough info here to fill a Sarlaac pit, and, thanks to Lucasfilm wrapping the movie in a shroud of mystery, there’s plenty to speculate about, too. Below, we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about Star Wars 9 – the release date, cast, plot, theories, and so much more. It’s true: all of it. After all, it’s the last new Star Wars movie until December 2022, so make the most of it while you can…
Star Wars 9 facts:
- Star Wars 9 release date: December 19, 2019 (UK)/December 20, 2019 (US)
- Star Wars 9 director: J.J. Abrams
- Star Wars 9 writers: J.J. Abrams, Chris Terrio
- Star Wars 9 cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Domhnall Gleeson, Kellie Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, Billy Dee Williams, Joonas Suotamo, Keri Russell, Dominic Monaghan
Star Wars 9 release date
It’s been down in our diaries for a long time now: the Star Wars 9 release date has been confirmed as December 20, 2019 in the US – though, as has become tradition, the Star Wars 9 release date for UK viewers is set to be a day earlier, on December 19, 2019.
In recent years, the franchise has come to dominate the holiday season, with The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and The Last Jedi all making big money over the Christmas period. There's still an extensive post-production period to get through (those visual effects don't make themselves) but soon enough we’ll be sitting down in cinemas watching The Rise of Skywalker’s excitingly unfamiliar new opening crawl.
Things could’ve been much different, though. The original Star Wars 9 release date was May 24, 2019 (one day before the original movie’s 42nd anniversary) but the departure of original director Colin Trevorrow meant pushing things back a little – as we'll see later on...
Read more: The most anticipated upcoming movies of 2019.
Star Wars 9 trailer
There are currently two Star Wars 9 trailers available to watch, the first of which debuted on April 12, 2019, at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago.
As has become the norm with Lucasfilm, this first Star Wars 9 trailer tells us precious little about the plot – in fact, more than half of its two-minute running time is devoted to one scene featuring Rey, armed only with a lightsaber, facing off against some kind of modified TIE Fighter. While we have already seen our fair share of desert planets in Star Wars (Tatooine, Jakku or Jedha to name a few), the planet seen here is actually a previously unseen world called Pasaana, whose residents are known as the Aki-Aki. (The scenes were filmed in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan.)
The Star Wars 9 trailer also gives us sightings of the older Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams, back in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. There's also a brief shot of one of the medals Han Solo and Luke Skywalker (but shamefully not Chewbacca) received at the end of A New Hope, and the wreckage of what looks like a Death Star...
The Star Wars 9 trailer is soundtracked by Luke (presumably the voiceover of a Force ghost) reminding us that, in Star Wars, “No one's ever really gone”, before we hear the familiar laugh of the late Emperor Sheev Palpatine. Looks like falling down a big hole doesn't have to be the end when you're an evil Sith Lord. And Lucasfilm always intended to bring him back for Star Wars 9, as revealed by Kathleen Kennedy. Watch the teaser above (and find out more in our more detailed Star Wars 9 trailer breakdown).
On August 24, 2019, the second trailer landed. Shown exclusively at D23, before being released onto the internet two days later, the sneak-peak features some tantalising new footage that has had the Star Wars fandom speculating more than ever before (and that's a hard feat to accomplish).
The trailer begins with a montage of footage from past Star Wars movies, beginning with the original trilogy, moving on to the prequels, and then the sequels. Around the 1:12 mark, we get our first glimpse of Star Wars 9. The opening shot sees Poe, Rey, Finn, C3PO, and Chewie all discovering a bustling city on the new desert planet Pasaana.
We then see a fleeting shot of General Leia, before moving on to a breath-taking look at the remaining Resistance fighters - including X-wings, B-wings, A-wings, and Y-wings - going up against a fleet of Star Destroyers. Eagle-eyed fans have noticed that the Destroyers appear to be Imperial-class, AKA from Palpatine's time as Emperor. Has the Sith Lord been hiding a huge fleet of battleships all this time?
We get a quick glimpse of Naomi Ackie's character, Jannah, seen in a ship (presumably The Flacon) with Finn. Both look pretty scared. We don't know much about Janna, except that she wields a bow. Then comes a shot of a huge beam digging into a planet (Death Star 4?) and C3PO with terrifying red eyes. Come the final moments and Rey and Kylo are fighting each other as waves crash around them, teasing a huge final third to the movie.
However... there's more. Just as the trailer wraps, a lightsabre ignites. It's Rey, and she's wielding a double ended red sabre, reminiscent of both her own staff from Force Awakens and the blade once wielded by Darth Maul. Has she been turned to the Dark Side by Palpatine? Is this merely a vision? Or has Disney changed her weapon so both sides appear red, when, actually, one side should be blue and the other red, therefore signifying balance? Only time will tell...
Star Wars 9 title
Somehow Lucasfilm managed to keep the Star Wars 9 title under wraps until the panel at Star Wars Celebration. That's something of a record for the “Episodes" of the Skywalker-focused “Saga” movies – The Force Awakens was named over a year before it hit cinemas, while The Last Jedi’s title reveal came 11 months before the movie was unleashed. So now we know that TrIXie was just a working title (see what they did with the Roman numerals IX there?), and that the long-rumored, Kylo Ren-referencing "Son of Darkness” was just, well, a rumour.
Because the official Star Wars 9 title is The Rise of Skywalker.
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While The Rise of Skywalker has the edge of feeling like it's popped out of a Random Star Wars Movie Title Generator, when you dig down there are a couple of interesting things to note. Firstly, the appearance of “Rise” in the Star Wars Episode 9 title is completely in tune with the names of fellow Star Wars trilogy closers Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi – it implies something big and important is coming to that galaxy far, far away.
Then there's the use of “Skywalker”. While Luke is back and Kylo Ren is technically a Skywalker, chances are this does not refer to a specific person here. One popular theorye suggests that, following Kylo Ren's defeat by Luke Skywalker at the end of The Last Jedi, Skywalker is the name of a new “religion” that replaces the dead Jedi order and its Dark Side counterparts the Sith. This chimes with a line in the Vanity Fair article that says: “Sources close to the movie say that Skywalker will at long last bring to a climax the millennia-long conflict between the Jedi Order and its dark shadow, the Sith.”
Star Wars 9 cast
It’s fair to say the Star Wars 9 cast is strong with the Force. Not only are we getting familiar faces in the shape of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Kelly Marie Tran, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Joonas Suotomo, Billie Lourd and Oscar Isaac, but the old guard are along for the ride as well.
The late Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and – in his first Star Wars movie since Return of The Jedi – Billy Dee Williams are all making their presence felt in what should be an intriguing clash of old and new.
The Star Wars 9 cast also features some new faces who are coming along for a trip into hyperspace. On the ‘absolutely confirmed’ list, we’ve got Richard E. Grant, Keri Russell, and Naomi Ackie. Alongside them, we’ve got an almost-concrete confirmation for Dominic Monaghan of Lord of the Rings and Lost fame has joined the cast.
Monaghan talked to Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces podcast in late 2018 about his involvement in Star Wars 9 (reported via ComicBook.com): “ J.J. [Abrams] is a friend of mine and he said to me that at some point I’d get the opportunity to read the script. [He told me], ‘Just be aware of the fact that there are massive sequences in Act Two, there are massive sequences in Act Three but because we’re shooting Act One first, I’ve put you in there and you seem to not be around as much in Act Two and Act Three but that’s because that’s what we’re doing first so I want you here, I want you invested. So read the script but just know there won't be long until there’ll be a re-draft of those things and we’ll see you a little bit more.’ So I read it, and the script is amazing and obviously there isn’t a lot I can say.”
There's also been strong rumours that Matt Smith is going to appear in Star Wars Episode 9 – not least because, as ComicBook.com reported, the Doctor Who star was listed on the movie's official UK site, until it was subtly removed. Smith has, however, told the LA Times: “As far as I can tell, I’m definitely not [in it].”
That seems fairly definitive at first glance, but don't be surprised if he's using some Sith-style deception, especially as one rumour reported by Screenrant suggested that he’ll be playing a young Palpatine in Star Wars 9. That's all the more plausible now we know the former Emperor will be back in some form, though, of course, following original Emperor actor Ian McDiarmid's appearance at Star Wars Celebration, it's just as likely he'll be reprising the role himself...
Carrie Fisher’s untimely death in late 2016 clearly changed the shape of Star Wars: Episode 9 significantly. The late actress will appear using “previously unreleased footage” from The Force Awakens rather than the CG technology that brought back a young Leia at the end of Rogue One. In a statement on the official Star Wars site, J.J. Abrams said: “We desperately loved Carrie Fisher. Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie [Lourd], we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode 9 by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode 7.”
"Emotionally, every day it hits me that she's not here," Abrams added at Star Wars 9’s Celebration panel. "But it's so surreal because we're working with her still."
It looks like Abrams hasn't just been working with scraps to keep Leia in The Rise of Skywalker. Carrie Fisher's brother, Todd, told ABC News: “There’s a lot of minutes of footage. I don’t mean just outtakes. This is unused, new content that could be woven into the storyline.”
Indeed, Vanity Fair's The Rise of Skywalker feature explains that Abrams wrote scenes around the existing Leia footage, fitting dialogue into "new contexts", and meticulously adjusting the lighting in scenes to match what had already been shot. “It was a bizarre kind of left side/right side of the brain sort of Venn diagram thing, of figuring out how to create the puzzle based on the pieces we had.”
It'll be interesting to see how Abrams incorporates those scenes into the movie, seeing as the original plan was for Star Wars 9 to put the spotlight on Leia, just as The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi gave Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, respectively. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) said it will definitely pay homage to the princess. “The story deals with that quite a bit,” he revealed. “It’s a strange thing to be on the set and to be speaking of Leia and having Carrie not be around. There’s definitely some pain in that.” But, he added, “It deals with the amazing character that Carrie created in a really beautiful way.”
Mark Hamill, meanwhile, could have called time on his Star Wars run when Luke Skywalker faded away at the end of The Last Jedi. But that hasn’t stopped Lucasfilm being upfront about bringing the franchise stalwart back and officially announcing he’s part of the Star Wars 9 cast. Given the traditional Jedi approach to the afterlife, it seems fairly safe to predict he’ll be appearing in Force ghost form – an option sadly not open to Han Solo after he was impaled on Kylo Ren’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens.
As the biggest character from the original trilogy not to make it back for the new Force films, Lando Calrissian’s absence was felt in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Still, Abrams and co have seemingly listened to the fans by bringing Billy Dee Williams into The Rise of Skywalker cast to reprise his role as the galaxy’s suavest scoundrel. What Lando’s been up to over the last three decades is something of a mystery, but seeing as he had “no love for the Empire,” we’re guessing he feels the same way about the First Order.
While this is Williams’ first on-screen appearance as Lando since Return of the Jedi, he has been back to voice the character in Star Wars Rebels and The Lego Movie. And the 82-year-old star has shown on Twitter that he’s been training hard to make sure Lando hasn’t lost any his rogue-ish charm...
The force is still strong with this one! Thank you @drgoglia pic.twitter.com/5apvjJEndnJanuary 24, 2019
And of course, it wouldn't be Star Wars without Anthony “C-3PO” Daniels, who’s appeared in every live-action movie except Solo (he played a different character in the movie), and wrote a sweet message on Twitter when he wrapped on Star Wars 9.
Today was 3PO's last on Episode IX. He's sad - so am I. But we're so proud to have worked with such a lovely, talented cast & crew lead by J.J. & Kathy. I'll miss everyone but I'm glad to know that we've been making something exceptional together, to share with the waiting world.January 28, 2019
And going on what Oscar Isaac told Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show (reported by Entertainment Weekly), 3PO isn't winding down quietly in his final appearance. “[Anthony Daniels] was super emotional about it and hanging up the golden cowl," he said. "And I think, really, and I mean this, this time he kept saying this was the most fun he’s had ’cause he had so many fun things to do and we got to work a lot together. It was just amazing to see that piece of history close.”
Meanwhile, the list of newcomers in the Star Wars 9 cast is arguably one of the most compelling reasons to buy a ticket to a midnight screening of the movie – and we're not just talking about cute new droid D-0.
Richard E. Grant was long linked with playing classic Extended Universe villain Grand Admiral Thrawn, last seen in Star Wars Rebels. Now it turns out his protestations to the contrary were entirely accurate, because while he's clearly playing a baddie – one look at his turn in Logan should be enough to convince you that anything else would be a waste – it's one we've never seen before: Allegiant General Pryde. We're not entirely sure how the First Order’s command structure works, but that job title does sound grand enough to suggest he'll be General Hux's boss...
#StarWars: The Rise of Skywalker features many new characters, including Keri Russell as Zorri Bliss and Richard E. Grant as Allegiant General Pryde. Get your first look right here. https://t.co/ER4XSJmZ8k pic.twitter.com/vtykcfUEjPMay 22, 2019
The woman in the Rocketeer-style costume (above) revealed by Vanity Fair is Zorri Bliss. She's described as a "masked scoundrel” and here she's hanging out in the “Thieves’ Quarter” of Kijimi, a snow-dusted world previously unseen in the Star Wars movies. Zorri apparently is a former partner of Poe Dameron's, which should be a fun dynamic. She's played by Keri Russell, the star of The Americans who's an Abrams regular, having played the title role in his pre-Alias TV show Felicity, and also appeared in his first-ever feature film, Mission: Impossible 3.
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Newcomer Naomi Ackie is yet another big mystery in the Star Wars 9 cast. All we know is that her her character's called Jannah, and that she may or not be Mr Calrissian's daughter. "Lando is a very charming man, so he could have children all over the universe, that’s all I’m saying," said Ackie at Star Wars Celebration.
All we know for sure is that she'll fight alongside Finn, riding a horse-like creature called an “orbak” in an Ewok-style battle of a less technologically advanced culture fighting against the might of the First Order.
She's a relative unknown but, hey, unknown actors more often than not tend to thrive in the series – neither Daisy Ridley nor Kelly Marie Tran’s filmographies were brimming before they jetted off to that galaxy far, far away. We’re excited about this one, especially when taking into consideration a previously-discovered casting call that lines up pretty perfectly with Ackie: she’s 18-24, an “ethnic female”, and a “leader and problem solver, smart with a great sense of humour and a strong will. All this comes to her effortlessly”.
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