The next installment in the Star Wars franchise will begin production Wednesday, August 1st in London, and Lucasfilm has formally announced casting. There were a few big surprises.
First and foremost, the late Carrie Fisher is set to return. Director J.J. Abrams will tap unused footage from The Force Awakens to close out Leia’s timeline. "We desperately loved Carrie Fisher," Abrams told the official Star Wars website. "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 IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII."
Returning second wave cast members include Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo and Lourd.
A few other surprise returns: Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams. Keri Russell is joining as well in what has previously been described as an "action heavy" role.