This just in from the Star Wars front: Episode VII has cast 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie.
Though we don’t know who they play, it’s news that should be greeted with a joyful Ewok dance by many fans, especially those who were critical that the film’s earlier casting announcement was distressingly light on women.
Nyong’o, 31, a graduate of Yale’s drama school, made her breakthrough in 12 Years a Slave last year as Patsey, the fearsomely powerful but agonizingly trapped field slave who forges a sisterly bond with the movie’s main character, the kidnapped free man Solomon Northup.
Ever since claiming the Oscar, the industry has been wondering which role she will take next – although there have long been rumors that Nyong’o was under consideration for Star Wars. Many industry-watchers have speculated that the film business might be at a loss for how to utilize the actress. EW’s own Mark Harris even asked, “Why can’t Lupita Nyong’o find a role worthy of her?”
With this news, that question has been answered.
Christie is another compelling piece of casting. The Star Wars galaxy has plucked a the fan favorite from the Game of Thrones universe. The 6-foot-3 British actress, who will be 35 this year, is a literally towering presence as the unlikely female knight Brienne of Tarth – a formidable foe to any of the realm’s male warriors.
Her performance on the HBO series has won over even diehard devotees of George R. R. Martin’s books, who were initially reluctant about Christie’s casting. (Brienne is described as relatively ugly in the books, and the knock against Christie was that she was “too beautiful” for the part. The actress gave a fun reaction to EW’s James Hibberd about that: “All my life, all I’ve ever wanted is for people to say – first of all – I’m pretty. But ‘too pretty’? Is amazing.”)
Christie is also cast in another powerhouse franchise, co-starring in the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 film as Commander Lyme. She’ll take over the role from actress Lily Rabe, who plays the past Hunger Games victor in Part 1.
Nyong’o and Christie are bold additions to an already impressive cast for the J.J. Abrams-produced-and-directed film. They join original trilogy stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO.)
New additions include Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), John Boyega (Attack the Block), newcomer Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver (Girls), performance-capture maestro Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson (About Time), and the iconic The Exorcist actor Max von Sydow.
The film, produced by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and veteran Abrams collaborator Bryan Burke, is shooting now – with plans for a Dec. 18, 2015 release.
We don’t know who exactly the new characters will be – but given the caliber of actors playing them, Star Wars lovers might finally be able to say, “I’ve got a
bad good feeling about this …”