Jedis apparently work fast. There's still nearly two years to go until ''Star Wars: Episode III'' hits theaters in May 2005, but George Lucas and Co. have already finished principal photography on the film. The final day of shooting in Australia was Sept. 17. But that doesn't mean the movie's almost finished -- Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic still need to generate the CGI planets, creatures, and spaceships that will fill nearly every frame of the final ''Star Wars'' film. Also, some of the cast (which once again includes Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, and Ewan McGregor, plus new stars like Jimmy Smits) will return for additional shoots in March of next year.
In the meantime, some facts have slipped out about ''Episode III,'' mostly through the webcam and set diaries Lucasfilm provides to subscribers to its Starwars.com website. The film will include an epic battle between Christensen's Anakin Skywalker and McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi, which took many days to shoot. And at some point, Christensen (or, perhaps, a body double) will be seen in the full Darth Vader costume.
The Jedi will also face a new set of villains -- all that's known about them is that they wear hoods and will be more formidable foes than seen so far in the prequels. Among the familiar returning characters will be Chewbacca (who reportedly meets baby Luke and Leia), rebel leader Mon Mothma (from ''Return of the Jedi''), and Grand Moff Tarkin, the Imperial leader who bossed around Vader in ''Episode IV.'' Since Peter Cushing, who played Tarkin, died in 1994, his part will be filled by an actor wearing an elaborate prosthesis, according to leaked photos posted by theforce.net. Hey, at least they didn't digitally resurrect him.