On Friday, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley will go from relative unknowns to the most famous people on the planet, thanks to a little project called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Disney announced those two Brits (along with a more-known American, Oscar Isaac) as the leads last April, but if the Star Wars rumor mill is to be believed, it could’ve just as easily been Zac Efron and Chloë Grace Moretz. Or... Leonardo DiCaprio and Judi Dench? Since you probably already forgot how insane the “exclusives” got, we’ve compiled every major news item and rumor starting with the movie’s announcement in 2012 and ending with the release of the first trailer in late 2014. Some are more legitimate than others but, man, is it fun to imagine Daniel Day-Lewis with a lightsaber.
October 30, 2012: Disney announces it has purchased Lucasfilm, and will be releasing a new trilogy of Star Wars films starting in 2015.
November 5, 2012: A “highly placed source” close to the film tells Entertainment Weekly that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher may return in the sequel. “Harrison is open to the idea of doing the movie and he’s upbeat about it, all three of them are,” the source says.
November 15, 2012: Digital Spy asks Tom Hiddleston if he would ever consider a role in the new Star Wars franchise, using his prior work with producer Kathleen Kennedy on War Horse as the hook. “Absolutely, yeah. It would depend on the story and the character and things,” he says. “I don't know, maybe people would associate me too closely with Loki -- I hope not. Kathleen’s a filmmaker of such extraordinary experience and wisdom. She's one of the best producers I've ever worked for. She just knows her way around the medium and the art form and the industry, so I think I'd take it very seriously if they asked me.”
January 3, 2013: /Film founder Peter Sciretta cryptically tweets, “Who said the lead character in Star Wars Episode VII is going to be a male star? :).”
January 24, 2013: Kathleen Kennedy confirms to The Wrap that J.J. Abrams will direct the first Star Wars sequel. In a story discussing the news, /Film claims that Kennedy talked to other directors including Ben Affleck and Matthew Vaughn, who might have pitched Chloë Grace Moretz for the lead.
March 7, 2013: When asked about the original trio returning, George Lucas tells Bloomberg Business, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison -- or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” He adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.“
May 20, 2013: Latino Review claims Jonathan Rhys Meyers has an offer for the starring role.
June 19, 2013: As an open casting call begins in the UK, Bleeding Cool confirms the following casting breakdowns: “Late-teen female, independent, good sense of humour, fit. Young twenty-something male, witty and smart, fit but not traditionally good looking. A late twentysomething male, fit, handsome and confident. Seventy-something male, with strong opinions and tough demeanour. Also doesn’t need to be particularly fit. A second young female, also late teens, tough, smart and fit. Forty something male, fit, military type. Thirtysomething male, intellectual. Apparently doesn’t need to be fit.”
July 14, 2013: Latino Review reports that, while the previously considered Leonardo DiCaprio is no-go, Zac Efron and Ryan Gosling are in talks for roles. Its sources insist that Gosling read for Luke Skywalker’s son, but Efron’s part is a mystery.
July 25, 2013: A rep for Ryan Gosling tells HuffPost Entertainment in an email that the rumor about Gosling auditioning for Luke Skywalker’s son is “not true.”
July 30, 2013: MTV News asks Chloë Grace Moretz about the old rumors about her starring in Star Wars. “I mean, obviously there’s interest. It’s Star Wars. I’d kill to be a part of that franchise, but I don’t know,” she says. “J.J., I’ll give you my phone number. You can text me.”
August 28, 2013: Latino Review’s latest exclusive claims Rachel Hurd-Wood has auditioned for the role of Princess Leia’s daughter and that Alex Pettyfer also went in for an unspecified role.
September 2, 2013: Film Chronicles reports that Benedict Cumberbatch is confirmed for the film.
September 3, 2013: A rep for Benedict Cumberbatch tells The New York Daily News, “There is no truth to the rumor Benedict has been cast in Star Wars. I think the rumors are circling because J.J. and Benedict have just recently had a wonderful time working together on Star Trek.”
September 5, 2013: A casting call for three roles goes out in New York. The first part calls for a young man who is “early 20s. Handsome, but not necessarily heroic. He is witty and smart. Physically fit.” The second calls for a man in his “late 20s. Physically fit, handsome and confident.” The third calls for a young woman who’s “late teens. Physically fit, raw energy, independent and with a great sense of humor.”
An unnamed source also tells Jedi News that Ksenia Solo is being considered for a role, possibly Han Solo’s daughter. The same site reports, via a source at RebelForce Radio, that Liam McIntyre read for a role, possibly as a Jedi.
September 15, 2013: After months of speculation, Jonathan Rhys Meyers tells Entertainment Weekly, “Look, I’ve worked with J.J. But I don’t believe rumors.”
September 21, 2013: Umberto Gonzalez of Latino Review tweets, “FREE STAR WARS (maybe) TWITTER SCOOP! Kathleen Kennedy & Lucas had lunch w/DANIEL DAY LEWIS @ Bistro in San Rafael this past Thursday. RT.”
September 23, 2013: Jedi News claims to have the “first signed and sealed casting” in Episode VII: David Oyelowo, who would appear across multiple new Star Wars films, according to the report.
September 30, 2013: Latino Review reports that Sullivan Stapleton read for a role in the movie.
October 1, 2013: Saoirse Ronan confirms to Sky News that she auditioned for a part, adding, “so has everyone.” Although the site speculates that she may have read for the role of Han Solo and Princess Leia’s daughter, she declines to elaborate, since Disney would “chop off her head with a light-sabre [sic]” if she said more.
November 1, 2013: Michael B. Jordan tells The Associated Press that he auditioned for an unspecified role. “I mean, everybody’s going in on this project. They’re trying to figure out what they want,” he says. “It’s pretty crazy! … We’ll see how it happens. I don’t know how I can do everything.”
November 2, 2013: Jedi News says Chiwetel Ejiofor is joining the cast in an “undisclosed role.” The report references a feature in The Times which confirms Ejiofor met with J.J. Abrams.
January 11, 2014: The Hollywood Reporter says that Michael Fassbender met with J.J. Abrams in December, and that Hugo Weaving went out for an “Imperial commander” part. The same story also claims, “Girls star [Adam] Driver is being eyed for a role.”