By Anthony Breznican
April 29, 2014 at 04:45 PM EDT

This news should be delivered in big yellow type, rising up into the void of space …

We have our new Star Wars cast.

New to the galaxy far, far away are John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow. Meanwhile, the original trilogy stars — Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker — will all be returning for the Dec. 18, 2015 film

No word yet on who the new characters will be, but obviously Ford is back as intrepid smuggler Han Solo, Fisher reprises Princess Leia (she made no secret she would be back,) and Hamill will be giving us a glimpse of what life is like for a Jedi in winter.

Can Daniels still squeeze into that golden C3PO suit? (You know he puts everyone at his high school reunion to shame.) Despite advancements in robotics over thirty-plus years, fans will be glad to know that Baker will still be giving R2-D2 the human touch. And the towering Mayhew will again be riding shotgun and laughing-it-up-fuzzball in the Millennium Falcon as Chewbacca.

“We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII,” director J.J. Abrams says. “It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”

Among the missing, however: Billy Dee Williams — which means no Lando. There’s also no one from the prequel cast, so don’t expect Ewan McGregor to turn up as ghost Obi-Wan.

Star Wars: Episode VII features a screenplay by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan. Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer.

Can’t you already hear the theme?

Now for a closer look at the photo: There’s a mini-Regarding Henry reunion happening here, with J.J. Abrams (who wrote that script and has a cameo as a grocery delivery boy) chats with Ford.

Ridley — the lone female in the new cast — is talking with Fisher — the lone female from the old cast — perhaps about the gold swimwear/slavewear that is all-too-common to the women of this galaxy.

Mayhew is to the far right, quietly scanning his script. If we zoom in closely, will we see some of Chewbacca’s dialogue? “WAAAAAAaaaaaaarghhh!HHHH!” (Coolness alert: If you look closely at his sleeve, he’s wearing a Rebel Alliance polo shirt.)

That’s Bryan Burk, a longtime producing partner of Abrams on the couch with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and to her left (with his back to the camera) seems to be Gleeson.

A bearded, beady-eyed Hamill is having an in-depth exchange with fellow member of the plaid shirt club von Sydow Daniels, also with his head turned away from the camera, while Serkis is behind them, poring over his script. (Von Sydow does not appear to be in the shot.)

The three young guys of the cast, Isaac, Boyega, and Driver, are in the upper left of the image, while Kasdan — who was also a screenwriter on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi — is going to spill that glass of water on the arm of the sofa if he’s not careful.

Oh, and there’s R2-D2 in the background. Something is written on that lid of the box.

Now let’s dive into who’s who among the newcomers:

• John Boyega

• Daisy Ridley

• Adam Driver

• Oscar Isaac

• Andy Serkis

• Domhnall Gleeson

• Max von Sydow

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JOHN BOYEGA

This British actor played Moses in the 2011 aliens-invade-the-inner-city comedy Attack the Block. He also appears as a regular on the upcoming 24: Live Another Day TV series, and has a starring role in the indie drama Imperial Dreams, which played Sundance this year and won the audience award in its category.

In Imperial Dreams, Boyega plays  Bambi, an aspiring writer who has just been released from prison for aggravated assault, and is tending to his son, Day, the boy’s mother (Keke Palmer) is in prison for another crime. “John came out from England and pulled off a jaw dropping performance for us as a kid from Watts. His talent is palpable,” Imperial Dreams producer Jonathan Schwartz tells EW. “He is going to be a major star for a long time to come.”

NEXT PAGE: Daisy Ridley

DAISY RIDLEY

Another face who may be unfamiliar to most moviegoers, Daisy Ridley appeared in the TV series Youngers, Toast of London, and Silent Witness.

For a sample of what she can do, here is her performance reel [UPDATE: It was taken down, posthaste.] The first clip has an ironic twist: her classmate in a music class gets in trouble for trying to play some John Williams, and has to explain to the teacher who the Star Wars composer is.

The profile listing on her agent’s page lists these as her talents: ballet, cabaret singing*, jazz dancing*, jazz singing*, Latin American, mezzo-soprano*, tap*, and violin.” The (*) indicates that she is “highly skilled” in these arenas. Let’s see if she’ll get a chance to show off her song and dance skills opposite Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band!

NEXT PAGE: Adam Driver

ADAM DRIVER

This one was a certainty. Sources confirmed Adam Driver’s involvement to EW back in February: Darth Driver! ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ has its first actor

Driver has a major supporting turn in This Is Where I Leave You, director Shawn Levy’s adaptation of novelist Jonathan Tropper’s family comedy (out Sept. 12). Driver co-stars as Phillip, the skin-of-his-teeth survivor and youngest sibling of Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and Corey Stoll. During his father’s funeral, he contributes to the distress by bringing his much older therapist/girlfriend (Connie Britton) to stay at the family home.

Driver first hit everyone’s radar in the HBO series Girls, where he plays Adam, the blunt and peculiar boyfriend of Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath. He’s also made waves with standout supporting roles in Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Lincoln. Aside from Lincoln, Driver has always tended toward smaller films, and a role in one of the world’s most high-profile franchises is clearly a big departure.

NEXT PAGE: Oscar Isaac

OSCAR ISAAC
Alison Rosa

Ever notice how ’60s Greenwich Village folksingers and Jedi kind of have a similar look?

This star of the Coen brothers’ folk-scene saga Inside Llewyn Davis got a taste for what it was like when the universe was against him; now he may be experiencing what happens when Forces align.

Isaac  played the arrogant Prince John in 2010’s Robin Hood, opposite Russell Crowe, and was Carey Mulligan’s hostile husband giving side-eye to Ryan Gosling in Drive. He tends to play characters who are facing a bad future.

If that trend holds with Episode VII, perhaps he’ll be given that immortal Star Wars line: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this …”

NEXT PAGE: Andy Serkis

ANDY SERKIS
''Frankly, any time Andy Serkis is overlooked as an actor for his amazing work in motion capture, especially for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Critics definitely noticed it (his reviews were universally better than his co-stars), and they've been crowing more loudly this year on how digital-performance actors deserve recognition as much as actors in standard film roles. Either the Academy needs to create a separate Digital Performance category or they need to take their heads out of their backsides and understand these are ACTORS in these roles, not a tennis ball on a stick.'' —Melissa Walker
WETA

Every ringleader needs a Serkis.

When it comes to motion-capture performance, this actor is the preeminent artist. He is The Precious, the 60-ton gorilla. Hail Caesar.

You’ve seen him in everything, though you’ve rarely seen him. He became famous as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, pioneering a new fusion between soulful, human acting, and state-of-the-art animation. From there he portrayed King Kong for Jackson, was Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin, and lately played the hyper-intelligent Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its upcoming sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

No doubt, that’s he’ll be called upon to do more performance-capture work here. Although J.J. Abrams has vowed to keep the new trilogy more in line with the tone and style of the original, he would be foolish to ignore the tools that weren’t available three decades ago. With Serkis behind the magic, he has an actor who will bring a humanity to whatever bizarre, alien creature he portrays.

NEXT PAGE: Domhnall Gleeson

DOMHNALL GLEESON

 

Murray Close

The son of actor Brendan Gleeson, this Dublin-born performer starred opposite Rachel McAdams in the romance About Time, and has a supporting role in the Angelina Jolie-directed World War II drama Unbroken later this year.

He earned a Tony nomination in 2006 for his work in the Broadway production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, and appeared in smaller roles in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2, playing Ron’s older brother, Bill Weasley.

In addition to Unbroken, he has three other films due this year, including Ex Machina with Inside Llewyn Davis star (and now his Star Wars compadre) Oscar Issac, Calvary which co-stars Chris O’Dowd and his father; and Frank, co-starring Michael Fassbender as an experimental musician who always, always wears a giant paper maché head.

NEXT PAGE: Max von Sydow

MAX VON SYDOW
What Lisa said: ''For a time, [the boy] is accompanied by a mute old man known only as the Renter (Max von Sydow, giving a great acting lesson in wordless physical action) because he rents a room from Oskar's grandma (Zoe Caldwell).''
Francois Duhamel

Of all the newcomers to the Star Wars universe, the 85-year-old von Sydow is the only one who might have starred in one of the original trilogy.

A living legend, the Swedish actor is, of course, remembered best as The Exorcist himself — Father Merrin, the aging priest with the fearsome spirit who does battle with the devil for the soul of a little girl. Astoundingly, he has never won an Oscar, though he was nominated twice: most recently for supporting actor in 2011’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (pictured above) and for lead actor in 1987’s Pelle the Conqueror.

Despite his intimidating presence that has led him to portray such villains as the stoic hitman in Three Days of the Condor, von Sydow has always had a playful side. He has lent his talents to both high and low culture, soaring to fame as the man playing chess with Death in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) and bellowing comically as Brewmeister Smith in the 1983 SCTV-inspired movie The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew .

He played Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told, and the devil collecting small-town souls in Stephen King’s Needful Things.

Von Sydow is also no stranger to intergalactic war, having portrayed Ming the Merciless in 1980’s camp classic Flash Gordon.

There’s no word who he — or anyone — will play in Star Wars: Episode VII. Whether Abrams has cast him as a hero or villain, von Sydow is one actor who has proven he can play both the light and the dark sides of the Force.

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