Star Wars Episode 7 features 'hundreds' of stormtroopers
'It's all real' says Oscar Isaac, actor in new film directed by JJ Abrams, who is shunning CGI
Star Wars fans have had perhaps the most tantalising glimpse yet into the latest instalment of the beloved sci-fi series. Cast member Oscar Isaac has told Entertainment Weekly that there are "hundreds of Stormtroopers on set".
The news is significant for two reasons: first, it suggests the Empire is – so to speak – striking back. Second, it's yet another indication that Abrams is shunning the CGI which many fans feel made the last three instalments so anodyne.
In the Start Trek mythos, Stromtroopers – named after a WW1 German army service – are a clone army created by the evil Emperor Palpatine. They dominate the first three films, made from 1977 to 1983, and their return will delight old-school fans.
But the news that there are "hundreds" of extras on set playing the soldiers is also revealing for the many fans who were disappointed with the later films. It's the latest sign that Abrams is keen to avoid using computers to generate sets and extras.
Isaac said: "There's a lot of enthusiasm [on the set] and it's being done with a lot of heart. There's nothing cynical about the way we're doing this".
He added: "Even in the way [Abrams] is shooting it – he's shooting on film and actually building the sets, so you've got hundreds of Stormtroopers, or whatever, and hundreds of extras and all the ships. You actually see it. It's all real."
Anthony Daniels, the British actor who has played the robotic interpreter C-3PO in every Star Wars film, said last week that he has been back inside a robot suit for the movie, reports The Guardian. In the more recent prequel films, Daniels was replaced by a digital version of the character in action sequences: "It wasn't very good. In fact, I'm going to say it was awful. With me [in the suit], he's always going to move the same way and have the same reactions, timing and so on.
"With CGI, you're working with some brilliant person on the keyboard who is trying to pretend to be me."
After a brief visit to the set, film director Kevin Smith revealed how detailed and extensive the props built for the film are. Rather than an empty room with a green-screen background, he said the set looked like "a shot right out of a f****** Star Wars movie".
Star Wars Episode 7: fans quarrel over new X-Wing - video
Fans have descended into name calling and recrimination after director JJ Abrams revealed a new-look for the famous X-Wing Starfighter that will feature in the forthcoming Star Wars Episode 7 film.
In a video promoting a Unicef fundraising programme Force for Change, Abrams can be seen standing in front of a life-sized model of a battered-looking futuristic fighter jet.
But the footage caused a furious debate, with passionate Star Wars enthusiasts quarrelling over whether the vehicle was not, in fact, an X-Wing, but a lesser-known spaceship called a Z-95 Headhunter.
The official Star Wars Twitter feed soon weighed in on the discussion to confirm that the ship is an updated version of the X-Wing piloted by Luke Skywalker in the original film trilogy.
@CDCanimation It is in fact an Episode VII X-wing, not a Z-95.
— Star Wars (@starwars) July 21, 2014
The decision to use real props rather than computer-generated ones "will surely please Star Wars purists", says Mashable's Lance Ulmanoff, many of whom objected to the use of CGI in the trilogy of prequels that brought George Lucas's involvement with the Star Wars universe to a close.
X-Wings are known for being able to split their wings, known as S-foils into four, to form an x shape. Fans were confused by the fact that the plane in the new clip seemed only to have two engines, rather than four. But another tweet from Lucasfilm showing original concept art from Ralph McQuarrie helped clear up the misunderstanding.
— Star Wars (@starwars) July 21, 2014
Since May, the Force for Change fundraiser has attracted donations from fans in 119 countries who have given more than $1 million hoping for the chance to visit the London set of Episode 7 and appear in the film.
Star Wars Episode 7: Film crew 'spotted in Forest of Dean'
The arrival of a large film crew at Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean has prompted rumours that Star Wars: Episode 7 is currently shooting scenes in Gloucestershire.
In a BBC video report, journalist Steve Knibbs shows that Puzzlewood's car park has been taken over by "Winnebago after Winnebago" as a high-security film crew arrives to shoot material for an unspecified project. He also reports that the production's security team and the park's owner refused to "confirm or deny anything" about the crew's suspected connection to the Star Wars.
The Forest of Dean has been used previously as a filming location for Doctor Who, Merlin, and Atlantis, but Knibbs says "this is no ordinary TV series or film here".
Even though the project's identity remains a mystery, critics are speculating about which planet might make use of forest scenery in the new Star Wars film. The Independent hypothesises that scenes could be "set on the Ewok planet Endor or in the Dagobah system".
Both fictional planets were highly significant locations in earlier films. Dagobah was Yoda's sanctuary in The Empire Strikes Back, and the final battle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance was fought on Endor in Return of the Jedi.
"With its lush greenery and twisted trunks, Puzzlewood might be being used for the Ewoks' home or Yoda's place of refuge, or might be a new planet we've never seen before," the paper suggests.
The film is still scheduled for release on December 18, 2015.
Star Wars Episode 7 casts two young unknowns
Disney and Lucasfilm have cast two young unknown actors for the hotly anticipated Star Wars sequel after open auditions held in the UK and the US.
American actress Crystal Clarke and British actor Pip Andersen have been cast in "lead roles" from a pool of over 67,000 applicants.
Around 37,000 hopefuls attended casting calls that spanned 11 cities across the US and UK. A further 30,000 more candidates submitted applications online, StarWars7News.com notes.
"The Star Wars universe has always been about discovering and nurturing young talent and in casting Episode VII we wanted to remain absolutely faithful to this tradition," said producer and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. "We are delighted that so many travelled to see us at the open casting calls and that we have been able to make Crystal and Pip a part of the film".
Clarke is currently studying in Glasgow, UK, and will soon appear in her first feature film, The Moon and the Sun, which will be released in 2015. Andersen is a professional Parkour free-runner who recently starred in a Spider-Man advertisement for Sony.
Unknown actors have been cast in previous instalments of the Star Wars saga, the BBC notes: "It dates right back to the first Star Wars film in 1977 when the then unknown Mark Hamill secured the starring role as Luke Skywalker". The actor went on to appear in the film's sequels, The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and the Return of the Jedi in 1983. Hamill will reprise his most famous role again in Star Wars Episode 7.
Disney and Lucasfilm confirmed that principle photography is still underway at Pinewood Studios in London after wrapping on location in Abu Dhabi in May.
In August the production will pause for two weeks to allow actor Harrison Ford to recover from the leg injury he sustained during filming. In spite of the setback, producers insist that the picture remains on schedule for release on December 18, 2015.
Star Wars Episode 7: Harrison Ford to film 'from waist up' after injury
Harrison Ford may be forced to film "from the waist up" after suffering an injury to his ankle on the set of Star Wars Episode 7, his son has said.
The actor is suspected to have broken his ankle after a hydraulic door fell on him during filming at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. Ford was airlifted to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford for treatment.
His son, Ben Ford, told Yahoo! News that he understands his father may need a plate and screws put into his ankle, and that the injury could take up to eight weeks to heal.
In a statement last week, Disney announced that filming would continue while Ford convalesces.
A source told The Mirror: "The initial day or two after the accident it was hard to move things around but now we have had more time we can juggle things, bring some scenes forward and push others back".
According to the Daily Telegraph, Ford's wife, the actress Calista Flockhart, flew to the UK to be with her husband after the accident.
Reprising his role as Han Solo, the 71-year-old Ford is one of the members of the original cast returning to JJ Abrams' sequel, which will be the first film released since Disney bought the rights to the franchise from George Lucas in 2012. Episode 7 will also star Mark Hamill, playing Luke Skywalker, and Carrie Fisher, playing Princess Leia.
It is thought that the new film will be set 30 years after Return of the Jedi. The picture is set for release in December 2015.
Star Wars Episode 7: Harrison Ford 'breaks ankle' on set
Harrison Ford has injured his ankle on the set of Star Wars Episode 7 at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. The 71-year-old was airlifted to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford yesterday, where he is recovering while filming continues, Sky News reports.
The accident was caused by a falling door, with some reports saying it was a hydraulic door of the sci-fi franchise's Millennium Falcon spaceship. The BBC says a "garage door" crushed the actor, breaking his ankle.
The star of the first three films is appearing again as Han Solo in the latest instalment of the long-running series, now owned by Disney. Spokesman Paul Roeder said filming would continue on schedule while Ford recovers.
According to the Daily Mail, Ford's chest was also crushed when a hydraulic door fell on him – and he is awaiting results of further tests to determine the extent of the injury.
A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: "Just after 5pm, officers were called to Pinewood Studios. A 71-year-old man was injured in an incident believed to involve a garage door.
"He was airlifted to John Radcliffe Hospital where his injuries are not thought to be life-threatening. The Health and Safety Executive have been informed and will look into it."
The new film is being directed by JJ Abrams, whose 're-boot' of the Star Trek franchise was well-received. Filming began in Abu Dhabi in mid-May.