Star Wars: Episode IX won't just be a milestone chapter of the franchise because it brings the Sequel Trilogy to a close, it will also serve as the final chapter of the "Skywalker Saga," which has been the driving force (pun) of the series since it began.
The opening line of the new official cast and production announcement for Star Wars 9 comes with the following opening:
"Star Wars: Episode IX will begin filming at London's Pinewood Studios on August 1, 2018. J.J. Abrams returns to direct the final installment of the Skywalker saga. Abrams co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio."
This shouldn't come as any surprise to hardcore Star Wars fans: we've known for some time that the Skywalker Saga would be a nine-film arc, which is exactly as George Lucas first intended it, when he created the Original Trilogy. The franchise has already started laying groundwork for a lifespan after the Skywalkers; Star Wars: The Last Jedi had the unenviable job of opening the doors to wider possibilities for Jedi and Force user heroes, while annihilating fan theories that Rey (Daisy Ridley) would carry on the Skywalker legacy. That film's director, Rian Johnson, has already been tapped for a new trilogy of Star Wars films that are totally original works, while Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are planning their own spinoff trilogy, which some fans expect could be set in the Knights of the Old Republic era. While those projects are still only in development, it's clear that Disney and Lucasfilm are already ready to move the franchise forward.
You can check out the rest of the Episode IX cast announcement below:
Returning cast members include Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd. Joining the cast of Episode IX are Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant, who will be joined by veteran Star Wars actors Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams, who will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian.
The role of Leia Organa will once again be played by Carrie Fisher, using previously unreleased footage shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. "We desperately loved Carrie Fisher," says Abrams. "Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie's legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII."
Composer John Williams, who has scored every chapter in the Star Wars saga since 1977's A New Hope, will return to a galaxy far, far away with Episode IX.
Star Wars: Episode IX will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Michelle Rejwan, and executive produced by Callum Greene and Jason McGatlin.
The crew includes Dan Mindel (Director of Photography), Rick Carter and Kevin Jenkins (Co-Production Designers), Michael Kaplan (Costume Designer), Neal Scanlan (Creature and Droid FX), Maryann Brandon and Stefan Grube (Editors), Roger Guyett (VFX Supervisor), Tommy Gormley (1st AD), and Victoria Mahoney (2nd Unit Director).
Star Wars: Episode IX will be releaed in December 2019.