What Does the 'Star Wars' Casting Tell Us About Disney's Plans?

The main cast for 'Star Wars: Episode VII' was revealed recently, and somewhat surprisingly consisted largely of unknowns and up-and-comers. Is this a sign that the new film is going back to the original trilogy's roots, or just a way for Disney to control its budget?

May 5, 2014 at 10:06AM

Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Lucasfilm recently unveiled the primary cast in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. While the cast contains a few familiar faces reprising their roles from the original films, everybody knew these were coming. More interesting were the new faces that have been added to the galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars Episode

The old cast meets the new.
Image Credit: StarWars.com

The original cast
When Star Wars: A New Hope debuted in 1977, much of the cast was relatively unknown. The best-known member of the cast was Sir Alec Guinness, who referred to the film as "fairy tale rubbish" in letters to his friends, but liked the general theme of the film and couldn't turn down the studio's offer to double his salary to keep him onboard.  Stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher previously had mostly minor roles; in Hamill's case it was largely TV and voice work.

Because much of the cast wasn't overly famous, audiences didn't have to worry about the actors overshadowing the characters on the screen … and George Lucas didn't have to worry about blowing his budget with a bunch of big names. The casting worked -- even 37 years later, the "Star Wars" roles remain among the most iconic in the actors' careers, which is saying something when you consider Ford's career.

The prequel trilogy
Things changed when George Lucas began work on his prequel trilogy. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace featured a few reprisals from the original trilogy surrounded by well-known faces. Actors such as Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, and Liam Neeson were headliners, though stars such as Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman were still early in their careers at the time. The sense of star recognition was much greater with the new films, adding to the feeling that the new trilogy was more of a cash grab than a natural extension of the story told in the original trilogy. This feeling wasn't helped by the excessive use of CGI and plots that many fans felt were weaker than those of the original films.

The new cast
Now that we've gotten a look at the cast of Episode VII, it seems to be more of a throwback to the original trilogy's casting methods. While the returning cast members have gone on to various levels of stardom since the first "Star Wars" film was released, the new cast members are largely up-and-comers (with the notable exception of Max von Sydow) who have more TV than film experience. Though specific roles have not been named, von Sydow will be joined by Adam Driver (from HBO's "Girls"), John Boyega (from the British film Attack the Block), Oscar Isaac (from Inside Llewyn Davis), and British actress Daisy Ridley (from "Mr. Selfridge.")

Is this a good sign?
While the choice of up-and-coming actors instead of established stars isn't necessarily an indication of Episode VII's quality, it does have potentially positive ramifications. In addition to allowing the actors to define their roles in the same way that Hamill and company did in the original trilogy, choosing lesser-known actors likely helped Lucasfilm to keep the movie's $11 million budget under control. With the "Star Wars" franchise having earned an estimated $27 billion to date, according to StatisticBrain.com, and it being a source of toys, product licensing, and ongoing movie sales revenue, budget constrains likely won't be much of an issue with Episode VII. Still, it's positive to see that Lucasfilm isn't simply trying to populate the "Star Wars" universe with trendy celebrities at the cost of character development.

The future of Star Wars


'Rebels' bridges the gap between the prequels and the original trilogy.
Image Credit: Walt Disney/Disney XD

Star Wars: Episode VII marks the beginning of a new phase for the "Star Wars" franchise. In addition to the new trilogy that it starts, additional "Star Wars" features are planned for release in the years between trilogy film releases and a new animated series called "Star Wars: Rebels" is set to premier later this year. The expanded universe of books, games, and comics is also being reworked, with Marvel Comics bringing the comic license home to Disney in 2015 and classic books being reissued under the "Legends" moniker to keep them in print while new books follow the new expanded universe (EU) rules.

Between the new trilogy, the spin-off films that will set the franchise up for yearly releases, and supplementary materials such as comics, cartoons, and other EU content, "Star Wars" seems to be borrowing a page from Marvel Studios' film release schedule. While some fans may not be happy with what they see as Disney milking the franchise, those who can't get enough "Star Wars" will have plenty to take in in the future.

Your cable company is scared, but you can get rich
With so many compelling ways to consume content, you know cable as we know it is going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple. 


John Casteele has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers