Even though Star Wars: Episode VIII is still close to two years away writer and director Rian Johnson isn’t wasting time getting the cast squared away. Oscar winner Benicio del Toro has been approached about the role of the lead villain in the next installment of the new trilogy.
Del Toro himself isn’t a stranger to Disney films set in space as he played the Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: The Dark World.
As for Johnson, he is writing a treatment (typically the step between scene cards and the first draft of a screenplay) for the final episode of the new trilogy and will begin shooting Episode VIII next year.
Although the second film may have a new villain that doesn’t necessarily mean that Kylo Ren is already being replaced. It’s entirely possible that del Toro’s character (should he ultimately be cast) could be the center point for Episode VIII while Ren is more in the background only to return in Episode IX. He’d thereby play a part across the entire triptych of films, similar to how Darth Vader takes a bit of a backseat to the Empire itself in Empire Strikes Back and the Emperor himself in Return of the Jedi.
The still untitled “Star Wars: Episode VIII” is scheduled for release on May 26, 2017 — almost exactly 40 years to the day after the original Star Wars movie arrived in theaters. Star Wars was released on May 25th, 1977.
Before the second installment comes out however, the first of the spinoff films Star Wars: Rogue One (something of a flashback story as it focuses on a team of rebels attempting to steal plans for the first Death Star) will be released, coming out December 18th of 2016. A second Anthology film possibly telling the origin story of Han Solo is also planned, though no date is set for that film just yet.