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'Star Wars: Episode VII' cast announced: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and more

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On April 29, 2014, the official "Star Wars" website announced the principal cast members of "Star Wars: Episode VII." The announcement confirmed reports that original "Star Wars" cast members Harrison Ford (who plays Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (who plays Princess Leia), Mark Hamill (who plays Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (who plays CP3O), Peter Mayhew (who plays Chewbacca), and Kenny Baker (who plays R2D2) are reprising their roles for "Star Wars: Episode VII."

Here is the official announcement: "The 'Star Wars' team is thrilled to announce the cast of 'Star Wars: Episode VII.' Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film.

"Director J.J. Abrams says, 'We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. 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.'

"'Star Wars: Episode VII' is being directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer. The movie opens worldwide on December 18, 2015."

Filming of "Star Wars: Episode VII" begins in England in early May 2014. Various media outlets have reported recent sightings of Ford, Hamill and Fisher in London, which fueled speculation that the three stars were in the movie's cast.

Abrams and the other filmmakers of "Star Wars: Episode VII" have kept the movie's plot a big secret. And ever since he was announced as the director/co-writer of the movie, Abrams has usually declined to comment about "Star Wars: Episode VII" in interviews.

However, on June 8, 2013, Abrams made a rare statement about "Star Wars: Episode VII" during a Q&A session at the Produced By Conference in Los Angeles that directing "Star Wars: Episode VII" in London "makes me insane" because of the temporary relocation from Los Angeles that his family has to do in order to accommodate his work on the movie.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that Abrams also said at the conference: "We are, most likely, if all goes as planned, going to be moving to London at the end of the year for the 'Star Wars' movie."

"Star Wars: Episode VII" will be Abrams' first movie that he will direct outside of Los Angeles. He is notoriously secretive about the plots of his movies, but in his brief mention of the "Star Wars" movie at the Produced By Conference, Abrams did say that the "Star Wars" franchise "is so massive and so important to people. I think the key to moving forward on something like this is honoring but not revering what came before."

Michael Arndt (who co-wrote "Toy Story 3") had originally signed on as a co-writer of the "Star Wars: Episode VII" screenplay with Kasdan (who co-wrote "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" and "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi"). Arndt is now out of the picture. His departure has not been publicly explained.

The "Star Wars" films came from George Lucas' independent Lucasfilm production company. Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for a reported $4 billion and announced that "Star Wars: Episode VIII" and "Star Wars: Episode IX" are also being planned.

The first six "Star Wars" movies are available on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and digital download.

Abrams directorial credits in feature films include 2005's "Mission: Impossible III," 2009's "Star Trek," 2011's "Super 8" and 2013's "Star Trek Into Darkness." On TV, he is best known for being a creator/executive producer of "Lost," which was on the air from 2004 to 2010. His other TV credits include "Felicity," "Alias," "Revolution" and "Almost Human."

Of the "Star Wars: Episode VII" cast members who are new to the "Star Wars" franchise, von Sydow (who was nominated for an Oscar for 2011's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close") is the oldest and most well-known to the general public. Isaac is best known for his critically acclaimed starring role in the 2013 dark comedy "Inside Llewyn Davis." Gleeson is best known for playing Bill Weasley in the "Harry Potter" movies. Serkis has made a name for himself as the go-to actor to do performance-capture roles in blockbuster films, such as "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" movies, the 2005 remake of "King Kong" and the 21st century's "Planet of the Ape" movies.

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