Star Wars Day is upon us, and with three films in various stages of production, there's no shortage of rumours, gossip and even the odd fact to keep us busy. So far there's no indication whether any of these movies will return to Jakku – the planet set in the Abu Dhabi desert in Episode VII: The Force Awakens – but there are plenty of other nuggets to sink our teeth into.
Rogue One (director Gareth Edwards)
The first of the new batch of Star Wars films, due to hit screens in December, is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The latest teaser trailer for the spin-off movie was released on the opening day of the Middle East Film & Comic Con last month and helped to flesh out some of the rumours that have been doing the rounds since the film was originally announced in 2014. In typical Star Wars fashion, the trailer didn't give too much away, but we do know that Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) will play Jyn Erso, a human rebel and former petty criminal who appears to be charged with stealing the plans to the nascent Death Star – the movie is set shortly before the first Star Wars film, 1977's A New Hope, which sees the rebels use the plans to destroy the Empire's superweapon.
Returning to the series as rebel commander Mon Mothma is Genevieve O'Reilly – this will be O'Reilly's third appearance as Mothma, having debuted in 2005's Revenge of the Sith, although the character first appeared in 1983's Return of the Jedi, played by Caroline Blakiston. Forest Whitaker also appears to be lining up alongside the rebels this time, though no character details have been released.
There’s no sign of lightsabers in the trailer, perhaps in part because the era in which it is set is when the Jedi were thought to have disappeared – although it’s also the era when Darth Vader was in charge of the Empire’s dastardly plans – so could we see a return of the asthmatic dark lord of the Sith? We don’t know, but fans of lightsaber combat may at least be relieved with the presence of martial arts star Donnie Yen. The staff with which his seemingly blind warrior-character dismisses the Empire’s finest in the trailer is no lightsaber, but it still looks pretty cool, and surely it wouldn’t take too much training to replace it with a Darth Maul-style double-bladed saber?
Episode VIII(director Rian Johnson)
The as-yet-unnamed Episode VIII, due for a December 2017 release, is the next instalment in the main Star Wars storyline and sees most of the cast from The Force Awakens return, including Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. One notable exception is, of course, Harrison Ford, who brought tears to the eyes of fans when his much-loved character Han Solo was killed by his own son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in the last movie. New additions include Benicio del Toro as an unnamed baddie, Laura Dern in an unspecified role, and potentially, former The Young Ones and The Comic Strip Presents... star Ade Edmondson, continuing producer J J Abrams's apparent penchant for casting British alternative comedians in the new Star Wars movies (Simon Pegg also had a small role in The Force Awakens).
The premise of the film seems to revolve around the relationship between Ridley's Rey and Hamill's Luke Skywalker and her training in the ways of the Jedi under Luke. Abrams recently seemed to scotch rumours that Rey is either Han and Leia or Luke's daughter when he announced that her parents were not in The Force Awakens. Filming has already taken place on Skellig Michael, sitting in as the distant planet Ahch-To, where Luke and Rey closed the last film. Ahch-To, potential site of the original Jedi Temple, looks set to play a major role in the film. Pictures emerged recently of a replica of Skellig Michael that has been built at Pinewood Studios – understandable since the real location isn't exactly the easiest place to shoot, with its 618 steps hewn into a virtually sheer cliff face climbing to 218 metres above sea level, plus the fact that it is a nature reserve.
The Millennium Falcon is also visible on the Pinewood replica set, suggesting that Chewie and R2D2, who accompanied Rey to Ahch-To at the end of The Force Awakens, will still be with her during her time with Luke.
Untitled Han Solo spin-off movie (directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord)
We were promised a wealth of Star Wars Origins type-movies when Disney announced its plans for the franchise in 2012 and the first one, featuring a young Han Solo, is due in December 2018. Details are still sparse – but rumours so far have focused on who will step into Harrison Ford's iconic waistcoat in the new film. Early favourites included Transformers: Age of Extinction's Jack Reynor, Kingsman and Eddie the Eagle star Taron Egerton and Whiplash's Miles Teller. Egerton told The National in February: "Sure, I'd love the part, but I haven't actually auditioned. I don't even know how these things work. Do they just ring you and ask you to come in? I don't know." Teller, meanwhile, told the happysadconfused podcast that he'd never actually seen any of the films. Perhaps this is part of the reason why Hail, Caesar!'s Alden Ehrenreich is now being touted as the hot favourite, but in the absence of an official announcement, it's all just rumour.