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Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker -- Release date, plot, cast and rumors

The Rise of Skywalker is coming to theaters this December. Here's everything we know so far.

Jonathon Olley

Rey, Finn, BB-8 and Poe Dameron have been on an epic journey since 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And in December, their adventure -- along with the entire Skywalker saga of nine movies -- will meet some kind of conclusion when Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker comes to theaters.

The movie has a lot to live up to. Director J.J. Abrams will need to find a way to offer an ending to the revived Star Wars movie universe following a mixed reception to The Last Jedi and Solo's box office flop. Also, it's not like his Force Awakens was criticism-free -- some fans knocked it for evoking the original Star Wars film too predictably. He's also dealing with the challenge of keeping Leia Organa a central character despite the death of actress Carrie Fisher in 2016.

But with the movie now in the editing stage, there's plenty of time before Star Wars returns to theaters. Here's everything we know so far.

Release date: When can I see Episode 9?

Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker will hit theaters around the world on Dec. 20, 2019.

When will we see the first trailer?

The first teaser trailer is here, fresh off the Star Wars Episode 9 panel at Star Wars Celebration Chicago on April 12.

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Is The Rise of Skywalker still filming?

Production has wrapped. Many of the actors announced the end of production on social media, and director Abrams tweeted a photo of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac embracing as shooting ended in February. Those who bring both droids BB-8 and C-3PO to life, puppeteer Brian Herring and actor Anthony Daniels respectively, announced on Twitter that their roles have wrapped. The movie started shooting in summer 2018.

What's the story behind the director?

Originally, Colin Trevorrow was tapped to helm the movie, but he parted ways with Lucasfilm in September 2017 over creative differences. However, unlike the director change that befell Solo, where Ron Howard took over the project after original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were in production for six months, Abrams began work on the project during preproduction.

Cast: Who will be in it?

We're expecting a good mix of the new faces seen in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi to make their return in the 2019 movie. The official cast includes:

The official cast announcement on July 27, 2018, came just before the start of filming, confirming that Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams are back. It also noted that Fisher's Leia will return through the use of unseen footage from 2015's The Force Awakens. Episode 9 was originally supposed to heavily feature Fisher, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy confirmed to Vanity Fair, but Fisher died in December 2016. The studio further confirmed that it wouldn't digitally re-create her like it did for 2016's Rogue One.

"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 9 by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII," J.J. Abrams said in the July casting announcement.

Abrams further elaborated on how this will be possible at Star Wars Celebration Chicago in April 2019.

"You don't recast that part and you don't have her disappear," Abrams said, mentioning a feeling of still working with her even though she's no longer with us. "What if we could write scenes around her," the director said. The first teaser trailer shows an example of this, in which Leia is embracing Rey in one shot.

Rey and Leia have a hug in the Episode 9 trailer.

Lucasfilm

Naomi Ackie will play new character Jannah, but not much is known about her yet. Richard E. Grant, Keri Russell and Dominic Monaghan also join the Star Wars galaxy in yet-to-be-named roles. Matt Smith reportedly joined the cast, according to Variety in August 2018, but the actor has since shot the rumor down in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Composer John Williams will score the movie, as he has with every numbered entry in the Star Wars saga.

And while it's not impossible for Harrison Ford to potentially return as Han Solo, there are no official announcements quite yet.

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Unseen footage from The Force Awakens will be used to bring Carrie Fisher's Leia into Episode 9's story.

Lucasfilm

Plot: So, what's going to happen?

Abrams teased at Star Wars Celebration Chicago that the movie will focus on the newest generation of characters and what's been passed down to them. It will also take place some time after The Last Jedi, allowing for characters to have grown a bit since we've last seen them.

"This movie, it's about this new generation, and what they've inherited, the light and the dark," Abrams said. 

The latest trailer emphasizes this theme, showcasing Rey, Finn, Poe and the other stars of the sequel trilogy -- but in voice only we hear Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker and Ian McDiarmid's Sheev Palpatine.

"We have passed on all we know, a thousand generations live in you now," Luke says in a voiceover. "But this is your fight."

But Palpatine's cackling laugh plays right after Skywalker says "No one's ever really gone," possibly meaning that both light and dark Star Wars characters might be living on after death.

Other teases we've gotten about each of the characters combined with light speculation include:

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Daisy Ridley's Rey, in a new outfit for Episode 9

Star Wars

Rey: After turning down Kylo Ren's offer to let both the First Order and the Resistance perish and instead conquer the galaxy together, Rey is last seen on the Millennium Falcon with the sacred Jedi texts taken from Ach-To. Ridley said at Star Wars Celebration that it's unknown how much of those texts she would have read.

"As we saw those books are pretty large, she may have started," Ridley said. 

It's likely she'll continue her own version of Jedi training using a combination of the texts, personal practice and maybe some off-screen mentorship from Leia Organa. Also, she JUST MET Poe Dameron, so it's time to see what her dynamic with the fly boy might be. One other thing: Will J.J. Abrams choose to flesh out the story of her parentage, or will he keep her as an orphan who was sold off by her parents for drinking money?

Also, how did she get that white lightsaber we see her wield in the first teaser trailer?

Check out that lightsaber.

Lucasfilm

Finn: Finn is a full-fledged member of the Resistance when The Rise of Skywalker begins, actor John Boyega confirmed at Star Wars Celebration. Unlike in The Last Jedi, Finn and Rey are expected to stay paired up for Episode 9. While he's fresh off defeating Captain Phasma, with Boyega even remarking that "she dead," actor Oscar Isaac said Poe takes his friendship with Finn quite seriously. A photo from Episode 9 shows the two in a light moment, so hopefully we are going to see how deep their friendship can get after the bits of chemistry we saw in The Force Awakens.

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Finn and Poe having a light moment in Episode 9.

Star Wars

Kylo Ren: The new supreme leader of the First Order could be looking over his shoulder, making sure no one has any evidence he's the one who killed off Snoke. That said, after having his connection to Rey cut off by the end of The Last Jedi, Kylo might now be fully embracing his role as a Sith leader. We do know one thing, in the teaser he's repairing his helmet and Ridley confirmed that we are no longer seeing shirtless Adam Driver a la the conversations Rey and Kylo had in the last movie.

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Star Wars

Leia: We can expect Leia to still be a central part of the saga via a combination of unreleased footage and newly shot footage with other actors to bring Carrie Fisher back to life. After her gorgeous, surprising ability to fly through space using the Force left her in a coma, Leia woke up to finish off the movie, but her condition is otherwise unknown. Exactly how much Fisher we'll get is yet to be determined, but Abrams and Kennedy have repeatedly noted the effort to take great care with her depiction in this film.

What about the rumors?

There are a lot of rumors on the internet about Episode 9, including the possibility of some surprise appearances:

  • Editors' note: This has now been confirmed: While The Last Jedi picks up immediately after The Force Awakens, it's possible there will be a time jump before Episode 9. John Boyega told Yahoo he's growing his hair out for the new movie, and we'll have to "wait for the trailer to see why." Adding fuel to this fire, a Boyega interview with Empire magazine appears to further confirm a time jump, with the print version saying "John Boyega has confirmed the film takes place roughly one year after the events of The Last Jedi." While it's not a direct quote, and it's possible Boyega wasn't meant to confirm this detail, it's perhaps the most specific statement we've heard regarding Episode 9's spot in the Star Wars timeline.
  • Yoda appeared as a Force Ghost during The Last Jedi, and the New York Daily News says an "insider" revealed Yoda is returning for the 2019 movie. Since Yoda in ghost form can also bring down a lightning bolt, it's awfully weird he isn't more involved in assisting Leia's Resistance.
  • Many of the Black Squadron pilots who backed up Poe in the assault on Starkiller Base were absent in The Last Jedi, but Marvel's ongoing Poe Dameron comic book series revealed the mission Leia sent them on immediately after The Force Awakens. Greg Grunberg, who played Snap Wexley, recently hinted to Yahoo that he's "getting itchy to go over there and do it" -- a reference to his character's facial hair and Episode 9's filming location in England.
  • Could Obi-Wan Kenobi, as embodied by Ewan McGregor, show up in Episode 9? According to The Sun's sources, McGregor is going to be secretly shooting scenes for it. While there's no way to vouch for this, McGregor did record a line that played in 2015's The Force Awakens super briefly that was meshed with a similarly sounding phrase recorded by original Kenobi actor Alec Guinness. The phrase wasn't much, McGregor remembered the result as "Rey, these are your first steps" during a 2016 appearance on The Graham Norton Show. Therefore, it wouldn't be at all shocking to see some version of Kenobi in Episode 9, but the real question is -- how much?

As more rumors pop up, we'll add them.

What other Star Wars things can I watch?

A lot, as long as you're willing to expand beyond the movies.

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Star Wars Resistance, an animated series now airing on the Disney Channel, takes place just before The Force Awakens. The show comes from creator Dave Filoni, who previously led the Star Wars Rebels series and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. While Resistance showcases new characters, it also features Poe Dameron and Capt. Phasma as voiced by Oscar Isaac and Gwendoline Christie, respectively.

The Clone Wars, originally canceled in 2013, is also getting revived with a new 12-episode season heading to the upcoming Disney Plus streaming service sometime after its 2019 launch.

The Mandalorian, a live-action Star Wars TV series by Jon Favreau and starring Pedro Pascal, is in the works, also heading for Disney's upcoming streaming service. And a Rogue One prequel series starring Diego Luna has also been confirmed to eventually come to Disney Plus.

And if all you care about are Star Wars movies, you can also look forward to two trilogies. The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson will create one, and the other is from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

This guide, first published June 19, 2018, is regularly updated as we hear more news about Star Wars Episode 9.