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Disney and Lucasfilm eyeing Benicio Del Toro for the villain in Star Wars Episode 8

While the new Star Wars trilogy has made news in the past by casting lesser-known actors in important roles, it appears that Disney and Lucasfilm are going big game hunting for Episode VIII.

The studios are reportedly eyeing Benicio Del Toro for the role of an unidentified (but reportedly central) villain. Fans can only hope that he can follow in the footsteps of another thrice-named actor (James Earl Jones) and provide an iconic performance.

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Of course, we’re getting slightly ahead of ourselves, ScreenCrush reports that no one has signed on the dotted line yet and discussions are still in the “very early stages.” Still, it’s the first morsel of casting information on the film and, until other details emerge, this news is destined to be dissected and re-dissected.

However this turns out, Del Toro certainly has the chops to do the dark side justice. For proof, refer to his scene-stealing turn as The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy.

In fact, the actor was once slated to play a central villain in another iconic sci-fi universe. Cast as the nefarious Khan in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness, Del Toro ultimately left the project and was replaced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

While it seems like there may be an Abrams/Del Toro connection here, the director of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will not be helming the franchise going forward. The next name to pick up that torch is Rian Johnson (Looper, The Brothers Bloom) who will both write and direct the eighth installment.

Star Wars: Episode VIII  is set to hit theaters May 26, 2017 and will begin filming next year. If the gap between episodes VII and VIII is too great, however, you can scope out the first spin-off film in the expanding universe, Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One, slated for December 16, 2016. A prequel of sorts, the film follows a motley crew of rebels who conspire to steal the plans for the original Death Star.