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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

After over a decade without a theatrical release in the franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is only a short few months away from hitting theaters. But in true Disney fashion, none of that has stopped the production mill from the work on the next installments in the franchise, namely “Rogue One” and “Episode VIII.”

According to Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily (via Twitchfilm), actor/martial artist Donnie Yen has signed on to the currently-untitled “Star Wars: Episode VIII.” The name may not be the most familiar to film fans, but the man has been in the business for decades, appearing in such films as “Iron Monkey,” “Hero,” “Shanghai Knights,” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II.” His role in the “Star Wars,” as of this writing, is unknown in nature, but one has to wonder if his character will utilize the actor’s martial arts skills in some way. Could he be playing a Jedi, Sith Lord, or something else entirely?

Of course, this piece of news is from Apple Daily, which hasn’t always been the most reliable, but Twitchfilm has also heard rumblings of other Chinese actors being circled for a part in “Rogue One,” so it’s not like the idea is completely out of left field. With each passing year, Hollywood has become more and more aware of the fact that the worldwide box office is potentially more important than the domestic box office in terms of percentage (Especially with the big blockbusters). Just take a look at any big blockbuster in the past few years, and you’ll notice the worldwide haul is often times much greater than the domestic haul. Hiring a more diverse cast is one way the filmmakers can ensure a box office success in more countries like China. That’s not to say the actors are unfit for the roles they are cast in, but the box office potential definitely gives an added incentive for the studio. We’ll have to wait to see how the cast for “Rogue One” shakes out to see how reliable this information is.

But speaking of “Rogue One,” according to Star Wars Aficionado, filming has begun on the standalone “Star Wars” flick. It’s worth noting that although they’ve already started to roll film on this one, principal photography is set to begin officially on August 3, 2015. Essentially, everything shot so far is 2nd unit stuff that had to be filmed within a specific time frame for one reason or another. 

“Rogue One” is the first of many spinoff films set in the “Star Wars” universe. Unlike standard “Episodes,” however, these spinoffs won’t necessarily connect to the main plotline.  So far, the actual details on “Rogue One” have been relatively sparse. We know it follows a band of Rebels who set out to steal the plans for the Death Star, and that they’re aiming for a gritty war movie feel, but actual info beyond that is hard to come by. Once “The Force Awakens” hits theaters, we’ll likely see a lot more. “Rogue One” will star Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”) and is directed by Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”).

“Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One” is slated for a December 16, 2016 release date, while “Star Wars: Episode VIII” is set for a May 26, 2017 release-a mere six months after “Rogue One.” Which one are you looking forward to most?

Sources: Apple Daily, Twitchfilm, Star Wars Aficionado

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.