In what the venerable Hollywood trade is calling an exclusive, Variety reports Wednesday that a handful of actors have emerged as J.J. Abrams' first choice to play the lead role in Dec. 18, 2015's Star Wars Episode VII.
According to Variety, Downton Abbey's Ed Speleers, Attack the Block's John Boyega, The Master's Jesse Plemons (previously rumored heavily for a role in the film), and theater actors Matthew James Thomas and Ray Fisher have emerged as the leading candidates for the role. The part is believed to be a Jedi apprentice. The original draft by Michael Arndt reportedly was said to focus on Han Solo and Princess Leia’s children, but Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan’s rewrite reportedly puts those characters in a supporting roles in favor of new characters.
Variety’s sources "indicate" the protracted casting process has something to do with the film's executives and producers wanting a more ethnicity diverse cast than the original films.
Abrams is reportedly expected to surround the less-familiar actor with original cast members like Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill.
Variety qualifies their report, however, saying some "insiders warn the search is still ongoing," but cite multiple sources confirming to them the actors listed earlier "have moved to the top of the list" in recent weeks.
Girls star Adam Driver is reportedly in line to star as the film's lead villain.
Disney had no comment on the Variety report.