Director J.J. Abrams has marked the official start of principal photography on Star Wars: Episode IX with a heartfelt message to fans.
After helming 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Abrams is taking over from Star Wars: The Last Jedi's Rian Johnson for the currently untitled Episode IX. With franchise newcomers Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant joining an impressive returning cast that includes Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams, Abrams will bring to a close the Skywalker saga that began in 1977.
Posting on Twitter, Abrams admitted he has "bittersweet" feelings "starting the next chapter without Carrie [Fisher]." He went on to credit the cast and crew and gave "special thanks" to Johnson. A final tribute was aimed at George Lucas, who Abrams thanked for "creating this incredible world and beginning a story of which we are lucky to be a part."
Bittersweet starting this next chapter without Carrie, but thanks to an extraordinary cast and crew, we are ready to go. Grateful for @rianjohnson and special thanks to George Lucas for creating this incredible world and beginning a story of which we are lucky to be a part. #IX pic.twitter.com/FOfnGwVut5— JJ Abrams (@jjabrams) August 1, 2018
The tweet doubles as the first official photo from Episode IX, showing a blurry shot of John Boyega as Finn and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca. It looks to be the interior of the Millennium Falcon, but who's in the chair next to Finn?
Abrams' words echo the feelings of Star Wars fandom as everyone questions how he can bring Fisher's iconic role as Leia Organa to an end. Although Kathleen Kennedy previously said that Fisher wouldn't be part of Episode IX, the movie is confirmed to use previously shot footage from The Force Awakens for Leia's swansong.
With production now underway on Star Wars: Episode IX, prepare for plenty for J.J. Abrams updates from now until the movie's December 2019 release.
Directed by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: Episode IX opens Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant.