Aliens, droids, dark lords and pilots — all captured by the camera of legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz.
That’s what the latest issue of Vanity Fair has on display, featuring key interviews and revealing exclusive on-set images of the J.J. Abrams-directed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Watch the video at the top of the post for a behind-the-scenes peek at Leibovitz’s shoot.
Here are some of the juiciest tidbits for fans dying to know more about the mysteries of “The Force Awakens”:
— Abrams promises that “Episode VII” will “return to the franchise’s roots with a newfound commitment to practical effects,” including a Millennium Falcon set that inspired tears of joy from the crew and an actual working X-Wing (OK, maybe it doesn’t really fly, but it looks as if it could).
— Among the film’s potential practical elements? Jar Jar Binks’ bones. His dead, dead, dead bones.
— The villainous Kylo Ren, played by “Girls” star Adam Driver, is in a position of relative power, with a photo caption saying he “commands snowtroopers loyal to the evil First Order on the frozen plains of their secret base.” And, ending months of debate, he’s revealed to be the lucky bad guy wielding that funky new lightsaber with a laser-hilt in the initial teaser.
— “12 Years a Slave” Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o plays a pirate named Maz Kanata, who has a crew of creatures who would’ve fit in nicely at Jabba’s palace. Nyong’o’s character will be created using CGI-assisted motion-capture, so her Lancome-approved face won’t actually be seen.
— After acclaimed turns in serious fare such as “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “A Most Violent Year,” it turns out that Oscar Isaac was born to play an ace X-Wing pilot with a name like Poe Dameron. His photo is perfect Junior High locker pinup material.
— Series newcomer Daisy Ridley’s character is still known simply as “Rey,” with no last name — intensifying rumors that she’s the offspring of one or more familiar characters.
There’s also a nice shot of Abrams, producer Kathleen Kennedy, composer John Williams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan together, illustrating the franchise’s cross-generational brain trust.
“Episode VII” still contains plenty of mysteries. There are other characters — played by the likes of Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow and Andy Serkis — about whom we know virtually nothing. You can probably figure out which characters Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and other “Star Wars” vets are playing on your own.
“The Force Awakens” opens Dec. 18.
[Updated May 5, 2015, 7 a.m.: On Tuesday morning, Vanity Fair released an additional Leibovitz image featuring “Game of Thrones” actress Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma, a member of the First Order, the new film’s version of the evil Empire. (Fans nicknamed her character the “chrome stormtrooper” after her debut in the film’s trailer.) “Should we really assume that Christie’s Phasma is pure evil?” Vanity Fair writes. “In a franchise where a rakish smuggler can get the princess, a Sith Lord can be redeemed, and a stormtrooper can be a potential hero, anything can happen.” Indeed.]
— Dave Lewis | @LATHeroComplex