"Star Wars: Episode VIII" began filming Monday at a studio in London with a cast that now includes heavy-weight actors Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern.
Accompanying the announcement on the official Star Wars website was a video showing the film's crew on the remote Irish island where the last installment, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," left off: With Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, approaching Mark Hamill as a self-exiled Luke Skywalker, holding the Jedi's old lightsaber.
It is unclear what roles Del Toro, an Oscar winner for his portrayal of a narcotics agent in "Traffic," and Dern, nominated for Oscars for her work in "Rambling Rose and "Wild," will play.
Much of the main cast for Episode VIII remains intact: Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, and Andy Serkis.
That list indicates that characters Maz Kanata (Nyong'o) and Captain Phasma (Christie) survived uncertain fates in Episode VII.
The film is written and directed by Rian Johnson and is scheduled for release Dec. 15, 2017.