The nerd world combusted like Alderaan when it was announced last Thursday that J.J. Abrams, creator of such memorable genre works as Alias, Cloverfield, and his magnum opus, Lost, would be directing the first of an as-yet-unspecified number of new Star Wars films. At the end of 2012, the Walt Disney Company purchased George Lucas’s LucasFilm for the galaxy-sized sum of $4 billion, and promised fans that more big screen adventures in the galaxy far, far away would be forthcoming. Speculation immediately began as to what direction the franchise would now take, and who would be at the helm.
Now that the project has a director and a writer (Little Miss Sunshine scribe Michael Arndy), fans like myself can begin to salivate over what might be coming to multiplexes in 2015. The House of Mouse has neither confirmed nor denied that the new films will be influenced by existing Star Wars lore, which is so abundant that even a die-hard like me has barely scratched the surface. However, I did start to wonder how it might be that Abrams could find a way to reunite with some of his Lost actors. I mean, when you think about it, the similarities between the two franchises are blindingly obvious. Both are six-chapter epics chronicling the adventures of a wide network of characters–characters connected through coincidence, dire circumstance, or family ties they never knew existed–fighting the never-ending struggle of good and evil, both in the world they inhabit and within themselves. So here’s some suggestions for how we could see our favorite island castaways swashbuckling across the stars…
(Caution: Spoilers abound!)
Nestor Carbonell as Grand Admiral Thrawn
Perhaps the most beloved and recognized of all the Star Wars characters who never appeared in the six films, Thrawn was a villain created by author Timothy Zahn to be the anti-Vader: calm, methodical, almost academic–but no less dedicated to the destruction of the Rebel Alliance. In Zahn’s first trilogy of novels, Thrawn takes the reigns of the shattered Empire nine years after the Battle of Endor, and puts the Rebels on the ropes by using his most powerful weapon: his superior intellect. Carbonell, who was always so intriguing as the enigmatic Richard Alpert, would be perfect for playing the alien mastermind. The requisite red contact lenses would do nothing to diminish the intensity of Carbonell’s stare. And I think hearing him deliver Thrawn’s delectable last words (“But…it was so artistically done.”) would give me goosebumps.
Michael Emerson as Nom Anor
When Star Wars books jumped publishing houses from Bantam to Del Rey, they embarked on an ambitious first project: a multi-volume story chronicling the next generation of heroes as they battled alien conquistadors from another galaxy who thrived on pain and were invisible to the Force. The New Jedi Order series featured many great new characters, and developed existing ones in very unexpected and controversial ways. One thing fans could agree on, though, was that at its center, the New Jedi Order series had its most captivating villain since…well, Thrawn. Nom Anor was an advance agent of the alien Yuuzhan Vong who had been fermenting trouble throughout the galaxy in an attempt to destabilize the New Republic ahead of the Vong invasion. Throughout the series, Anor donned assorted disguises and personas to execute the will of his superiors, manipulating major players against each other. If there’s one actor who can pull off dangerous ambiguity, it’s Michael Emerson, who helped to take the character of Benjamin Linus so far beyond the three episodes in which he was originally intended to appear.
Ian Somerhalder as Kyp Durron
Kyp is an interesting character. Created by prolific sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson for his Jedi Academy trilogy, Kyp represented what might have happened to Luke Skywalker if he hadn’t had devoted guardians or a wise mentor to guide him. A teenage slave in the spice mines of Kessel, Kyp was rescued by Han Solo, who took him to Yavin 4 to join Luke’s inaugural class of new Jedi trainees. Unfortunately, Kyp was a bit damaged, and his inability to control his raw power and emotions saw him knocking Luke into a coma, hijacking an Imperial superweapon, and welcoming the demonic possession of a long-dead Sith Lord. To the credit of Anderson and many subsequent authors, Kyp was redeemed and thoroughly fleshed out over time. He was a philosophical foil to Luke in the New Jedi Order series. He also had a complicated teacher-student relationship with Han’s daughter, Jaina. At the risk of dipping back into the same well–a young man eager to prove himself, confounded by his own desires–I could see Ian Somerhalder, Lost‘s doomed Boone Carlyle, in the role.
Matthew Fox as Ulic Qel-Droma
It is possible, but very unlikely, that instead of carrying the Star Wars story forward, Abrams and Andry might take it backward. What I mean is that they could choose to adapt one of the most revered pieces of Star Wars lore, Tom Veitch’s Tales of the Jedi comic series, which takes place 4,000 years before R2-D2 and C-3PO crash-landed on sunny Tatooine. The central figure of the Tales saga is Ulic Qel-Droma, an upstanding Jedi Knight whose desire to keep the galaxy he served and the people he loved free from harm ultimately led to his own fall to the Dark Side. I admit, the thematic elements of Star Wars can be a bit repetitive. Still, the character of Ulic gets a lot of emotional mileage. Unlike Anakin Skywalker, Ulic doesn’t conveniently die moments after his redemption. A significant portion of Tales is devoted to Ulic’s post-redemption exile, and his struggle to forgive himself for his heinous crimes. Matthew Fox does well as a tortured soul anchoring a large ensemble of characters. There’s even ample opportunity in Tales for a “We have to go back!” moment.
Elizabeth Mitchell as Nomi Sunrider
This is my favorite bit of cross-over casting. Elizabeth Mitchell was so wonderful as Juliet Burke. Throughout her tenure on Lost, she had to be by turns desperate, heartsick, commanding, vengeful, and hopeful. These are all things that describe the character Nomi Sunrider, who was Ulic Qel-Droma’s love interest in Tales of the Jedi. Widowed when her Jedi husband is murdered by gangsters, Nomi soon harnesses her own Force potential and finds herself on the front lines of some of the Old Republic’s most legendary conflicts. It is in these dire situations that she meets and finds love again with Ulic Qel-Droma. When it becomes clear that Ulic can neither be turned back to the light nor defeated in combat, Nomi employs one of the rarest and most awesome of Force abilities to bring an end to his reign of terror. It’s one of the best and most poetic moments in the entire franchise. Watching Mitchell perform it would be a treat.
Terry O’Quinn as Booster Terrik
I know. You’re probably thinking that Terry O’Quinn, who so masterfully played the conflicted John Locke and his evil doppelgänger, should be playing Darth So-and-So; but that would be too easy. I’d much rather see O’Quinn tap into his rambunctious side by playing seasoned smuggler Booster Terrik. Created out of a collaboration between Timothy Zahn and Michael Stackpole, Booster was introduced as a new underworld ally for our Rebel heroes. Personally, I thought he was the end result of a clever “what if”; that being, “what if Han Solo had never joined the Rebellion?” Booster was a smart-mouthed, blustering, proudly improper scoundrel who, like all such characters in Star Wars, had an underlying heart of gold. He was also a little grandiose. As payment for his aid to the Rebellion, Booster demanded his own personal Star Destroyer, which he later turned into a mobile casino and trade outpost (and secret Jedi refuge). A guy that eccentric could be a ton of fun to portray, and to watch.
Evangeline Lilly as Mara Jade Skywalker
Evangeline Lilly always seemed perfectly at home in the role of Kate, a woman with a very checkered past who tries to do the right thing when such an opportunity presents itself. She was a physical actress, and held her own opposite any of her male co-stars, whether they were adversaries or love interests. Basically, there’s no doubting her ability to play an active, self-sufficient, layered female lead. That pretty much defines Mara Jade, the woman who first sets out to kill Luke Skywalker and later winds up marrying him. Another creation of Timothy Zahn’s (noticing a trend?), Mara spends years developing a relationship with Luke that is all at once antagonistic, instructive, challenging, and supportive. It was only fitting that Zahn was the one who got to finally bring the two together, after putting them through the ringer in his Hand of Thrawn series. Subsequent authors have taken the couple to new and exciting stages of life in the New Jedi Order series and beyond. There’s an infinite amount of Mara material to mine for a movie. Of course, it might be tough to do, since her presence necessitates the return of Luke, Han, and Leia. Think Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher are up to it?
I think they still got it.