The latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens casting rumor has me giddy. As Jason posted, according to Twitch, actors and martial arts specialists Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, from The Raid and The Raid 2 films were “secretly” cast in our favorite upcoming Star Wars film.
This rumor awakes my Force for a few reasons:
- We all know what kind of kick-ass awesomeness Ray Park brought to Darth Maul, and I’m thrilled about the potential for more martial arts specialists being incorporated into the Star Wars Universe. The Luke vs. Vader duel on Cloud City is one of my favorite lightsaber battles of all time. Having said that, when the Prequels were announced, I think many fans drooled at the thought of lightsaber battles done with modern choreography. Incorporating Ray Park’s Wushu training into the duel in The Phantom Menace was genius and absolutely blew my mind in the theater. Martial arts fight choreography has come a long way even from 1999 and just thinking about what Uwais, Ruhian and Arif Rahman can do with lightsabers is almost too much for my fragile mind to handle.
If you haven’t seen The Raid or The Raid 2, the films are widely praised for some of the most incredible martial arts fight scenes on film. Check out the absurd clip below featuring Uwais fighting Ruhian to get a taste of the badassery we could be in store for (you’re welcome):
- This rumor, if true, gives some interesting and exciting insight into JJ Abrams’ casting choices as well as the type of action we might expect in The Force Awakens. In addition to Uwais, Ruhian and Arif Rahman, Lucasfilm previously cast parkour specialists Christina Chong and Pip Anderson. I love the idea that JJ Abrams is enlisting truly incredible physical actors who have unique talents we haven’t really seen in Star Wars films before. Yet, in many ways, martial arts and parkour seem to be natural fits for the Star Wars Universe. I’m glad to see that Lucasfilm made the smart decision to add real world, yet mind blowing, action styles.
On a more personal note, with the almost criminal lack of Asian characters in Star Wars films to date, it really excites me that we could have four new Asian actors in the Sequel Trilogy. The substantial influence that Akira Kurusawa’s films had on Star Wars is well known. Reportedly, George Lucas considered Toshiro Mifune, one of Kurusawa’s favorite actors, for both the roles of Obi-wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. Mifune ultimately declined both roles, leaving Star Wars with no substantial Asian characters. As linked above, NPR recently did a great write-up tracking down the one (or possibly two…it’s unclear) Asian characters in the OT with actual speaking lines. Beyond those two, it’s a struggle to find characters that could be Asian and have names. As Leland Chee himself put it:
“Some of the Jabba’s palace characters do,” Chee says. “They look Asian to me; let me put it that way.” Among those lurking in the shadows are Ardon “Vapor” Crell, Rayc Ryjerd and a mustachioed fellow named Jan Solbidder. And in Cloud City, one of Lando Calrissian’s guards is Corman Jeihn, possibly named by Hasbro — or, Chee says, “I think I may have named him.”
The PT is actually worse, with only one brief appearance by Baltar Swan, an Asian Jedi, for a few seconds during Episode II’s arena scene.
I’m a big believer in the value and importance of diversity in film in general, but it’s always confounded me that a franchise so rooted in Asian themes and visuals doesn’t have even one substantial Asian character. The Force Awakens and the Sequel Trilogy have a chance to rectify that and I’m extremely hopeful that they will.