‘Star Wars’ News: New Animated Series ‘Rebels’ to Debut in 2014, Jonathan Rhys Meyers Rumored for ‘Episode VII’

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

"The Clone Wars" may be over, but "Star Wars" fans can rest easy – they'll be able to get a regular dose of animated Jedi action again starting next year.

Disney has announced that a new animated "Star Wars" series, "Star Wars Rebels," will be premiering in the fall of 2014. The series will kick off with a two-hour movie debuting on the Disney Channel, and the following episodes will be aired on Disney XD.

"Star Wars Rebels" will explore a previously blank chapter in the "Star Wars" timeline, taking place during the decades that separate "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" and the original "Stars Wars" (aka "Episode IV: A New Hope"). According to a press release from Disney, the story takes place "in a time where the Empire is securing its grip on the galaxy and hunting down the last of the Jedi Knights as a fledgling rebellion against the Empire is taking shape." Seth Green's animated series "Star Wars: Detours," currently in limbo, was to take place in the same time frame, but with a humorous slant, while this is expected to be a more traditional sci-fi adventure.

Simon Kinberg, who penned the screenplays for "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," "Sherlock Holmes," and "X-Men: Days of Future Past," will write the pilot movie and will serve as executive producer for the series. (Kinberg will also write the script for one of the stand-alone "Star Wars" adventures Disney will produce, featuring characters from the "Star Wars" universe but existing outside the ongoing storyline of the nine episodes.) Dave Filoni, who was supervising director for "The Clone Wars," will also be an executive producer on the series, as will be Greg Weisman, who produced the animated shows "The Spectacular Spider-Man" and "Young Justice."

The announcement of "Rebels" follows news in March that "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," the popular Cartoon Network series, was coming to a close at the end of its fifth season. As Lucasfilm has been gearing up for a variety of new projects after being bought out by Disney, giving Disney's TV outlets an animated series of their own is presumably part of their new corporate strategy.

Gary Marsh, the president and chief creative officer for Disney Channels Worldwide, says he's excited to be getting into the "Star Wars" business. "The entire team at Lucasfilm has provided extraordinary creativity and innovation for over three decades, and we're thrilled to be bringing the expansive and imaginative world of Star Wars to Disney XD's viewers," Marsh said in a statement.

Meanwhile, there's also news in the live action "Star Wars" universe.

The pop culture website Latino Review is reporting that Jonathan Rhys Meyers has been cast for a major role in "Star Wars: Episode VII," the upcoming series reboot to be directed by J.J. Abrams. Meyers is best known for his role as King Henry VIII on the hit cable series "The Tudors," and he's also starred in the movies "Albert Nobbs," "Match Point," and "Bend It Like Beckham." Meyers played the King of Rock 'n' Roll in the 2005 made-for-TV movie "Elvis," and just as importantly, he has a working relationship with Abrams, having played transportation man Declan Gormley in Abrams' "Mission: Impossible III."

No word has surfaced yet on who Meyer will be playing in "Episode VII," which is expected to pick up the narrative where "Return of the Jedi" left off. Since Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill have all been attached the project, it seems a safe bet Meyer will be playing a new character and the returning stars will play more mature versions of their established roles, though seemingly anything is possible at this point. Early word also has it that "Episode VII" will be written by Michael Arndt; his previous credits include "Little Miss Sunshine," "Toy Story III," "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," and best of all, the upcoming "Phineas and Herb" movie.