The first in a series of upcoming stand-alone "Stars Wars" films will be titled "Rogue One," Disney chairman Bob Iger announced at a shareholders meeting on Thursday. Iger confirmed it will star Oscar nominee Felicity Jones ("The Theory of Everything," "Like Crazy"), who was reportedly in talks for the role last month. "Rogue One" will shoot in London this summer and open Dec. 16, 2016.
Iger also announced that "Episode VIII," which will follow the events of this year's "The Force Awakens," is slated for release on May 26, 2017. He confirmed that Rian Johnson ("Looper," "Breaking Bad") will take the reins from J.J. Abrams. The press release notes that "Episode VIII" will open 40 years and one day after the 1977 release of franchise opener "A New Hope." (That gives Disney, which owns Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios, two enormous franchise installments in May 2017, as "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" also opens that month.)
Gareth Edwards, who directed last year's acclaimed "Godzilla" reboot, will helm "Rogue One" based on a script by Chris Weitz ("About a Boy," "The Golden Compass"). The press release makes no mention of Gary Whitta, who wrote a first draft but left the project in January.
No plot details have been confirmed, but previous rumors indicated the film would follow Boba Fett and other bounty hunters who steal the Empire's plans to construct the Death Star. In the "Star Wars" canon, "rogue one" is a title given to the commander of the elite Rebel Alliance group of fighters known as the Rogue Squadron. Luke Skywalker is "rogue one" in "The Empire Strikes Back" and Wedge Antilles fills the role in "Return of the Jedi."