I just found this at Hollywood.com by way of the force.net. Scott Huver has a wonderful article about the future of Star Wars. I linked because credit is due, but I also copied because it's easier to discuss when it's here in the forums.
Special Report: Our Jedi mind tricks reveal the secrets of Star Wars: Episode III
By Scott Huver, Hollywood.com Staff
A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY, February 28, 2002 -- You've seen the trailers. You know what a clonetrooper looks like and who Jango Fett is. You even saw Life as a House just to check out the acting chops of the new Anakin, Hayden Christensen. In fact, you already know everything there is to know about Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones--except, of course, how the film plays out, since it won't be released until May.
But what if we told you we've already got a little early scoop on Episode III, which won't hit theaters for another three years? Yeah, we thought that would get your lightsaber up.
There's already plenty afoot with the film, which as the culmination of the decades long Star Wars saga redefines the adjective "long-awaited." And with some help from a Lucasfilm spokesperson, the official website StarWars.com and the obsessive-compulsive padawans who run the fan website TheForce.net, we've gathered the most compelling tidbits together for you.
Remember, unless Lucasfilm has confirmed it, info here should be considered little more than rumors picked up in a Mos Eisly cantina. And be warned: just as a lust for power can lead to the Dark Side, peering ahead into the future (or is that the past?) of the galaxy far, far away can lead to some serious SPOILERS, not only for Episode III, but the soon-to-be released Episode II as well.
Not afraid? Oh, you will be...you will be.
The Facts Thus Far
Although the film probably won't arrive in theaters until May 25, 2005 (the usual Wednesday-before-Memorial-Day release date for all Star Wars films and 28 years to the day of the original film's release), work has already begun of the sixth--and likely final--movie. Even as the FX wizards at Industrial Light & Magic toil feverishly to finish the visual effects for Episode II, George Lucas began writing the script for the as-yet-untitled Episode III (he usually doesn't coin the subtitle until about nine months before the release) in July 2001 after a brief break following completion of principal photography of ATOC. Lucasfilm reps told us Lucas is still working on the screenplay. He reportedly writes in the mornings at Skywalker Ranch in Northern California while supervising post-production in the afternoons. Although the Internet Movie Database lists British screenwriter Jonathan Hales, 65, a veteran of Lucas' Young Indiana Jones TV series who aided him on Episode II and devised the story for The Scorpion King, as co-writer, Lucasfilm said Hales is not officially on board to help craft the script. Although conceptual design work was expected to commence last September, Star Wars.com reported in Feb. 2002 that the artists are not officially at work (although some advance design work was done during the pre-production phases of Episodes I and II). When the film finally goes before the cameras, possibly with Lucas in the director's chair (although Lucasfilm says no definitive directorial announcement has been made), it--like Episode II--will be shot on digital video, a format the filmmaker has been long championing. Interior scenes for the film are expected to be shot in the same Australian studio space Lucas used for ATOC (and also possibly at Leavesden Studios in England). There arealso persistent rumors that Timanfaya, a national park on Lanzarote, an isle in the Canary Islands, will serve as a location. Famed for its charred landscape and volcanic activity, Timanfya could very well be the perfect site to portray a pivotal locale that Lucas may have envisioned as far back as 1983's Return of the Jedi: Darth Vader's lair on an ominous volcanic planet, which he had once asked conceptual painter-turned-film director Joe Johnston to visualize. Lucas later scrapped the artist's plans to show Vader's magma-moated palace, telling him, "We'll save this somewhere down the line." The palace is most likely where the legendary (but-as-yet unseen) climactic battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, during which Anakin plummets into hot lava and only survives by donning his bionic Vader armor. But perhaps the most intriguing news so far is that at least one scene of Episode III has already been shot. In a behind-the-scenes feature on StarWars.com, George Lucas was filming scenes for ATOC on location in Tunisia (the desert nation in Africa he uses for the planet Tatooine) when he decided to save himself the expense of returning with a 60-man crew a year or so later just to film a single scene. Thus he lensed a crucial scene from the final part in the first trilogy. What was it? "You'll have to wait six years to find out," Lucas has said. That answer wasn't good enough for TheForce.net's vast network of spies, who quickly ferreted out the most likely scenario: It must occur close to the end of Episode III, when Obi-Wan Kenobi delivers the infant Luke Skywalker to the Tatooine home of Owen and Beru Larssee note below to be raised away from his father Anakin, whom we all know falls to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader. That exterior scene, the spies report, will likely be bolstered by interior sequences, as neither Ewan McGregor nor any infant actor was on the set in Tunisia this time around (and both could be added digitally, if necessary). Lucas later told TV Guide that "some shots" had been completed for the third installment. There's even more news on future Star Wars scenes that have already been filmed, but we'll get to that soon enough...
Who'll Be Back
Many of the central characters from Episode I and II will return, as confirmed by the contracts signed by the actors who play them. Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen will definitely reprise their roles as Obi-Wan, Padme Amidala and Anakin Skywalker, respectively. Beyond these key players, the Lucasfilm official Hollywood.com consulted had not seen final contracts for most of the other actors and could not officially confirm their participation.
Expect Anthony Daniels to slip back into his droid suit as C-3PO (battered and dirty in ATOC, he may finally getting his golden sheen in Ep. III), as he has in all the films. And it wouldn't be Star Wars if he wasn't accompanied by his tin sidekick, R2-D2. Also, back Yoda (Frank Oz) will be.
Jimmy Smits is a newcomer to the Star Wars universe in ATOC, in a brief turn as regal Bail Organa of Alderaan (Princess Leia's foster father). Smits' reps told Variety he's signed to play a bigger role in Episode III, which Lucasfilm reps confirm. And while it's still a mystery if Jedi master Mace Windu survives the action of Episode II, Samuel L Jackson has publicly said he hopes to survive to appear in the final film and, without having seen a final script, our source at Lucasfilm said she expects Jackson will return. If reports of the already-filmed sequence hold up, the characters of Owen and Beru Lars--who appear in Episode II and the original Star Wars film--will return. Actor Jay Laga'aia, who plays Captain Typho, Padme's bodyguard, reported he has also been asked to appear again.
That leaves the bad guys. Ian McDiarmid, who plays Chancellor Palpatine, the scheming Naboo politico a.k.a. Sith lord Darth Sidious a.k.a. the evil Emperor, is also inked to return. And actor Christopher Lee has reportedly told a French magazine that his character, the enigmatic Count Dooku, will be back for more evil as well.
No word on the fate of Episode II's new menace Jango Fett, but since we know his, shall we say, offspring Boba survives into the original trilogy, we may see the Fetts again in Episode III as well.
Speaking of bounty hunters, another new character named Aurra Sing (possibly to be played by actress Laura Cox), who appeared fleetingly in The Phantom Menace and appears in Episode II, will likely return. A Force-sensitive ex-Jedi who specializes in tracking and capturing Jedi Knights, she is rumored to be a major player in Episode III.
The most menacing voice in the galaxy may again be reverberating through star destroyer corridors as well. Last year a Toledo newspaper quoted James Earl Jones telling a lecture crowd that he had asked Lucas if he should plan on a return engagement as the frightening tones of Darth Vader. Lucas said yes, though for perhaps no more than five minutes at the end of the film. "Fine, I'll take whatever you can give me," Jones replied.
Multi-Oscar-winning composer John Williams, the musical voice of the saga, expects to be back for his sixth installment after scoring Episode II in January. He told USA Today he's enjoyed building his body of work in the Star Wars canon and overcoming challenges like that of turning Darth Vader's "Imperial March" from The Empire Strikes Back into "Anakin's Theme" for ATOC.
"I'm enjoying very good health, and if that continues, I will complete the sixth," said Williams, 69. "I'd like very much to complete this sixth piece so that this body of Star Wars material is rounded off and completed."
Who Won't Be Back
Fans hoping for a glimpse of some of their favorite characters from previous films may be disappointed. Producer Rick McCallum announced on the official Web site he doesn't expect the final film to include cameos, specifically mentioning Chewbacca (who at age 200 in the original trilogy would be in his prime in Episode III), Mon Mothma (the female Rebellion leader from ROTJ) or Grand Moff Tarkin, the villainous Imperial portrayed so callously by Peter Cushing in the original.
Still, Lucasfilm has long forbidden novel and comic book spin-offs to portray the first meeting of Han Solo and his Wookie pal (as youthful slaves in a spice mine, the official story goes), so this may be disinformation.
Also out is a return engagement for Darth Maul, despite rumors of his resurrection. Apparently, actor Ray Park's Web site posted an item on April 1 last year suggesting Maul, who was bifurcated by Obi-Wan Kenobi in TPM, would be back. He was, as the posting date suggests, just fooling.
Lucasfilm's official position is that no casting has occurred for new characters in Episode III, but that doesn't stop the rumors, some of which seem substantial, from flying faster than the Millennium Falcon.
Aside from the returning regulars, the biggest name connected with the trilogy's final act thus far is Irish actor Gabriel Byrne. Byrne has been long-rumored to be the leading candidate to essay a major role, and last December the actor confirmed months of speculation to the Web site Showbiz Ireland.com that he was under serious consideration by Lucasfilm's casting director Robin Gurland. Many fans assumed Byrne might be playing a younger Grand Moff Tarkin, but that seems to be in doubt now.
Another major name that pops up in reports on TheForce.net is British actor Robbie Coltrane, best known to U.S. audiences for his recent roles as Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and as Johnny Depp's detective sidekick in From Hell. Coltrane has reportedly been contacted and expressed interest in a role in Episode III.
Christopher Eccleston, the British actor who's recently appeared in mainstream Hollywood films including The Others, Gone in 60 Seconds and eXistenZ, has also reportedly been approached by Lucasfilm for a mystery part.
A more random possibility is Ryan Phillippe, who auditioned for the role of the grown Anakin in Episode II. "I went and met with George Lucas, but I was too old because the character is supposed to be younger than Natalie Portman, and I'm six years older than her," he told FHM. "I suppose it was impossible to make it work. But I got to spend some time with George Lucas and that was cool, and I've also talked about doing something in the third one, so you never know."
And finally, Academy Award-nominated actor Willem Dafoe--allegedly approached to play the pivotal role Jango Fett in ATOC before the role went to Temura Morrison--is rumored to have been in regular contact with the casting director to play a significant role in the final film.
"I've got a bad feeling about this..."
No, that familiar quote from the sequels and prequels doesn't mean that Episode III is going to be an all-Jar Jar extravaganza. But it does refer to the fact that the last film may be the grimmest chapter of the saga. "Episode III is the darkest of them all," Lucas told TV Guide.
Fans can expect to see the fall of the Jedi--including their extermination at the hands of Anakin Skywalker, who goes over to the Dark Side--the collapse of the Old Republic, the rise of the Empire, the end of the Anakin-Amidala romance, Yoda's flight into hiding on Dagobah, the birth of twin Luke and Leia, and Obi-Wan's efforts to place the infants in safe, secret locations. And of course, a climactic battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan that leads the fallen Skywalker to don the armor of Darth Vader and become the Emperor's apprentice.
And since Padme, her planet Naboo and its native Gungans are never seen or mentioned in the original trilogy, any number of horrible fates might await them--and, if we're lucky, Jar Jar Binks.
"He's always said that Episode III will be the darkest," Ian McDiarmid recently told Star Wars.com. "George feels people won't necessarily like it because of that, but my feeling is the reverse. I think they'll like it even more, because I think people are fascinated by the whole dark side of the saga. That's why Vader is so interesting. He's complicated, as we later find out. It's that apparently seductive darkness that fascinates people."
Indeed, although the prequels will close out on a down beat--the Star Wars universe was a pretty bleak place in the beginning of the original film, remember--Lucas is striving to make sure it's not a total downer for fans. He may have already solved the problem: John Williams told USA Today, "George Lucas has narrated the last piece to me. After I heard it, I told him, 'Just hurry up and do it, because that is a fabulous ending.'"
Iain McCaig, a conceptual illustrator on Episodes I and II, echoed Williams' sentiments, as reported on TheForce.net: "The first thing George told us when we started was the last line in Episode III so we kind of know how this all connects with the trilogy." When asked who speaks the final line, McCaig grew cryptic, mumbling something illegible with his hands covering his mouth. "I'm sorry, George had something implanted in my head."
Beyond Episode III
That's right, the Star Wars saga may have life beyond the final installment of the first trilogy. Just don't hold your breath for a third trilogy--rumored to be part of Lucas' master plan since the first film was sequelized back in the late 1970s--to tell the tale of what happens to Luke, Leia and Han's offspring. Lucas told TV Guide in November 2001 that he has no concrete plans to expand the universe beyond the first six chapters.
"Each time I do a trilogy it is 10 years out of my life," Lucas told TV Guide. "I'll finish Episode III and I'll be 60. And the next 20 years after that I want to spend doing something other than Star Wars. If at 80 I'm still lively and having a good time and think I can work hard for another 10 years between 80 and 90, I might consider it," he adds. "But don't count on it. There's nothing written and it's not like I'm contemplating something. I'd have to start from scratch. [The idea of Episodes VII, VIII and IX] was more of a media thing."
What seems to be a go, however, is yet another version of the original trilogy. Fans are anxiously awaiting the release of the first three films on DVD, and despite its critical drubbing, the goodie-packed Episode I was the top-selling DVD release of 2001. Lucas may have devised yet another brilliant scheme (remember the box-office blockbuster theatrically released 1997 Special Editions?) to re-market his classic collection.
The writer/director revealed to TV Guide that he's already shot brand-new scenes with characters and locations from the prequels that will be woven into the original trilogy. "They will be used to insert into the first three movies to sort of make the complete version of the Star Wars story, some time in the middle of this decade."
TheForce.net has posted unconfirmed reports that this ultimate version of the saga will be released as a definitive DVD set tentatively called the "Archival Edition," planned for release in 2006, about a year after Episode III hits theaters. When asked for confirmation, a Lucasfilm official said "That's a long way away."
Scenes rumored to be added, according to TheForce.net, include several with Jimmy Smits as an older Bail Organa in sequences prior to the destruction of Alderaan by the Death Star in the original Star Wars, as well as appearances by the Emperor in the Senate chamber.
Also rumored is a digital redecoration of Obi-Wan's home on Tatooine, now including a 3-D hologram of his slain master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and other bits of Jedi memorabilia seen in the prequels, as well as a scene in The Empire Strikes Back set in a demolished Jedi temple on Coruscant in which the Emperor and Darth Vader discuss the Skywalker's son.
With grand plans like these afoot, it's clear that the Force will be with us long after the final Star Wars take is shot.