Billy Dee Williams has heavily expressed interest in reprising his role as Lando Calrissian. Rian Johnson considered using him in Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017), but decided that it wouldn't fit well in the story. On July 9, 2018, after weeks of rumors, it was confirmed that Williams would indeed be returning as Lando for this film.
When George Lucas originally laid out plans for twelve episodes, then reduced that number to nine episodes, he said that C-3PO and R2-D2 would be the only characters to appear in all nine. This will prove to be true, as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the only other characters to appear in every film of both the original and prequel trilogies did not appear in the sequel trilogy. Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) will also become the only actor to appear in all nine films.
Producers had a bigger role planned for Leia prior to Carrie Fisher's death. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy remarked, "[Carrie] grabbed me and said, 'I'd better be at the forefront of IX!' Because Harrison was front and center on VII, and Mark is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been." After her passing, family members Todd Fisher and Billie Lourd granted Disney and Lucasfilm permission to use Carrie's likeness in the form of unused footage, but at Star Wars Celebration 2017 Kennedy stated that she would sadly not appear at all in the film. However Lucasfilm has since confirmed the use of her unused footage for episode IX.
Each film in Disney's sequel trilogy was partially shot on 70mm IMAX, while the remainder of each respective film was shot digitally or on 35mm film. While Episode IX will incorporate IMAX footage again, this will also be the first film in the saga to be shot on traditional 70mm film.
Will be released on December 20, 2019. Episodes VII and VIII were both released in December 2015 and 2017, respectively. The original release date of Episode IX of May 24, 2019 was delayed after director Colin Trevorrow was replaced by J.J. Abrams in September 2017, facing a similar fate to the other Sequel Trilogy Films with their releases (being pushed from May to December). This was likely done for consistency purposes.
Carrie Fisher's death on December 27, 2016 initially caused rewrites for this film to remove Leia altogether. Lucasfilm made it clear that they would not attempt to digitally recreate her likeness or performance like they did (with Fisher's approval) in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), most likely due to the mixed reception of said scene and those using Peter Cushing's likeness. However, in July 2018, J.J. Abrams confirmed that Fisher will appear in the film via unused footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), with the writers and editors coming up with a clever way to repurpose those scenes.
Though they are no longer the main characters, each film in the sequel trilogy was meant to showcase one of the main characters from the original trilogy. The Force Awakens focused on Han, The Last Jedi on Luke, and Episode IX will reportedly focus on Leia. This is actually not unlike the original trilogy, in which Luke interacts with a central character from the prequel trilogy. The original Star Wars focused on Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Empire Strikes Back on Yoda, and Return of the Jedi on the Emperor.
In May 2018, Billy Dee Williams starting sharing videos on social media of his new workout regimen. This was widely taken as a sign that he would appear in Episode IX, since Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher had started similar workouts prior to shooting Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2018). In July 2018, it was confirmed that Williams would indeed be returning as Lando Calrissian.
Theories suggesting that Mark Hamill would refuse to appear in Episode IX due to his initial disagreements with how Luke's story was handled by Rian Johnson in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), even though he was on contract for three appearances, he repeatedly explained that he changed his mind once he saw the full story. Hamill outright expressed excitement for Episode IX well ahead of the premiere of The Last Jedi and after the movie was released. The official casting announcement rendered this speculation completely moot, confirming he would in fact return.
Leia was supposed to have a major role in Episode IX since she would've been the sole surviving member of the original trio, but Fisher's death nixed that. In an interview from May 2017, Kathleen Kennedy has said that Leia would've been the most important supporting character in the film, similar to Han's role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Luke's role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). Though Fisher's death changed the content of this film substantially and is believed to have led to Colin Trevorrow's departure, she will still have a major role to play in Episode IX as Lucasfilm will be using archival footage from The Force Awakens to integrate her into the story.
Colin Trevorrow was originally intended to direct the film but "chose to leave" the project due to creative differences between him and Lucasfilm. Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, who worked together on Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) wrote the initial script, but by September 2017, J.J. Abrams replaced Trevorrow as the director and Chris Terrio joined Abrams to rewrite it.
After Luke Skywalker supposedly became one with the Force at the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), most fans still believed he would be appearing in Episode IX in some fashion. Rian Johnson explained that part of the reason why Luke passed on was apparently to give the character a greater amount of freedom with where his story was headed going forward. That same July, Disney and Lucasfilm announced the main cast list for Episode IX, which included Mark Hamill returning as Luke Skywalker.
Before Abrams was hired for another Star Wars film, Rian Johnson was also offered to direct after Colin Trevorrow left, but turned it down as he felt he needed time off between Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and his next project, Knives Out (2019).
Some fans theorized online that Richard E. Grant would be portraying Grand Admiral Thrawn given his facial resemblance to the character. Grant denied this in an interview, and leaked concept art of the actor dressed in First Order attire seemingly proves so. That doesn't mean Thrawn's appearance in the film is entirely off the table, however.
When Colin Trevorrow was attached as director during preproduction, he wanted to film some scenes in outer space itself. It is unknown whether J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm will follow through with this or not.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
George Lucas once stated that the entire Star Wars saga was told from the viewpoint of C-3PO and R2-D2. With the death of Han Solo, the supposed death of Luke Skywalker, and the possible death of Leia Organa following Carrie Fisher's passing, it now seems that these two characters will be the only ones to survive all nine films.
Disagreements between Colin Trevorrow and Lucasfilm over Episode IX's script drafts during the early stages of production led to them mutually going their separate ways. It was reported that Rian Johnson's take on Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) ruined Trevorrow's plans for Episode IX, as he wanted to use Luke Skywalker and Supreme Leader Snoke in some capacity. Due to both of those characters' unfortunate deaths in The Last Jedi, Trevorrow was unable to come up with a new story and was let go. Carrie Fisher's death, and the changes to the script that were necessitated as a result, are believed to be a part of these creative differences.
In the same vein of Rian Johnson asking J.J. Abrams to have R2-D2 come with Rey to find Luke at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), original director Colin Trevorrow asked Johnson to put something in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) that he would expand on in Episode IX. This was likely the Force-friendly child looking at the stars on Canto Bight in the final scene. However, this set-up will not likely receive its intended pay-off following the ousting of Trevorrow from the film, and the decision to overhaul the script as a result.