Without the "Star Wars" franchise's original stars, the new cinematic chapter might not feel like the event that it's become.
Daisy Ridley and John Boyega have helped inspire fanatics to dissect every detail in "The Force Awakens" trailers released at the "Star Wars" Celebration event in April, on Instagram in August, and during halftime of Monday night's NFL game. The dearth of footage of Ridley and Boyega's (currently) more famous co-stars, Lupita Nyong'o and Oscar Isaac, has kept fans breathlessly guessing. But the stars of the original trilogy have been enrapturing fans for decades.
With that, TODAY.com takes a closer look at the living A-listers from "Star Wars: A New Hope," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi," then and now.
Harrison Ford (Han Solo)
Now: Appearing in the latest "Star Wars" trailer and delivering dramatic exposition. "It's true, all of it," the Academy Award-nominated actor, 73, says. "The Dark Side, the Jedi: they're real."
Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia)
Then: Leading the charge against the Dark Side and sparring with Han in delightful will-they-or-won't-they fashion.
Now: Celebrating her 59th birthday Wednesday, and making a split-second cameo in the new trailer.
Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker)
Then: Using "the Force," per the insistence of Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by the late, great Alec Guinness).
Now: Being coy, for the moment. Hamill, 64, is nowhere to be found in the latest "Star Wars" trailer, unless he's obscured and/or hidden beneath one of the movie's elaborate costumes. Since he's reportedly a cast member in the new installment, it looks like we'll have to wait until the film's release to see how Luke ties into the plot.
James Earl Jones (Voice of Darth Vader)
Then: Voicing perhaps the most iconic cinematic villain of all time. (Note: Dave Prowse, below, embodied the character in the literal sense, filling the head-to-toe Vader costume on the set of the original trilogy.)
Now: Moving on, perhaps? Vader's "Episode VII" role is unclear. The resonant baritone of the 84-year-old Jones, an honorary Oscar winner, isn't featured in the full trailer, which zooms in on a destroyed Vader mask. (More definitive is the absence of the 80-year-old Prowse, who has stated he will not appear in the new installment.)
Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian, who first appears in "The Empire Strikes Back")
Then: Pranking Han when they're reunited, then giving him a hug, Leia a hand-kiss, and movie-watchers some smooth and illustrative back story.
Now: Waiting for a call, it appears. The trailer and new movie appear to be Lando-less, but the actor, 78, hinted earlier this year that he might make a cameo before the new trilogy comes to a close.
Frank Oz (Voice of Yoda, who first appears in "The Empire Strikes Back")
Then: Being a fount of wisdom to Luke, e.g. "Do or do not; there is no try."
Now: Perplexing fans, he is. New info about the 71-year-old actor-director's potential role, there is not.
Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)
Then: Aligning himself with Han and repeatedly shouting something to the effect of "Ungghgluhhh!"
Now: Grunting! Again! Everyone's favorite Wookkie, Mayhew, 71, is back, and still by Han's side (at the 1:47 mark of the full trailer) — but there's no word just yet on whether Chewy will sink his teeth into any Oscar-caliber monologues.
Anthony Daniels (C-3PO)
Then: Winning the gold medal for being the galaxy's most neurotic robot. (There was no silver medalist, although Threepio, itself, has a lovely bronze.)
Now: Flailing in new ways, we're guessing. Daniels, 69, not only confirmed he's on board for the latest adventure, but continued to play the character in full costume, albeit a more comfortable version thereof this time around.
Kenny Baker (R2-D2)
Then: Beeping (like, a lot), often while in the company of C-3PO.
Now: Beeping again, probably. According to IMDb, the 81-year-old Baker is back for the new film, and his character gets a pat on the dome from a mysterious figure at the 1:39 mark of the full trailer.
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