On October 9 Disney released its long-awaited first full trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” after much anticipation (watch it above). The new trailer gives us new glimpses at characters who were introduced in “The Force Awakens” in 2015 — Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) — and we also get to see more of two of the legends of the franchise, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and General Leia (Carrie Fisher). Could those two veterans potentially even earn Oscar nominations? They would be the first “Star Wars” cast members to do so since Alec Guinness played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original 1977 film. That’s a 40-year drought.
It may seem like a pipe dream for Oscar-watching “Star Wars” fans to see it secure acting bids when the franchise has never been very popular with the actors branch of the academy, and with just the trailer to go by we can’t judge for sure what kind of material both actors are given. But that also means we can’t rule them out. And there are reasons to believe the timing is right.
Fisher died in December 2016 after she finished filming what would be her final appearance in the franchise. Industry awards voters aren’t always sentimental — Fisher lost her posthumous Emmy nomination for “Catastrophe” in September — but Oscar recognition for recently deceased stars is not unprecedented. Consider the wins for Peter Finch (Best Actor for “Network,” 1977) and Heath Ledger (Best Supporting Actor, “The Dark Knight,” 2009), or the nominations for Ralph Richardson (Best Supporting Actor, “Greystoke,” 1985) and Massimo Troisi (Best Actor, “Il Postino,” 1996).
As for Hamill, there was some Oscar chatter for him generated earlier this year by J.J. Abrams, who directed “The Force Awakens” and executive produces “The Last Jedi” (Rian Johnson is the director behind this installment). Oscar voters love veterans in the Best Supporting Actor category, especially veterans who are considered overdue, as Hamill might be after creating one of the most iconic roles in cinema history. That’s reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone, who reprised his classic role as Rocky Balboa in the 2015 film “Creed” and earned his first Oscar nomination in almost four decades.
And though science-fiction has never been a favorite genre of the motion picture academy — no such film has ever won Best Picture — sci-fi films are being welcomed more than they have in the past. Case in point: the recent acting bids for Sandra Bullock (Best Actress, “Gravity,” 2014) and Matt Damon (Best Actor, “The Martian,” 2016), plus the Best Picture bids for “The Martian” (2016), “Mad Max; Fury Road” (2016), and “Arrival” (2017).
Finally, “Star Wars” has itself been on an upswing. “The Force Awakens” earned five nominations in below-the-line categories, which was more nominations than any “Star Wars” film since the original won six prizes out of 10 bids (plus one special achievement award for sound effects). The 2016 prequel “Rogue One” only had two nominations, but it was a standalone film and not part of this continuous storyline.
What do you think? Does the trailer make “The Last Jedi” look like a potential Oscar winner to you?
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