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All Star Wars Episode 9 rumors and spoilers leaked so far

Long before the Star Wars saga reached Episode IX, Lucasfilm made point of keeping spoilers from getting out. The company flat-out refused to reveal key plot details from The Force Awakens and Rogue One to toy makers at Hasbro, knowing that they would potentially ruin the movie. Members of the media have been made to hand over all electronic devices prior to press screenings, and attendees are strictly forbidden from revealing the location. The studio is already taking the same cautious approach to the upcoming Episode IX, much to the frustration of the many fans desperate for answers after Rian Johnson's highly divisive The Last Jedi.

Even the tightest of ships will spring leaks now and again, however, and it's always going to be nigh-on impossible to keep a vessel the size of Star Wars completely watertight. The ninth installment in the main saga (to be directed by the returning J.J. Abrams) isn't due to arrive until December 2019, but the rumors are already starting to trickle through. If you want to go into Episode IX completely spoiler free, this is your cue to leave. But if you can't resist the urge to find out what could possibly be in store for Rey, Finn, Poe and the galaxy at large, you're in the right place.

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Is Rey a Skywalker?

The first teaser for Episode IX dropped at Star Wars Celebration 2019, finally confirming the title: The Rise of Skywalker. The teaser is exactly that — it doesn't give much away in terms of plot, but it's full of cool callbacks to the original trilogy. We see Lando Calrissian flying the Millennium Falcon, and there's a shot of what appears to be Leia clutching the same medal given to Luke and Han in A New Hope, but what really got people talking was the title.

There are a few different theories about what The Rise of Skywalker could mean. The obvious assumption is that it's referring to Rey, who is addressed by Luke in a voiceover during the teaser. "We've passed on all we know," an offscreen Luke says. "A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight." Is this a fatherly pep talk we're hearing? The Last Jedseemingly confirmed that Rey is a nobody, but this apparently wasn't J.J. Abrams' original vision — according to his friend and collaborator Simon Pegg, Abrams once discussed giving Rey "a relevant lineage."

Pegg said that this idea had been "undone" by Rian Johnson's sequel, but it's just as easily un-undone. Some are now convinced that Abrams has gone ahead and retconned Rey's background. "Who else could be the titular Skywalker in the film's title if not the central hero of this trilogy, Rey herself?" Forbes senior contributor Erik Kain asked. "I can't piece it together any other way." Kain points out that he's against the retcon, as are many on Twitter.

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Return of the Hutts

Reddit is filled with so many wild and wonderful Star Wars "leaks" that the genuine ones can sometimes get lost in the noise. A user named 4LOM claims to have an inside track on Episode IX rumors via a colleague doing some visual effects work on the picture, and they've been sharing some pretty exciting rumors. There's no way to verify these claims, but if what 4LOM says is true, then the notorious Hutt Cartel is set to make a return. The Redditor (full name 4LOM-LucasfilmSpy) alleges that crime syndicates will play an important role in Episode IX as unlikely allies of the Resistance.

"The new Hutt is Jabba's son, I forget his name but it's name dropped when they bring up his title: ' — the Hutt, son of the mighty Jabba.'" 4LOM is of course referring to Rotta, who was kidnapped as part of a plot to discredit the Jedi Order during the Clone Wars. "Rose, Finn, and Poe work together as a trio, apparently their dynamic is solid and 'less cringe,' as my colleague described it. There is a dinner scene with the three heroes and the Hutt Cartel, it was described to me as something like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with lots of gross foods and a cool musical number in the background."

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More DJ double crossing?

He double-crossed Finn and Rose to save his own hide in The Last Jedi, but according to rumors from 4LOM, the burned Resistance members will have no choice but to trust Benicio del Toro's conniving DJ in Episode IX. "DJ is back and involved with the Hutts," the Redditor claims. "Finn and Rose are furious that DJ is involved, a lot of humor comes from their lack of trust for him. Poe sees him as a necessary evil. They are forced to leave early after the FO raids the Hutt hideout, and they leave blasters ablaze, with DJ in tow." The poster goes on to reveal that their colleague is involved with the creation of this sequence, and is apparently very proud of the way it has turned out. "It will feel extremely 'Star Warsian,' whatever that means," 4LOM added.

Judging from interviews that Del Toro has given regarding the character, it seems pretty clear that he's ready to step back into DJ's boots. "[He's] a good guy who's done some bad things, or a bad guy who's done some good things," the actor told RTE. "I like that. I like that you're still figuring it out. I like that you maybe want to know more about it, so do I. I think that he's all of the above."

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The next generation

A lot will have happened in Rey's life in the five years since we saw her last, at least according to FOOSLS. The Redditor claims that in the leaked Trevorrow storyboard, Daisy Ridley's character becomes a beacon of hope for all the Force users out there. As the movie progresses, she apparently gets drawn into a storyline that sounds a little more soap opera than space opera, complete with a love affair and a surprise baby reveal.

"Rey and Kylo still converse through the Force and can even manifest their whole presence in front of each other," the poster claims. "It is slowly revealed they secretly love each other. The big reveal in the film is that one of Rey's 'students' is actually her child, and Kylo becomes so enraged upon finding this that he nearly kills Rey, who is only saved last minute by Leia."

A potential future relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey was hinted at in the junior novelization of The Last Jedi, but would J.J. Abrams really go through with this? There will have no doubt been a series of rewrites since the Force Awakens helmer was drafted in to steady the ship, so it wouldn't be a surprise us if this rumored spoiler was the first to go — if it was even genuine to begin with.

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Waterworld

The storyboard that FOOSLS claims to have seen apparently went into great detail about a huge hidden planet that the First Order have been using as a giant war factory. It's an ocean world, but beneath its unbroken surface is a hidden door that leads to a colossal workshop manned by the enslaved peoples of countless other planets. To get there, this rumor suggests Finn, Rey and Poe need to enlist the help of a "young female alien prodigy" who apparently knows her way around the Unknown Regions.

"After a successful rescue of the girl, who is essentially a prisoner of the First Order, they discover a planet entirely comprised of an ocean," the owner of the FOOSLS account writes. "Beneath its waters is the secret to the First Order's unlimited resources, an ancient manufacturing station literally powered by the populations of conquered worlds of the Unknown Regions." FOOSLS' leaks go on to claim that the main plot of the movie will revolve around "liberating the captives before they are exterminated and exposing these horrors to the galaxy at large."

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A First Order mole

How do the heroes discover the location of this top secret watery slave planet? According to another rumored spoiler, there's a mole in the First Order, of course. FOOSLS goes on to claim that Domhnall Gleeson's sniveling General Hux will resort to feeding information to the Rebellion as part of his efforts to undermine Kylo Ren's rule and usurp him as head of the First Order. His brief attempt at putting himself forward as Supreme Leader in The Last Jedi was literally choked out of him by Ren, though this leak does seem to fit the bill — Hux clearly doesn't like the new boss and given what we've seen from him thus far, it seems unlikely that he'll give up on his ambitions that easily.

Finn, Rey and Poe are supposedly "tipped off by a mole inside the First Order promising that, if they follow their lead, they will discover the horrifying true nature of the First Order… At the end of the film it's revealed Hux is the mole and is trying to get the galaxy to revolt against Ren's empire and believes he can claim the throne after the fallout." He was utilized primarily for comedic value in The Last Jedi (something Gleeson relished), but Abrams is more likely to play it straight and dark with Hux, just like he did in The Force Awakens.

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Snoke will return

When Colin Trevorrow parted ways with Lucasfilm over so-called creative differences, stories regarding the real nature of his departure from Episode IX started to circulate online. One rumor making the rounds on Reddit (via FlickeringMyth) was that the director was fired after he argued with the studio over the deaths of Luke Skywalker and Supreme Leader Snoke, both of whom he apparently wanted to use in Episode IX. He lost that argument and his job, too. Trevorrow called it "a very acidic situation" when he later sat down with Uproxx, adding, "Sometimes creative people can't find a shared path through the woods."

In what would be a cruel twist of fate if all this is true, it look as though Trevorrow's replacement will get to use those characters after all. According to YouTuber and Star Wars superfan Mike Zeroh, a more recent storyboard has been leaked, and it apparently features Snoke. "[A] new description of storyboards involves Supreme Leader Snoke and a black-shaded figure I believe to be Kylo Ren," Zeroh said (via the Express). "That figure is holding a lightsaber in front of Snoke except the lightsaber is not complete."

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Back to Naboo

Quoting what he describes as "very credible" French website MakingStarWars as his source, Mike Zeroh recently revealed that Abrams might be planning on returning to the planet Naboo in Episode IX. There were already rumors that Naboo (birthplace of Luke and Leia's mother Padmé Amidala) would be where we'd see General Organa laid to rest, but some concept art supposedly seen by a MakingStarWars source featured the planet's pristine beaches and coastlines, not a funeral.

Of course, Leia is still alive in the story at the moment, though given the sad fact that Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016, most are assuming her character will be retired with some dignity pretty early on in Episode IX. Lucasfilm have already confirmed that they will not be rendering a digital version of Fisher and that she will not be appearing in Episode IX.

This doesn't mean that the Naboo story is a false leak, however. Abrams has previously stated that he wants to tie all three trilogies together in some way with this film, and a return to Naboo would be a nice link to the prequels. Also, Lucasfilm location scouts have apparently been spotted in Spain, which has doubled as Naboo in the past. As per usual, the original source here can be traced back to Reddit, but both MakingStarWars and Zeroh believe it to be genuine intel.    

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Has Poe Dameron been Force-sensitive all along?

Disney decided to clean house in a big way ahead of The Force Awakens, declaring that all Extended Universe materials were no longer considered Star Wars canon. The Mouse House then set about creating its own line of short stories, comics, and books to tie in with the new continuity, and one such release might just include a huge clue about a major Episode IX character. In Poe Dameron #27 (May 2018), a conversation Poe has with Rey and Finn seems to confirm that he's been unwittingly channeling the Force all this time.

Marvel's Poe Dameron comics overlap with J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens. #26 explained how Dameron survived that crash and filled us in on what he did between then and rescuing Rey and Finn from the First Order, but it was the following issue that really got readers talking. In it, Dameron admits that he's been able to tap into some kind of "energy" while flying, prompting both Rey and Leia to suggest he's been using the Force.

The seeds of this reveal were actually planted in the 2015 series Star Wars: Shattered Empire, according to CBR. It's in this prelude to The Force Awakens that we learn how Luke Skywalker gave remnants of The Great Tree (a natural conduit of the Force) to Dameron's parents, who used them to grow a new tree at home on Yavin 4. Dameron even mentions growing up around this tree, further foreshadowing a connection to the Force.

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Ewan McGregor 'secretly' filming scenes as Obi-Wan Kenobi?

You'll need to take this exciting Episode IX rumor with a large grain of Crait's finest surface salt, as it comes from an unverified source. According to the tabloid The Sun, Ewan McGregor has agreed to film scenes as Obi-Wan Kenobi for the upcoming trilogy-closer. The Scottish actor portrayed the Jedi Master in Episodes I through III and has already reprised the role in voiceover form under Disney, speaking directly to Rey during a Force vision in 2015's The Force Awakens. Returning director J.J. Abrams and Episode IX screenwriter Chris Terrio are rumored to be keen on uniting the three Star Wars trilogies with this movie, and Obi-Wan's involvement certainly lends to that.

On top of claiming that McGregor will appear in Episode IX in some shape or form, the tabloid also said Disney is now sweating over the planned Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone movie. "Ewan will secretly film for the next Star Wars movie," a source claims. "Disney have been mulling over a standalone film for Obi-Wan. There have been concerns about getting the story right." There have been mixed reports on just how concerned the studio is when it comes to these anthology movies. Collider reports that both the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett spin-offs could be put on indefinite hold following the disappointing performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

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Keri Russell is reportedly playing a brand new bounty hunter

Anyone who followed J.J. Abrams' cult college drama Felicity will already be familiar with Kerri Russell. The show didn't call for a whole lot of action (it followed Russell's Felicity Porter as she navigated the ups and downs of university life), but she's more than capable of doing the nitty gritty when needed. According to Variety's Justin Kroll, this was exactly why Abrams wanted Russell in Episode IX. "The role calls for action-heavy fight scenes," Kroll revealed in 2018. "Russell has shown her ability to perform tough stunts in projects like FX's The AmericansMission: Impossible, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Abrams and Lucasfilm execs met with several actresses for the role in the past two months and settled on Russell right before the Fourth of July holiday."

The name of Russell's character wasn't known at the time, but subsequent leaks have shed some light on her role. In March 2019, several merchandising images appeared online, including a brand new poster and a sheet of characters, complete with nametags. This was our first look at Naomi Ackie as Jannah, but there was another new character — a masked women named Zorii who appears to be a new bounty hunter. "The images give us a good look at Zorii," Making Star Wars said when it shared the leaked pictures. "Based on what my sources have described to me about Keri Russell's character, I can't see how it isn't the same character."

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How big a part will Lando Calrissian play?

For fans of the original trilogy, one of the biggest moments in the first Episode IX teaser trailer was seeing Lando Calrissian back in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Billy Dee Williams was reprising the role in July 2018, but details of Calrissian's part in The Rise of Skywalker were kept under wraps in the months that followed. Early rumors suggested that the charming smuggler would be playing a significant role in the saga closer, but that doesn't appear to be the case. While his daughter is rumored to be making an appearance, Calrissian himself isn't likely to feature very prominently, purely because J.J. Abrams has so much to squeeze in. "Lando's screentime in the movie will be on par with Admiral Ackbar's short scenes in The Force Awakens,Inverse predicts.

Williams kept the details of Calrissian's arc to himself at Star Wars Celebration 2019, but he was happy to defend his character's past actions. "He was up against Darth Vader, he had to figure out something," the actor said of his divisive betrayal of Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back (via Polygon). "Besides, did anybody die?" He makes a fair point, but this moment has always been a bone of contention among fans. Could Calrissian (who will apparently wear the same getup he wore when he first met Solo) be out to avenge his death as a way of finally making amends? Episode IX will tie up a number of loose ends, after all.

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Han Solo is alive in an alternate dimension

One of the craziest Episode IX rumors yet, the theory that Han Solo is alive is partly backed up by the novelization of The Force Awakens. The book was picked apart by Uproxx, and there's a big reveal about the Starkiller Base in there that has Harrison Ford fans speculating on an unlikely return. The book explained what the movie didn't — how the giant weapon is powered. The assumption was that it harnessed the power of the sun, but the truth is far more complicated.

"Turns out, it was never supposed to be powered by the sun," Uproxx's Donna Dickens reports. "Situated in one place, messing with science they didn't understand, the First Order was harvesting dark matter to power their weapon. As the matter congealed to be sucked into the core, the light was supposed to dim. Then, using more science they barely understood, they beamed the concentrated dark matter through the galaxy instead of across it. Basically, they were ripping holes in time/space."

Solo appeared to have been killed by his own son when we saw him last, but there's now a theoretical chance that he was sucked into an alternate timeline before he bled out. One fan who's excited at the prospect is Kevin Smith. "[if it] allows Lando to repeat his Empire Strikes Back line 'There's still a chance to save Han!' and get us back to that fateful bridge on Starkiller Base? Then I'll kiss J.J. on the mouth," he said.

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Abrams is bringing an old friend along for the ride

Being good friends with J.J. Abrams has allowed Greg Grunberg to become one of the handful of actors to have appeared in both the Star Trek and Star Wars universes. He was originally cast as an engineer named Olson in Abrams' 2009 Star Trek reboot, but had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. In the end he did some voiceover work on the film, and went on to appear as Commander Finnegan in the 2016 sequel, Star Trek Beyond. Star Wars fans will recognize Grunberg as Resistance pilot Tammin "Snap" Wexley from 2015's The Force Awakens, and judging from the actor's comments at Comic-Con 2018, he's reprising the role in Episode IX.

Grunberg (who has worked under Abrams almost exclusively throughout his career to date) was invited to the event in San Diego to act as moderator on the panel for From the Bridgea new documentary that explores the evolution of sci-fi, horror and comic book fandom. The majority of questions were for the panel of industry legends that had gathered to discuss the movie, but one fan decided to ask the moderator about a potential return to Star Wars in Episode IX, and Grunberg all but confirmed that Snap Wexley was back. "You know what, we'd better or else my wife is going to kill me for growing a beard," he replied. "I can't officially say anything, but this is getting itchy, and I'm getting itchy to go over there and do it."

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Returning, Yoda is?

Numerous disgruntled Star Wars fans made their disapproval of Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi known, but the one thing that everyone seemed to agree was done right was the surprise appearance from Yoda. The little green Jedi Master showed up as a Force Ghost to help troubled former student Luke Skywalker come to his senses and embrace his failures, a standout moment in the highly divisive eighth episode. Yoda was rendered in CGI for the prequel trilogy, but Johnson chose to go back to basics and brought in Frank Oz to operate a slightly updated Yoda puppet.

"We just felt that it was absolutely right and proper that we create the puppet in the closest likeness to the original and to give Frank exactly what he had the first time around," creature designer Neal Scanlan said (via CinemaBlend). Renowned puppeteer Oz (who provides Yoda's distinctive voice as well as his movements) could soon be adding Episode IX to his impressive résumé if a new report is to be believed.

According to the New York Daily News, a source with apparent knowledge of the production has revealed that J.J. Abrams is going to bring Force Ghost Yoda back. "The success of the scenes featuring Yoda in The Last Jedi were huge," the insider said. "Yoda will again appear as a ghost as he acknowledges Rey's success and growth as a Jedi."

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The end of Leia's story

Lucasfilm's original position on Carrie Fisher's inclusion in future Star Wars movies was pretty clear — she wouldn't be appearing in any. "Sadly, Carrie will not be in [Episode] IX," president Kathleen Kennedy told ABC (via Futurism) before the release of The Last Jedi. The idea that they could digitally render a version of Fisher like they did with Peter Cushing's Tarkin in Rogue One was quickly ruled out after execs met with Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd. All parties reportedly agreed that it would be disrespectful.

At the time, bringing Leia back with unused footage from The Last Jedi was also said to have been off the table, but things have shifted since then. We now have confirmation from the late actress' brother that Fisher will indeed be in Episode IX, with J.J. Abrams apparently set to use footage shot for both The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens. According to ABC's Clayton Sandell (who spoke to Todd Fisher on podcast The Resistance Broadcast), the family are very happy about what Abrams has planned.

"He's very excited, the whole family is really excited about this and wanted it to happen," Sandell said (via Star Wars News Net). "There are big surprises coming with this movie and with this performance and with this unused footage. This one's really for the fans, he says." Sandell confirmed that there's "a number of minutes" worth of footage from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi for Abrams to work with.

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Luke Skywalker's return

Luke Skywalker's death in The Last Jedi left a sour taste in the mouth for a number of Star Wars fans, but director Rian Johnson (who has defended his decision on social media) has indicated that we haven't seen the last of the Jedi master. Skywalker vanishes after helping Leia and what's left of the Resistance escape from Kylo Ren at the end of the movie, passing on peacefully. As The Last Jedi reminded us with the return of Yoda in Force Ghost form, this doesn't mean we'll never see him again.

"I don't know where the next movie is going to go," Johnson told Variety. "But it seemed like the potential of Luke crossing into [a] new realm, that offers exciting possibilities for the role he plays in the coming chapter… No one's ever really gone." According to Express sources, there are two sets being built for two separate scenes involving Mark Hamill. "This may well indicate that Luke will appear as a Force Ghost to Kylo Ren and Rey separately," the tabloid's insider said.

This could also mean nothing at all. At the moment, Skywalker's return as a Force Ghost, while likely, is unconfirmed. Hamill could well be filming Forceback visions, and there's even a theory that J.J. Abrams might decide to actually bring him back to life using a loophole created by George Lucas (an early draft of Return of the Jedi reveals that there's a way for Jedi to return from the netherworld of the Force).

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Rey's parents revealed?

When ThatHashtagShow reported that Disney wanted a female lead between the ages of 40 and 50 to play a character named Mara, many jumped to the conclusion that this was Rey's mother. The character (assumed to be Luke Skywalker's wife Mara Jade, introduced in Extended Universe novel Heir to the Empire) does seem to fit the bill, but now there's a fresh rumor about Rey's mom — and it's a real shocker.

According to this theory (posed by Film Threat), Rey's real mom and dad will be revealed as none other than Han Solo and Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) in Episode IX. We were introduced to Han's first love in Solo: A Star Wars Story, a movie that could apparently end up being all about Rey's parents. "Solo ended letting us know that Qi'ra has ties to the Dark Side," Film Threat's prediction goes. "Kylo Ren is the son of Leia, a mother of the Light Side. Qi'ra, a mother of the Dark Side, bore a Light Side daughter, Rey. It's the Force balancing itself."

Of course, if this theory turns out to be accurate, that means Han cheated on Leia and fathered a daughter with another woman. While this could actually explain a number of things (why Kylo Ren resented his dad so much and why he and Rey are connected through the Force, to name but a few), not everyone is buying it. As ScreenRant points out, "There's been nothing to indicate Han was unfaithful to Leia."

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Could Darth Vader make a shocking return?

The idea of Darth Vader returning to the big screen in Episode IX might seem ludicrous on the surface, but it seems Disney has been subtly paving the way for the heavy-breathing Sith Lord to play some part in the upcoming installment. After reading Marvel's Darth Vader comics (which chronicle the villain's first years working under the Emperor), ScreenRant noticed one small detail that could have actually been a huge moment of foreshadowing.

The ins and outs of becoming a Force Ghost have been up for discussion among Star Wars fans ever since Luke Skywalker passed on in controversial fashion at the end of The Last Jedi. The assumption was that returning as a Force Ghost was something only those in tune with the light side of the Force could do, but shouldn't the Sith have their own version of this phenomenon? Turns out they do, and it was explained in the pages of the Vader comic.

In the story in question, Vader is gifted a mask that once belonged to another powerful Sith called Darth Momin. Momin's "residue" was still attached to the artifact when Palpatine gave it to his third and final apprentice, who used it — long story — to help erect his castle on Mustafar. The forgotten Sith was able to influence others, and tell his story to Vader, via the mask. ScreenRant's prediction is that Vader will similarly influence proceedings in Episode IX, seeing as his grandson Kylo Ren is now in possession of Vader's half-melted mask.

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Ed Sheeran has reportedly filmed a cameo

The backlash that Ed Sheeran received following his Game of Thrones appearance ought to have put him off cameos for life, but if rumors circulating in the British press are to be believed, the award-winning singer-songwriter has filmed a scene for Episode IX. Sheeran abandoned his Twitter account after irate Game of Thrones fans told him exactly what they thought about him popping up as a Lannister soldier in the season 7 opener, but if he thinks Star Wars fans will be any more accommodating, he'd better think again.

Kelly Marie Tran quit Twitter and Instagram after a small but vocal minority of Star Wars fans trolled her relentlessly, showering her with abuse (some of it racial) because they hated her in The Last Jedi. Luckily for Sheeran, fans won't be able to spot his mystery scene in the upcoming Star Wars installment, because his famous red hair will be hidden — he's playing a stormtrooper. "I can reveal the world's most successful male singer has been seen suiting up for scenes to appear in Episode IX, which has been filming at Pinewood Studios since August," Dan Wootton, executive editor of The Sun, confirmed.

Sheeran won't be the first famous Englishman to don the iconic white uniform on the sly; Princes William and Harry were in The Last Jedi, though their scene only made the home version as an extra. According to London's Evening Standard, the royals were cut out of the final movie because they were too tall to be stormtroopers.

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John Boyega confirms a time jump?

In May 2018, a Redditor with an impressive track record when it comes to spoilers (they accurately predicted the casino sub-pot, Luke's disenchantment with the Force and Kylo Ren killing Snoke in The Last Jedi) claimed to have seen a "very early storyboard" for Episode IX. This alleged storyboard begins some five years after the events of The Last Jedi, and in that time, Kylo Ren has managed to hoodwink the entire galaxy.

"Kylo Ren's rule over the galaxy is seen by most as benevolent," FOOSLS claims. "Many within the Resistance itself are questioning why they should even be fighting." This post came hot on the heels of John Boyega teasing that Finn would have a new hairdo in Episode IX. "I can't wait to start shooting the next and final leg of the franchise," he told Yahoo (via Screen Rant). "The first step is growing out my hair, so you can wait for the trailer to see why."

This all but confirmed that we'll catch up with Finn and the surviving members of the Resistance sometime in the future, but will five years really have passed? Not according to Empire. "John Boyega has confirmed [Episode IX] takes place one year after the events of The Last Jedi," the magazine states in its official 2019 preview (via Star Wars Stuff). There's no direct quote from the actor, but the respected movie mag is reporting this as fact, so take from it what you will.

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Is Richard E. Grant playing Grand Admiral Thrawn?

Having previously appeared in Doctor WhoGame of Thrones, and Logan, veteran character actor Richard E. Grant already had some major fan cred when he was cast in Episode IX. As it turns out, he's a big Star Wars fanboy himself. The actor opened up about the moment J.J. Abrams told him he'd be part of the final chapter in the Skywalker saga while a guest on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. "J.J. was sitting with Daisy Ridley and said, 'Hey! Great. Come in. So you're gonna do it?' and I said, 'Do what?' And at this point the room went upside down, and I'm sure he was telling me in detail what part I was playing and what the character is called — I have no memory of that whatsoever," Grant said (via SyFy). "They kept saying, 'So you are gonna do this, aren't you?' and I said, 'Of course I'm gonna do this.'"

Fans started guessing who Grant was playing the moment his casting was announced. The most popular theory was that he'd be appearing as Grand Admiral Thrawn (a popular villain reintroduced into Star Wars canon in the third season of Star Wars Rebels), but Grant outright debunked that rumor when Radio Times quizzed him about it. "I'm not playing the Star Wars character you just mentioned," he said. Radio Times got back in touch with Grant after his surprise Oscar nomination, and he appeared to confirm that he's playing a brand new character. "The character is just mine," he said.

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Leaked concept art reveals potential plot details

In February 2019, a big batch of Episode IX concept art leaked online, creating excitement and doubt in equal measure. Disney has been keeping its Star Wars cards close to its chest, so the authenticity of these revealing images was immediately questioned, but they do appear to be genuine. When principal photography on the movie finished, director J.J. Abrams shared an image of his three stars in an emotional embrace, and in doing so he seemed to prove the leaked concept art was legit.

The photo featured Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac hugging. Boyega's outfit was obscured, but both Ridley and Isaac are clearly wearing the same getups their characters are wearing in the concept art. So if this leak is the real deal, what else can it tell us about Episode IX? The big finale will seemingly do what every Star Wars film does and try to recreate the iconic cantina scene from the first movie, because there's a host of new aliens included in the art, some in brightly-colored, fancy-looking robes. There's also a new droid, which will reportedly annoy BB-8 throughout Episode IX.

The biggest reveal here is Kylo Ren's repaired helmet. MakingStarWars claimed that Ren would be wearing a re-forged version of his Vader-inspired mask in November 2018, and the concept art backs this up. Sources told the website that it "looked like the mask was pieced back together using some kind of red crystalline bonding material," which totally tallies with the leaked images.

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Shareholder footage hints at Vader's involvement

Disney's annual shareholder meeting took place in March 2019. Episode IX had only just entered the editing phase, so there wasn't a trailer ready for the event. Not wanting to miss out on a chance to show the big wigs what he's been doing, director J.J. Abrams threw something together, and this short reel reportedly contained a number of hints about the plot of the upcoming movie. Sadly, it wasn't released online, but that didn't stop some of those lucky enough to have been in attendance from sharing what they had seen on social media.

The footage "looked great" according to Scott Ladewig, who confirmed that one of the shots was of "Kylo Ren in a white room looking at the Vader helmet." The reaction to the reel continued over on Reddit, where a second poster claimed that Vader's famous mask featured prominently. "Episode IX footage included quick shots of all the main characters: Poe, Finn, Rey, then Kylo looking down and then we see he is looking at a container of some kind opening to reveal it has Vader's helmet inside," the insider said (via Cosmic Book News). "Rey says, 'It's too dangerous, I'm going alone.' Poe then says, 'We're going together.'"

Billy Dee Williams' Lando Calrissian also popped up in the footage, though only briefly. Leaked concept art suggests that Han's old buddy will be back in his trademark cape and a jazzy yellow shirt, though his level of involvement in terms of plot remains unknown.

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Is Matt Smith in the movie, or not?

Variety rarely gets it wrong, but when the outlet exclusively revealed that Matt Smith had been cast in a "key role" for Episode IX, it may have jumped the gun somewhat. In August 2018, sources told the Hollywood trade that Smith had signed on to appear in the final installment of the Skywalker saga, though the one person with ultimate authority on the topic has since debunked that. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in March 2019Smith himself confirmed that he wasn't in Episode IX.

"As far as I can tell, I'm definitely not," the actor told movie journalist Emily Zemler. This seems pretty cut and dry at first glance, but a number of fans were quick to point out the language Smith used. What did he mean when he said "as far as I can tell," and why did it take him so long to quash the story? When Zemler took to social media following the publication of her interview with the actor, she suggested that he could have been contractually obliged to tell little white lies.

"Very much enjoying everyone freaking out that Matt Smith told me he's not in Star Wars," she tweeted. "The studio never announced him being in it so it's totally possible that was just a rumor. But also possible he wasn't allowed to tell me." In another tweet, the reporter said that "maybe we'll be surprised by his secret keeping in December," which is when the movie will premiere.

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Is Skywalker more than a name?

The most popular rumor that's popped up following the release of the first teaser for The Rise of Skywalker argues that the title of the movie isn't referring to Rey, or any single character. A number of people now believe that the word Skywalker will become a term used to describe members of a brand new order, one that is at peace with both sides of the Force. "These people, from Rey to Kylo Ren, to that little stable boy with the broom at the end of The Last Jedi, will not be Jedi or Sith," Inverse theorized. "They will be Skywalkers."

Snippets of dialogue from The Last Jedi potentially support this theory, as do some comments made by The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams. "This movie is about the new generation," Abrams told fans at Star Wars Celebration 2019. "What they've inherited, the light and the dark, and ask the question about facing the greatest evil: are they ready?" In the previous installment, a conversation between Luke and Yoda indicates that Rey is on course to become something bigger than both of them. "We are what they grow beyond," Yoda tells his former pupil. "That is the true burden of all masters."

This explanation makes sense when you think about it in relation to Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith, as Polygon was quick to point out. "The trilogy-capping films follow an interesting trend: the Sith get 'revenge,' the Jedi 'return,' and now Skywalker 'rise.'"

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The Emperor Strikes Back

Despite being thrown to what we thought was certain death by a remorseful Anakin Skywalker in 1983's Return of the Jedi, Emperor Palpatine (a.k.a. Darth Sidious) lives. At least, that's what Abrams seemed to suggest with the first Episode IX teaser. The footage ends with a shot of some Death Star wreckage and Palpatine's unmistakable cackle, implying that our heroes will face off against the powerful Sith in The Rise of Skywalker. As if to confirm this was the case, Palpatine actor Ian McDiarmid appeared onstage at Star Wars Celebration 2019 during the teaser reveal. But how will Abrams explain his way out of this one?

Theory crafters already have a few different ideas. MovieWeb reminded readers that Palpatine discussed the work of Darth Plagueis (a Sith "so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life") at length in the prequels, then suggested that the Emperor might use a loophole introduced in Star Wars Rebels. "The World Between Worlds in the hidden Jedi Temple on Lothal was something Palpatine sought to manipulate as he could travel through time by using the Force."

Elsewhere, IGN believes that Abrams might actually be taking some inspiration from an Expanded Universe comic. In Dark Empire, Palpatine resurrects himself several times via clones, transferring his spirit to different bodies. "Through Snoke, Palpatine may have been grooming Ben Solo to achieve his full potential and become a worthy host body for a true dark Lord of the Sith."

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Lando Calrissian's secret daughter

When little-known British actress Naomi Ackie joined the cast of Episode IX, fans jumped to conclusions over her character. That Hashtag Show (via Star Wars News Net) had previously claimed that casting director Nina Gold was looking for an "ethnic female" between the ages of 18 and 26 to play someone called Caro, described by the website's source as a "leader and problem solver, smart with a great sense of humor and a strong will." Most of us assumed Ackie was playing this Caro, but we were wrong.

Ackie attended Star Wars Celebration 2019, where it was revealed that her character actually goes by the name Jannah. "The original group are going on this epic, epic adventure together and I'm so excited about where Jannah crosses paths with them," Ackie told the audience (via IGN). A photo of Ackie in action was also released, but the award-winning talent remained tight-lipped over Jannah's parentage.

Ever since rumors started to appear that Gold and Abrams were on the hunt for an ethnic actress (preferably an African-American one, reports suggested), some fans have been convinced that this will turn out to be Lando Calrissian's daughter. Ackie was asked about this during her appearance at Celebration 2019, and her noncommittal answer only served to fuel rumors that she's a Calrissian. In fact, judging by her comments, she could be one of many. "Lando is a very charming man, so he could have children all over the universe, that's all I'm saying," she laughed.

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Kylo Ren will face the Emperor in the big finale

The first teaser for The Rise of Skywalker gave theorists plenty to work with. Now that the Emperor's involvement has been confirmed, it's safe to assume that he'll be involved in the film's final battle. Who, where, and how he'll be battling we don't know for sure, but according to Making Star Wars editor Jason Ward, there's a huge rumor doing the rounds that pits Kylo Ren against Palpatine — in the form of Matt Smith.

The British actor has been telling journalists that he isn't in Episode IX, but that's contrary to reports. Even international Disney websites are listing the former Doctor Who star among the cast, and Jason Ward believes that he'll play a critical role. "A really solid source over the years passed on something they heard internally," Ward reported. "The rumor is that Matt Smith isn't Palpatine reborn or rejuvenated, but a dark side acolyte… During the final act of the film Rey and Kylo team up to fight the Palpatine possessed Matt Smith."

Ward's inside source claims that Kylo Ren gets possessed by the Emperor after killing his host body, leading to a moment of redemption. The tormented son of Han Solo and Leia Organa has enough light left in him to lay down his arms so Rey can finish the job, becoming Ben Solo again in his final moments. With Kylo Ren dead (and Rey too pure for the Emperor to possess), the fight is won.