‘The Empire Strikes Back’ Live Read Casts J.K. Simmons as Darth Vader, Aaron Paul as Luke Skywalker
For those unfamiliar, director Jason Reitman puts on live reads of famous movie scripts, re-casting the roles with different actors, which often leads to interesting versions of familiar characters and stories. And while he typically sticks to films that are more character-driven and dialogue-oriented, Reitman’s next live read event has to do with something a bit more topical in pop culture: a live read of ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,’ which has just revealed several of its first cast members.
EW initially ran the story on Reitman’s live read of ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ which features comments from Reitman along with the reveal of the first batch of cast members. J.K. Simmons, who is currently garnering acclaim for his recent role in ‘Whiplash’ (and may very well get nominated for an Oscar), will play the role of the villainous Darth Vader. Aaron Paul of ‘Breaking Bad’ fame will play Luke Skywalker, which, as Reitman has noted, should bring some different shades to the character:
The first thing I had to figure out was who is going to be the voice of Luke. My first instinct was, ‘Who is the actor most like Mark Hamill today?’ But five minutes into that, I’m thinking we already have that, we already have Star Wars as it is. What is the opposite of that? … Jesse from Breaking Bad questions authority in a much different way than Luke Skywalker does. He growls at it, and his annoyance at his journey will be unique from the traditional boy-to-man transition.
Of Simmons’ casting as Darth Vader, Reitman says:
He has to be able to be fatherly and evil simultaneously, and no one has explored that idea more than J.K. Simmons in Whiplash. Darth Vader is someone who has it within him to cut his own son’s hand off, but not send his son to his death.
The rest of the cast is as follows: Stephen Merchant as C-3P0, Kevin Pollack as Yoda, and Dennis Haysbert as Lando Calrissian. These are all inspired choices—Merchant’s dry British wit and penchant for cringe-humor should take C-3P0 from a neurotic robot into more comedic territory, while Haysbert’s signature deep voice will keep Lando smooth and charismatic. Pollack’s casting as Yoda makes sense, given that it’s a fun part for someone like Pollack, who’s great at imitations and playing with his voice.
The ‘Empire Strikes Back’ live read will take place this Thursday, December 18 at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. You can purchase tickets from the official LACMA site.