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Lucasfilm makes their first casting announcement for Star Wars: Episode VII...and it's a droid

11.19.2013

Well, it may not be for Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia or their (likely) offspring for the much-anticipated sequel, but one of the "characters" who has appeared in all of the Star Wars films will be returning for the next one. R2-D2, the famed blue and white astromech droid that has piloted ships with Luke Skywalker, Padme Amidala, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, will bring his toots and bleeps back from STAR WARS: EPISODE VII for director J.J. Abrams. Last week a photo was released of Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy standing with the 'bot and today Lucasfilm sent out a press release outlining the droid's involvement in the film, as well as details about who his new creators will be (hint: they're the mysterious guys in the photo below).

Read on:

Meet Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, Star Wars fans and members of the worldwide R2-D2 Builders Club. They create fully functioning, film-accurate astromech droids like the R2-D2 seen in the photo, and they’re officially part of the Creature Effects team for Star Wars: Episode VII. They didn’t apply for their jobs, but still had what is probably the best reference one could hope for.

“It all started when Kathleen Kennedy toured the R2-D2 Builders area at Celebration Europe this past summer in Germany,” says Steeples, who finished his first R2-D2 in 2007, after 10 years of collecting parts and researching. “She posed for pictures with us, looked at all the droids we’d built and was very complimentary. I mentioned that the R2-D2 Builders in the UK were available if required, as a semi-joke. When I was contacted to work on the film by [executive producer] Jason McGatlin, it was on her recommendation.”

Steeples, from Berkshire, England, and Towersey, from Middlesex, England, are working full-time on Star Wars: Episode VII at Pinewood Studios (where the Twitter photo was taken), focusing solely on astromech-building — for now. Keeping an astromech droid in working condition throughout the production of a film is a challenge, as it’s filled with gears, lights, and electronics; Steeples and Towersey were chosen because of their expertise and experience, both having worked on Star Wars­-themed commercials for the UK appliances megastore Curry’s. “We know the pressures of filming, prepping, and being able to assure reliability throughout the shoot,” says Towersey, who built the droid seen in the tweet. “We have a good knowledge of Artoo, with a large stock of parts for reference and drawings, plus we know what is involved throughout the whole building process, as well as potential problems we need to avoid.” Despite their impressive understanding of how to construct an astromech droid and keep it functioning, Steeples and Towersey still have a goal for Star Wars: Episode VII: to build a better R2-D2.

“What we do need to do is improve on the mechanics,” says Towersey. “We’re currently in a research and design phase where we’re looking at drive options for reliability on all possible terrains, whether it be a one-motor-does-all, or a system which is easily adjusted depending on terrain. We have a few mocked up ideas which we hope to road test very soon.” And while they’re now on the inside of Star Wars moviemaking, the two remain fans at heart.

“It’s fascinating to see the whole process of filmmaking as Star Wars: Episode VII grows around us,” says Towersey. “I feel very privileged to be in the working environment I’m in at the moment. It’s something I will never take for granted.”

“It’s a dream come true,” adds Steeples, “and I hope I can live up to the expectations of the thousands of R2-D2 Builders around the world, let alone the millions of Star Wars fans.”

I guess this is a little bit like "non news" as we all kind of expected R2 to return to the Star Wars universe. He's always been the connecting "recorder" of the various players through generations of galaxy-trotting jedi's, bounty hunters, and galactic royalty. It would be a true shame if he wasn't in the film, really, so I suppose this is simply a good confirmation that the little persnickety droid will be there for the next generation.

STAR WARS: EPISODE VII hits theaters on December 12, 2015.

Extra Tidbit: Are you for or against having R2D2 back for another set of films?
Source: Lucasfilm

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