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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.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

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

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1:30PM on 11/20/2013
So I heard Threepio was asking for more money and they'll replace him with IG-88 as R2's sidekick. Abrams quoted,"We need to work with a less demanding actor and someone with more personality."
So I heard Threepio was asking for more money and they'll replace him with IG-88 as R2's sidekick. Abrams quoted,"We need to work with a less demanding actor and someone with more personality."
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11:38AM on 11/20/2013
So, what's the real news here?
So, what's the real news here?
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7:25AM on 11/20/2013

LADIES AND GENTLEMAN.... THE FIRST LENSE FLARE

It's subtle, but yes, it's right there between STAR and WARS.

And congratulations to R2D2 for landing the role. Sometimes weathered actors get replaced but I'm glad to see the old guy still has it and beat out many droids to get the coveted role. Beepbopwhistlebeep!
It's subtle, but yes, it's right there between STAR and WARS.

And congratulations to R2D2 for landing the role. Sometimes weathered actors get replaced but I'm glad to see the old guy still has it and beat out many droids to get the coveted role. Beepbopwhistlebeep!
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3:28AM on 11/20/2013

Beneath The Dome

I know this is a little off topic, but if any the Star Wars fans on this site, have the chance to see this little Mockumentary, I do recommend. I originally bought the dvd for $1, from Tower Records when they were going out of business.
[link]

From the DVD;
"For the first time on DVD, the complete R2-D2: Beneath the Dome Mockumentary lifts the lid of silence and explores the never-before-told history of the real star of the Star Wars saga... Artoo Detoo. Learn about his humble roots in
I know this is a little off topic, but if any the Star Wars fans on this site, have the chance to see this little Mockumentary, I do recommend. I originally bought the dvd for $1, from Tower Records when they were going out of business.
[link]

From the DVD;
"For the first time on DVD, the complete R2-D2: Beneath the Dome Mockumentary lifts the lid of silence and explores the never-before-told history of the real star of the Star Wars saga... Artoo Detoo. Learn about his humble roots in rural England, his unyielding hunger for fame, and how his determination overcame a Hollywood that had long discriminated against Droids. Told in three parts, the documentary unearths never-before-seen footage and interviews to tell the story. Featuring George Lucas, Samual L. Jackson, Francis Ford Coppola, and more, R2-D2: Beneath the Dome will bring smiles and laughter to your galaxy."
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2:01AM on 11/20/2013

WHO CARES?

was there ONE person on the planet that didnt expect R2D2 to be in this one? So far I'm guessing that Chewbacca will also be back as will C-3Po (even if it isn't Anthony Daniels playing him) R2D2 was a NO BRAINER.... of course he'd be there....
was there ONE person on the planet that didnt expect R2D2 to be in this one? So far I'm guessing that Chewbacca will also be back as will C-3Po (even if it isn't Anthony Daniels playing him) R2D2 was a NO BRAINER.... of course he'd be there....
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1:35AM on 11/20/2013

Nope.

I don't like returning any characters. It's a big galaxy. I hate everyone bumping into each other like it was Mayberry.
I don't like returning any characters. It's a big galaxy. I hate everyone bumping into each other like it was Mayberry.
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9:10PM on 11/19/2013
3PO and R2 are great comic relief. My fav part of ep 1 is when these two make fun of Jar Jar, you know a character is terrible when the series recipient of many jokes and disrespect ,3PO, does mocking of his own.
3PO and R2 are great comic relief. My fav part of ep 1 is when these two make fun of Jar Jar, you know a character is terrible when the series recipient of many jokes and disrespect ,3PO, does mocking of his own.
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8:50PM on 11/19/2013
Did Samuel L Jackson confirm this casting?!?!?!
Did Samuel L Jackson confirm this casting?!?!?!
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+22
8:47PM on 11/19/2013
Good news, R2D2 is a pretty solid actor and I like seeing him still get work.
Good news, R2D2 is a pretty solid actor and I like seeing him still get work.
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11:41PM on 11/19/2013
I feel like he has really been typecast over the past 25 years.
I feel like he has really been typecast over the past 25 years.
12:06AM on 11/20/2013
There's a documentary which chronicles his career and private life: [link]
There's a documentary which chronicles his career and private life: [link]
8:41PM on 11/19/2013
Always love hearing instances of "promoted fanboys" in the movie business, particularly with something like Star Wars which has had such an influence on many would-be filmmmakers. Congratulations to both Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples!
Always love hearing instances of "promoted fanboys" in the movie business, particularly with something like Star Wars which has had such an influence on many would-be filmmmakers. Congratulations to both Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples!
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8:17PM on 11/19/2013
I like the fact that they are definitely bringing him back. I think most of us figured he would return but it's good to hear for certain. I just hope they bring back C3PO also otherwise it will just feel like something is missing.
I like the fact that they are definitely bringing him back. I think most of us figured he would return but it's good to hear for certain. I just hope they bring back C3PO also otherwise it will just feel like something is missing.
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8:10PM on 11/19/2013

Non-Story but still good news

R2 always brings a smile to my face and is probably my favorite character that spans the entire 6 films. While this isn't a surprise it is good to know and kind of cool that the first cast member announced was R2.
R2 always brings a smile to my face and is probably my favorite character that spans the entire 6 films. While this isn't a surprise it is good to know and kind of cool that the first cast member announced was R2.
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6:57PM on 11/19/2013
Great news. But please..."No loose wire jokes."
Great news. But please..."No loose wire jokes."
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