Should You Believe the Benedict Cumberbatch Star Wars Rumors?

This is ForceWatch, your as-needed check-in with the upcoming Star Wars reboot, including but not limited to Star Wars Episode VII. Full disclosure: Disney owns Grantland, and the rest of the universe.

Before we dig into the Big Star Wars Rumor of the Week, let’s get up to speed with all the pretty much debunked casting rumors I DIDN’T bother to reprint:

July 24: Zac Efron and Ryan Gosling in talks for roles. (Latino Review)

August 14: Emperor Palpatine (possibly played by Ian McDiarmid) will return as a villain. (Hey, we never saw him actually die after falling down that reactor shaft in Jedi!) (Latino Review)

August 16: Ewan McGregor will play the see-through blue ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Latino Review)

August 28: Rachel Hurd-Wood and Alex Pettyfer in talks for roles. (Latino Review)

By the beard of Guinness, I think I see a pattern! Now, you may be asking yourselves, “What is Latino Review, and why is every geek blog in the galaxy reprinting its rumors, no questions asked?” Well, way back in May, in those naive days when we were hungry for just about any morsel of Star Wars casting intel, Latino Review was the site that delivered our first more or less confirmed tip that Harrison Ford would return as Han Solo in Episode VII. This was paired with a somewhat foggy, “nothing official, but it will probably happen” half-confirmation from Ford himself. Lucasfilm has waffled all summer on giving us an actual confirmation from the top, but as of right now it seems likely that Ford, as well as Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, will return, if briefly, as their original Star Wars characters.

So Latino Review knew something, or had some kind of inside line on the early stages of Episode VII pre-production. And it has taken that trust and made a veritable cottage industry out of it, spitting out a new alleged casting prospects on a nearly biweekly basis that lights up the nerdiverse for about a week, fails to get confirmed by any reps or producers, and then fizzles out of the conversation. Hey, yours truly went for its Jonathan Rhys Meyers rumor in late May! Nobody is immune!

I’m not here to accuse Latino Review of making up stuff to get page views (seriously! I’m not!); come 2015 we could very well be watching Gosling, Efron, and Pettyfer as the hottest Jedi gang in the New Republic, watched over by their aged-to-perfection guardian Obi-Wan McGregor. It would certainly get the heterosexual ladies into the theater, I’ll give the notion that much. But I’m at the point now when I’ll believe something once it comes from the trades, preferably in the form of an official release from Lucasfilm, Bad Robot, or Disney. We were supposed to get some substantial info at the Star Wars Celebration in Germany and the D23 Expo in Anaheim, but neither geek hotbed produced anything of note (beyond an official confirmation of the previously reported news that John Williams would be doing the score).

Which brings us to the Benedict Cumberbatch situation.

Unlike the aforementioned rumors, this one comes to us from FilmChronicles, which has not typically been in the rumors and conjecture game, so, as Sandy Schaefer at Screen Rant points out, it must be feeling pretty confident about whatever tip it’s got. (The site didn’t even use the word “rumor” in its headline! “Benedict Cumberbatch IS in Star Wars VII”!) Within 24 hours the report/rumor/whatever was immediately disseminated across every social media network and Friendster wall so even if you don’t care about Star Wars and have never heard of a Butterbrunch Camerasatchel you have probably heard this news by now, and those of you who do care/know all nodded sagely and went “Ohh. Hmm. Makes sense. He dropped out of that Guillermo del Toro movie, and he has definitely met J.J. Abrams at some point in his life. Oh, and he’s probably still ripped.” Of course, Badass Digest stepped in and gussied up the report with some conjecture about Cumberbatch’s role as a Sith villain, but once people start talking about actual plot points and characters I start to tune out; with nothing so much as a logline to work with yet, it generally sounds a little too fan-ficky for me (and that’s saying something.) Am I jaded? Yes, very! Do I think Abrams is purposefully leaking false info to throw possibly the most pathologically obsessed fan base on the Internet off the scent so he can toil away in his mystery box in peace? I have zero doubt!

Meanwhile, everyone keeps saying Lucasfilm is due to release a big, official announcement about … something … soon … but we’ve fallen for this one before, too. So let’s all do a quick perspective check: This is Star Wars, not Syria; Lucasfilm has absolutely no obligation to keep us abreast of what color Zac Efron’s lightsaber is going to be (orange!); and Abrams is going to actively try to keep us in the dark as long as possible while he works on his mystery pop-up book. So let’s talk about cinematography instead!

[Note: Immediately before post time Cumberbatch's people denied the report. Which obviously means nothing, because everything is a lie all the time.]

Other bleeps and bloops from the semi-recent past:

Gilbert Taylor, the cinematographer for A New Hope (as well as Dr. StrangeloveA Hard Day’s Night, and a few other movies you probably love), died on August 23 at the ripe old age of 99. I like to think that the guy who said he was “most happy to be remembered as the man who set the look for Star Wars would have been pleased to learn that the Star Wars saga will be making its return to Kodak film stock for Episode VII. Abrams’s Star Trek cinematographer Dan Mindel will be director of photography for the film, and during a talk at the ASC Clubhouse a couple of weeks ago he revealed his plan to return to film (Kodak 5219!) for the sequel. A website called Boba Fett Fan Club was the first to report this story, basically justifying the invention of the Internet in one blog post.

ForceMeter: 7.2 (Twin sun lens flares)

Filed Under: Benedict Cumberbatch, Disney, Forcewatch, J.J. Abrams, Star Wars

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Emily Yoshida is an editor at Grantland.

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