Star Wars fans are still waiting for this December’s The Last Jedi to reach theaters, but Lucasfilm is already in the stages of planning Star Wars: Episode IX and aim to start rolling the cameras on that film in January 2018. It seems like only yesterday moviegoers were impatiently counting down the days until 2015’s The Force Awakens opened at the multiplex, and now the saga’s sequel trilogy is moving along at lightspeed. The marketing blitz has only just begun for Episode VIII, with the unveiling of the teaser trailer last month and a bevy of new information included in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Chief among today’s reveals are photos of the cast and crew, as well as details about returning and new characters.

All of this will help the seven months until The Last Jedi‘s premiere fly by, and then Star Wars 9 will be on the clock. Disney recently slated Colin Trevorrow’s trilogy finale for a May 2019 release, and rumors have been swirling about when it will enter production. Some reports claimed principal photography would begin this summer, but that speculation appears to be inaccurate. Trevorrow and his team will arrive on set early next year, shortly after Episode VIII opens in theaters.

Vanity Fair‘s cover story on Star Wars 8 offered a small update on Episode IX. Initially, the hope was for Carrie Fisher’s General Leia Organa to be at the forefront of the movie, but the actress’ untimely passing at the end of 2016 forced Lucasfilm to start from the beginning when conceiving the Star Wars 9 story. They’re currently in the process of figuring it all out, but they will need to crack the narrative soon. According to VF‘s coverage, Episode IX is scheduled to start filming in January 2018, which is eight months from this writing.

As it stands now, Episode IX should be following a similar production timeline as its direct predecessor (which commenced shooting in February 2016). Fans may recall that Episode VIII was once intended to be a May release, and Last Jedi director Rian Johnson seemed to work as if that were always the case, wrapping last summer and moving swiftly through post-production. John Williams was already scoring the picture in February, so theoretically Star Wars 8 could have come out this month if Lucasfilm wanted. This means Trevorrow should have plenty of time to complete his installment – considering there are no unforeseen issues that pop up along the way.

If this is the case, it’s likely only a matter of time before the Episode IX rumor mill starts up. Fans may recall that rumblings about Benicio del Toro in The Last Jedi started back in 2015, months before The Force Awakens came out, so something similar could happen here. Trevorrow will obviously have to cast any new roles in the near future if filming starts this winter. There won’t be any official word on this from Lucasfilm until after everyone sees Episode VIII (preserving any spoilers), but it will nevertheless be fun for viewers to keep tabs on multiple Star Wars projects at once – not to mention the ones still on the horizon.

[Screen Rant]