Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern join cast of next ‘Star Wars’ film

'Star Wars: Episode VIII' started shooting at Pinewood Studios earlier today (February 15)

Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern have been cast in the next Star Wars film.

Disney shared the news this afternoon (February) as it announced that production is now underway on the follow-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Shooting actually started this morning at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.

Watch Disney’s video clip confirming that Star Wars: Episode VIII is now in production below.

Alongside Dern and Del Toro, who is rumoured to be playing a villain, newcomer Kelly Marie Tran has also been cast in the sequel.

They join returning cast members Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis.

Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) takes over the director’s chair from J.J. Abrams and has also written the film’s script. Abrams is serving as an executive producer on the new film, which is scheduled for release on December 15, 2017.

Episode VIII will be preceded by a spin-off called Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla). Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has recently said the film, which stars The Theory Of Everything‘s Felicity Jones, is “virtually completed” ahead of its release later this year.