5/14/2014

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (2014) - Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams)

Why was the most important cast member of Star Wars left out of Episode VII? Last week the official Star Wars Episode VII casting was announced and I was ecstatic. John Boyega, 22; Adam Driver, 30; Domhnall Gleeson, 30; Oscar Isaac, 35; Daisy Ridley, 22; Andy Serkis, 50; and Max von Sydow, 85, will join the original stars Mark Hamill, 62, Carrie Fisher, 57, and Harrison Ford, 71 in the next Star Wars. It's very exciting. Until I realized they left out Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) from the film. It's ridiculous! Lando Calrissian is the only black regular cast member in the [original] Star Wars films and inspired decades of films. Why leave him out? They cast everyone else! They even brought the "walking carpet" back and left out the black guy. Don't get me wrong. I think it's great that they're bringing Mayhew back considering he's 69 years old and suffers from numerous problems with his knees and hips. But it just shows what a huge glaring omission it is. If they brought back Chewbacca, who can hardly walk, why not bring back Lando who was on Dancing With the Stars? Nothing? Not even a cameo?

Fans like me are outraged asking "Where's Lando?" Lucasfilm isn't saying why he was left out and J.J. Abrams isn't talking, but here's what we do know about the Star Wars Episode VII casting and how they left a brother out.
  • In October 2012, Lucas and Disney began negotiating the sale of the Star Wars franchise. 
  • In February of 2013 Mark Hamill said, "They’re talking to us [he, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford]. George [Lucas] wanted to know whether we’d be interested. He did say that if we didn’t want to do it, they wouldn’t cast another actor in our parts – they would write us out. … I can tell you right away that we haven’t signed any contracts. We’re in the stage where they want us to go in and meet with Michael Arndt, who is the writer, and Kathleen Kennedy, who is going to run Lucasfilm. Both have had meetings set that were postponed — on their end, not mine. They’re more busy than I am.” No one talked to Billy Dee Williams.
  • In March 2013 George Lucas confirmed they were talking to the original cast about returning. Did they talk to Billy Dee?
  • In that same month a rumor started that Lucasfilm had talked to Williams and he "hasn’t decided if he is going to do it or not yet."
  • On April, 2013 Billy Dee Williams used his Facebook page to start a campaign to get Lando in the next Star Wars film. Nobody called Lando.
"Everyone is still asking about the new Star Wars movie.... the best way to ensure that Billy Dee Williams will be in the new film is to FB, TWITTER, BLOG and tell Disney and Lucasfilm that you want to see LANDO again! Hopefully JJ will read the wishes and write in LANDO! UNTIL then.... here is all that is known:

I am in the dark with the actual plans that Disney and Lucasfilm have for the future of the Star Wars universe. I have heard the same rumors that the fans heard, that a new trilogy is being made, that spin-offs may be made, that we all [Mark, Carrie, Harrison and myself] are going to be reprising our roles in these projects. At this point in time, nothing has been confirmed about my participation and I have signed no contracts. I assure you that I would absolutely love to reprise my role of Lando Calrissian.

He's a character that I took great pride in creating on screen and have continued to be a part of when providing his voice for video games, the new Star Wars Detours cartoon and for various episodes of Robot Chicken, among other projects. It’s a lot of fun to keep Lando alive and I am eager to do it again, on film, when I get the call. I thank all the fans out there for their continued support and I hope to get the call from Disney and Lucasfilm real soon, until then, may the force be with us all!" ~ Billy Dee Williams
  • In May of 2013, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, they had Billy Dee Williams in the audience pitching an idea for Episode VII with "nothing but Lando." He suggested, "Two hours of Lando with beautiful ladies making love...sweet love in the galaxy." What else do you need? Abrams' obviously met J.J. Abrams backstage, but he still wasn't asked about Star Wars. Watch the video (2:00)
  • In that same month Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher begin exercising and losing weight in preparation for their roles in Star Wars Episode VII. Still no one picks up the phone to call Billy Dee Williams.
  • In August meet-and-greets, script readings and screen tests secretly begin to cast the leads in the new Star Wars film. Billy Dee Williams is called and begged to be part of the cast. Just kidding. They didn't bother to call Williams even as a courtesy.
  • In February of 2014, Billy Dee Williams tells Blastr, "I haven't heard anything. No midnight calls yet. Sure, I'd be interested in playing Lando again, if it came my way. Sure." No calls.
  • On March 18, 2013 it's confirmed that R2-D2 is the first "official cast member" confirmed for Episode VII. Disney CEO Bob Iger promises the movie would feature "some very familiar faces along with a trio of new, young leads." It turns out he meant all the familiar white faces.
  • In early April of this year TMZ asks Billy Dee Williams if he'd be interested in reprising his role. He says, "Sure. I think a lot of people would love to see Lando come back." Apparently, not everybody since no one on Star Wars wanted him in the film.
  • Rumors start that filming will begin on Star Wars Episode VII April 14th in Morocco. Everyone's excited except Billy Dee Williams who is starting to realize no one's calling him.
  • Lucasfilm approaches Dennis Lawson who played the background character of Wedge Antilles to reprise his role. He turned it down saying, "They asked me but it just would have bored me." That's right. They asked minor actors, but not the greatest General in the Rebel Alliance.
  • On April 29th, 2014 the official Star Wars cast is announced and the world asks "Where's Lando?"
J.J. Abrams should be embarrassed. Not that Williams needs the money since his net worth is estimated at $7.5 Million and he's had a long and illustrious career. But not bringing back the most influential black actor in the history of science fiction is just wrong!

What do you think? Should they have cast Billy Dee Williams and brought Lando back to Star Wars Episode VII?

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