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Billy Dee Williams signs on for Star Wars: Episode IX, reports say

 

There's big news coming from a galaxy far, far away.

The Hollywood Reporter, among other news outlets, is reporting that Billy Dee Williams will be returning to the Star Wars films as everyone's favorite cape-wearing space pirate, Lando Calrissian, in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX.

Williams, 81, first portrayed the smooth-talking smuggler and on-again-off-again friend to franchise hero Han Solo in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back. He hasn't played the role on-screen since 1983's Return of the Jedi, but has since lent his voice to numerous cartoons and video games in the Star Wars universe.

Fans have been speculating Williams' return for months. In May, he appeared at pop culture convention MegaCon Orlando. A Tweet from the convention's official Twitter account about William's training regimen and new diet drew comparison to work the late Carrie Fisher had done prior to reprising the role of Leia Organa in 2015's The Force Awakens.

"Fun Billy Dee Williams fact: Billy just had his 81st birthday. He's training 3 times a week with a trainer and has a whole new diet," the convention tweeted in May.

Rumors were heightened at the end of June when the Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo announced Williams was cancelling an appearance set for September.

"Due to a film schedule conflict, Billy Dee Williams will not be able to appear at Sask Expo this year," the Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo wrote on its Facebook page. "He sends his regrets, and hopes to make it up to his Saskatchewan fans in 2019."

Filming for the J.J. Abrams-directed Episode IX is set to begin in late July, Abrams recently announced on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

Episode IX is set to feature new stars John Boyega, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson, among others reprising their roles from the franchise's latest set of films. It was also recently announced that Keri Russell, who Abrams previously worked with on Felicity and Mission Impossible III, is in talks to join the cast of Episode IX.

Donald Glover portrayed a young Calrissian earlier this year in Solo: A Star Wars Story to much acclaim, marking the characters return to the big screen since Williams last donned the cape in Return of the Jedi.

The 2015 franchise rebirth also saw the return of original stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Fisher.

Episode IX is set to be released on December 20, 2019 and features Abrams' return to the helm since passing over directing duties to Rian Johnson for 2017's The Last Jedi. Abrams previously wrote and directed The Force Awakens, the first installment of the current Star Wars trilogy.

 

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