Star Wars 7: John Boyega, Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad stars in line to play lead

Five actors are reportedly on director JJ Abrams' narrowed-down shortlist

Casting for the Star Wars Episode 7 lead is picking up pace, with Breaking Bad and Downton Abbey actors reported as contenders for the role.

Director JJ Abrams and Disney have narrowed down their shortlist, believed by Variety to include Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons, Downton’s Ed Speleers, Attack the Block’s John Boyega and theatre actors Ray Fisher and Matthew James Thomas.

Little is known about the character involved, or the rest of the plot. The children of Leia and Han Solo were previously thought to be at the storyline’s centre, but are now said to be in supporting roles in a film that picks up from Return of the Jedi.

Adam Driver, who stars with Lena Dunham in US comedy Girls, looks set to play Star Wars Episode 7’s villain, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Zac Efron, Michael Fassbender and Gary Oldman among other actors linked to the sci-fi movie.

Cumberbatch played villain Khan in 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness and ended the film in cryogenic sleep, meaning his return could be possible. "That was a stupid thing to do," he told the New York Times. "They should have just blown me up!"

Other rumours include the return of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in their former roles as Han, Luke and Leia respectively, and even the possible appearance of Pussy Riot members Maria Alyoshina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

Disney has not issued any comment on the casting speculation.

Shooting for Star Wars Episode 7 is due to begin in London’s Pinewood Studios later this year, with a release date scheduled for 18 December 2015.

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