- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hopefully, the Force is strong with this one.

The first stand-alone live-action Star Wars movie finally has a name: Rogue One.

The Disney company — which now owns the sci-fi franchise — announced the name Thursday morning at a shareholder meeting in San Francisco.

The film will feature Felicity Jones, who was nominated for an Academy Award for portraying the wife of Stephen Hawking in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything.”

It’s set to be written by Chris Weitz, directed by Gareth Edwards and released Decembe. 2016.

Though the producers haven’t released any information about the plot of “Rogue One,” it’s planned to be the first in a series of stand-alone “Star Wars” movies that Disney will release, with an eye on one a year. Similar to its other property, Marvel Comics, Disney is looking to develop a large and often interconnected series of movies set in George Lucas’ universe.

Until the announcement of “Rogue One,” all previous live-action “Star Wars” movies were part of a trilogy: The original trilogy began in 1977, and the prequels started in 1999.

An animated movie, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” was released in theaters in 2008. It was widely panned even though the cartoon series it spawned garnered critical acclaim.

“Episode VII: The Force Awakens” is expected to be released on Dec. 18, 2015.

At the shareholders meeting, Disney CEO Bob Iger also said that Rian Johnson will both write and direct “Episode VIII.” The second chapter in Disney’s new trilogy, it’s set to be released on May 26, 2017 — almost exactly 40 years after the release of the original “Star Wars.”

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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