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Two stormtroopers, one played by director J.D. Dillard, in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

We already knew that J.D. Dillard had a history with the Star Wars franchise, but it turns out he’s worked both in front of the camera and behind it. The potential director of the recently announced new Star Wars film appeared on screen via a clever cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. But we can’t blame you if you didn’t notice him the first time.

Back when The Rise of Skywalker first hit theaters, fans began to compile a list of all the film’s easter eggs, including cameos. And someone noticed, while watching the credits, that many of the film’s perpetually masked stormtroopers were played by some relatively obscure celebrities. J.D. Dillard was amongst them, playing FN-1226. At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal amidst some of the flashier on-screen appearances.

But it turns out we may have been witnessing a bit of fun meta-Star Wars history in the making. On Friday, we learned that Disney has enlisted J.D. Dillard to direct an upcoming Star Wars film. His previous directorial efforts include sci-fi indies Sleight and Sweetheart. Though this would be his first time at the helm of a huge franchise project, J.D. Dillard has a history with Star Wars behind the scenes, too. He’s credited for production and technical support for 2015’s The Force Awakens.

And J.D. Dillard’s history with some of the franchise’s biggest players goes even deeper than that. He began his career in Hollywood working as a receptionist for J.J. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot. Given their long-standing connection, it’s not a surprise J.J. Abrams gave him a moment in the spotlight (albeit anonymously) in The Rise of Skywalker. Still, J.D. Dillard’s seemingly random cameo does beg the question as to exactly how long his more significant role with Star Wars has been in the works.

While the director’s cameo played out on big screens around the world, it’s also not clear as to whether or not his own Star Wars film will do the same. Disney hasn’t confirmed yet whether his film is slated for a wide cinematic release, or whether it will join the likes of The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars on Disney+. Given possible films from Rian Johnson and Taika Waititi, as well as recent rumblings that the franchise will go on a big screen hiatus while Disney figures out its next steps, it could very well be the latter. And that might not be a bad thing.

We also have no idea how his film will fit into the overall Star Wars canon. The studio has had hits and misses with its franchise prequels, but the success of The Mandalorian does show that fans are still interested in those kinds of stories. Maybe J.D. Dillard’s film could focus on stormtroopers -- that would definitely bring things full circle.

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