Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Flirted With Including Judi Dench, And Her Role Sounds Wild

Judi Dench in Cats

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Despite releasing back in December of 2019, the conversation surrounding J.J. Abram's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hasn't slowed down much. The blockbuster ended the nine-film Skywalker Saga, and there was a mixed reaction from the generations of fans. A number of potential plot lines ended up on the cutting room floor, and concept art has revealed that Dame Judi Dench was considered for a role in Episode IX.

Judi Dench is a living legend, who has continued to work in high profile projects over the years. While recently making headlines for her performance in the infamous Cats movie, it turns out that we could have gotten her in another holiday season release: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Concept artist Phil Saunders recently shared some abandoned concept art, and explained how Dench could have been used in the galaxy far, far away. As he put it,

Another random shot from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In an earlier version of the script, Rey would have sought out the original designer of the Millennium Falcon to find a piece of hardware that could stop the First Order armada. Dame Judi Dench was on the wishlist for the role, and would have been great. Rey finds her on yet another desert planet of course, and her home would have been carved into the top of a spectacular mesa. I was just tasked with adapting a piece of reference provided by the art department into an interesting interior.

FOMO alert. The origin of the Millennium Falcon has never truly been explored on the big screen. While we saw Lando's version of iconic ship in Solo: A Star Wars Story, it looks like Lucasfilm flirted with the idea of diving deep into that backstory, including a possible appearance by Judi Dench.

This Rise of Skywalker twist comes to us from the Art Station of artist Phil Saunders. His talents have helped franchises like Star Wars and the MCU find a visual language, with previous credits including Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Saunders has no doubt seen plenty of ideas come and go, including Judi Dench's possible inclusion in Episode IX. Check out the concept art below.

Concept art for The Rise of Skywalker

Ending the nine-film Skywalker Saga came with a ton of pressure, so there were a number of plot ideas that were tossed around which didn't make it into The Rise of Skywalker's theatrical cut. The art featuring the creator of the Millennium Falcon is certainly intriguing, and would have made for a surprising twist. We'll just have to see if this concept ever comes into play in a future installment in the galaxy far, far away.

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There are seemingly a ton of stories to farm related to the Millennium Falcon and Han Solo's life. While Solo: A Star Wars Story very clearly set up a sequel, the movie's disappointing box office performance put those plans on hold. But if we were ever to return to that corner of the galaxy, maybe that could offer the opportunity for the ship's origin.

With the Skywalker Saga now in the rear view, it should be interesting to see how Star Wars continues to grow as a franchise. First up as a number of live-action TV shows, starting with The Mandalorian. And as far as films go, Patty Jenkins is developing her Rogue Squadron movie, and there's Rian Johnson's movie. The property's main story may have ended, but the future seems even more open as a result.

Rogue Squadron is currently in development, and production is underway for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. In the meantime, check out our 2021 release list to plan your next movie experience.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.