Los Angeles - Star Wars: Episode VIII has begun "filming".
Disney confirmed that shooting of the next instalment in the science fiction franchise is finally underway, after it was delayed last month due to scheduling difficulties in the principal photography department.
And the franchise's breakthrough star John Boyega, who plays rebel stormtrooper Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has taken to Twitter to announce he is thrilled to be back on set.
He wrote: "Time to bring out my Han Solo figure for everyone on set to sign. Sigh** can't help it. (sic)"
Time to bring out my Han Solo figure for everyone on set to sign. Sigh** can't help it.— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) February 10, 2016
Time to bring out my Han Solo figure for everyone on set to sign. Sigh** can't help it.
VIII pic.twitter.com/IP2mptdKOc— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) February 4, 2016
Disney CEO Bob Iger also revealed that as well as the start of shooting on Episode VIII, production on Episode IX has also commenced.
He said: "There is no better way to propel this franchise into the future than producing quality products. Filming of Star Wars: Episode VIII, the next chapter of the legendary saga, has just commenced and it will be in theatres December 2017. And production of Episode IX, a 2019 release, has also begun."
Plans to release Episode VIII in May next year were dropped in favour of a 15 December date in the hope that the movie will match the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which raked in $2bn at the box office worldwide.
Star Wars at 2 billion ! Crazy. #Theforceisstrong— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) February 8, 2016
Star Wars at 2 billion ! Crazy. #Theforceisstrong
Mark Hamill's character Luke Skywalker is set to have a prominent role in the sequel, while Daisy Ridley is returning as Rey, Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie comes back as Captain Phasma and Adam Driver will be donning his black mask and hood again as villain Kylo Ren.
As if that wasn't enough to whet the appetite of fans, Iger also revealed that production on Star Wars spin-off title Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - which tells the story of how a squad of Rebel fighters steal the blueprints for the original Death Star from the Empire - is almost complete and work on the next spin-off is due to begin soon.
He said: "Filming of Rogue One is virtually completed and we absolutely love what we've seen so far. This is the first of a set of planned stand-alone stories. We're already in preproduction on our next one, for release in May of 2018."
Rogue One has been directed by Godzilla's Gareth Edwards and will be released 16 December.
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