‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’: Here’s who Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro will play (we think)

Laura Dern joins the cast for “Star Wars: Episode VIII.” Will she be Rey’s mom?
Laura Dern joins the cast for “Star Wars: Episode VIII.” Will she be Rey’s mom? Invision/AP

Disney and Lucasfilm announced Monday that shooting is officially underway for “Star Wars: Episode VIII,” and so many things about it send us into hyperdrive:

▪ Laura Dern has climbed aboard in an unspecified role. Our guess? She must be the mother to mysterious Rey from “The Force Awakens.” After all, Dern earned an Oscar nomination — and should have won — for playing Reese Witherspoon’s mom in “Wild.” And she messed with “Jurassic Park” dinosaurs, experience that would serve her well if she encountered Jabba the Hutt’s rancor monster or a giant space worm on an asteroid.

▪ Benicio Del Toro has confirmed he’s playing someone on the dark side. Did you see him as the Mexican avenger in “Sicario”? He’ll be way more menacing than a holographic Supreme Leader Snoke. Hope he gets a better name, too.

▪ Kelly Marie Tran, pretty much a newcomer, will finally give an Asian face to this galaxy far, far away. And we expect her to bring some comic relief: Tran is a veteran of the L.A. improv comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, which gave us Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari and Ed Helms, not to mention KC’s own Rob Riggle.

▪ The studio’s announcement trailer returns to the Irish seaside location we saw at the end of “The Force Awakens,” along with a certain beloved character we won’t reveal here if you’re one of the handful of people left who haven’t seen it.

Director/writer Rian Johnson began shooting this as-yet untitled sequel with the cast at London’s Pinewood Studios on Monday. It’s due in theaters Dec. 15, 2017.

Sharon Hoffmann: 816-234-4457, @Sharonakc