The new Star Wars standalone film, which will tide fans over between the release of this year's Star Wars: Episode VII in December and the release of Episode VIII in May 2017, has both a title and at least one star. It will be called Rogue One and will star Oscar nominee Felicity Jones, who was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for The Theory of Everything.
Rogue One is part of a new initiative by Disney and Lucasfilm to make movies that take place in the Star Wars universe but are not explicitly part of the main Star Wars trilogies. Not much else is known about the plot of Rogue One, but we do know it will be out December 16, 2016.
The news was announced at a Disney shareholder meeting by chair and CEO Bob Iger. You can read the full press release at Starwars.com.
It's too early to say Jones is the film's lead character, but the fact that she's the first person cast in the film would suggest as much. Casting a supporting character first isn't unprecedented, but it would certainly be unusual. The usual practice is to nail down the lead, then fill in actors around said lead, based on cast chemistry and the like. If Jones is the lead character, then Rogue One would be the first Star Wars film with a woman in the lead role.
The director of Rogue One is Gareth Edwards, whose visionary take on Godzilla prompted solid reviews and box office in the 2014 summer movie season. His involvement was announced last year. The film's script is written by Chris Weitz, an Oscar nominee for his work on About a Boy and screenwriter for the upcoming live-action adaptation of Cinderella.
Iger also confirmed that Rian Johnson, director of Brick and Looper, among others, will be directing Episode VIII, which he also wrote. Johnson's direction of the film has long been rumored. That film will be released May 26, 2017 — 40 years and one day after the release of the original Star Wars.