Who is Max von Sydow playing in Episode VII?

Do we already know more than we realised about one of the key characters from Episode VII?

In recent times, Max von Sydow has been rumoured to be playing the character explored in these concept sketches:

Concept Sketch - Montross1

“Montross” sketches #1

Concept Sketch - Montross2

“Montross” sketches #2

To expand on the rumour, which surfaced prior to the concept art leak, his role is similar in many ways to the role of Ben in Star Wars: A New Hope—both fit Joseph Campbell’s “Wise Old Man” archetype. This character is old enough to have witnessed the Clone Wars as well as the civil war of the original trilogy, the result being that he’s a weary, beaten man. In the film, he inhabits a bar, his cybernetic additions the evidence of a hard life (as depicted in the sketches). That said, he certainly knows a lightsaber when he sees it.

The following is speculation, so take it all with a grain of salt…

What if the story group at Lucasfilm saw an opportunity here that was too good to pass up? What if this character had such rich potential in his backstory that it was worth exploring in novels, comics and even an animated TV series, all in the lead-up to the release of Episode VII?

In other words, what if this character was an ageing Kanan Jarrus?

One of the posters on the Jedi Council Forums (CairnsTony) compared the following two images:

A young Max von Sydow vs. a young Kanan Jarrus

A young Max von Sydow vs. a young Kanan Jarrus

In the poster’s own words, “If you wanted to create a cartoon version of a young Max, you’d come up with someone who looks just like Kanan, even down to the shape of his eyebrows”.

Now, this is not a new theory. However, we now know a lot more about both von Sydow’s character and the backstory of Kanan: both are cynical barflies who have more than a passing familiarity with lightsabers. Kanan would be roughly 14 years older than Luke and Leia in Episode VII, which would, admittedly, make him younger than von Sydow’s true age of 85, but between the prosthetics and the actor’s ability to seemingly not age, I find this totally believable.

In addition, this would explain where John Jackson Miller got the “hard drinking” angle from when writing A New Dawn, given his rather sober state in Rebels. Both Miller and the Rebels team were working off the same backstory, each emphasising a different aspect of the character during different phases of his life.

And might we see Kanan get a few injuries in Rebels, leading to some cybernetic body parts along the way? Again, it’s almost too good an opportunity to miss.

There was always the suspicion that Rebels was tied to Episode VII in some key way, but my belief was that it was more about setting up the Imperial hierarchy (e.g. the appearance of the Inquisitor) than about any character in particular. But if nothing else, the popularity of Obi-Wan Kenobi demonstrates how much potential there is in examining the backstories of Wise Old Men in Star Wars.

Again, this is all speculation, but to me the idea of Max von Sydow playing Kanan explains two otherwise odd situations:

  1. the disparity between Kanan’s character in A New Dawn and Rebels
  2. the proliferation of Kanan-based tie-in material (such as A New Dawn and the forthcoming Kanan comic series)

This may all be so wrong it’s laughable, but right now I find it plausible at the very least.

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3 thoughts on “Who is Max von Sydow playing in Episode VII?

  1. Pingback: A look at Marvel’s Star Wars titles | Star Wars Always

  2. Pingback: Seven Samurai… in space? | Star Wars Always

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