Nobody was quite sure what the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi meant for the future of Mark Hamill and Luke Skywalker, but an announcement from Lucasfilm has just made a few things much clearer. The announcement officially lists the cast of the upcoming film, and among the names listed is Mark Hamill himself. Confirming that the actor, and therefore Luke Skywalker, will appear in Star Wars Episode IX.
There have been many theories about what happened to Luke Skywalker in his final moments in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but it was clear that Luke was dead, having sacrificed himself to help the Resistance escape. Of course, death is never the end for the Jedi, but that detail was hardly conclusive evidence that Hamill would be back. It was also entirely possible that Lucasfilm could have tried to make Luke's return in Star Wars Episode IX a surprise by leaving him off the cast list, but instead, they've made it clear we will see Luke again.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Mark Hamill's role will be a particularly large one. We knew Mark Hamill would appear in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the guy didn't have so much as a speaking role. If Luke Skywalker will be playing the role that Obi-Wan Kenobi played in the latter two episodes of the original trilogy, as a Force Ghost communicating with the living, and that seems to be essentially confirmed now, he may not have more than one scene, though that scene could end up being a vital one.
Obi-Wan Kenobi said that being struck down would actually make him more powerful, though we don't necessarily see that power come through. Rey said she felt "purpose" in Luke's death at the end of The Last Jedi. Perhaps Luke isn't done with either of his two apprentices quite yet. He told Kylo Ren he'd be seeing him, after all.
It's also possible, of course, that we could see Luke appear in flashbacks. Both previous episodes have included flashback moments that included Luke, so it's always possible that could be where we see Mark Hamill again
It's wonderful to know for sure that Mark Hamill isn't quite done with Luke Skywalker yet, though he isn't the returning cast member that's the most surprising, as we also learned that Carrie Fisher will also be in the new film, by using footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens that went unused.
In addition to Hamill and Fisher, the rest of the core trilogy cast will be back, and the Lucasfilm announcement also confirmed the report that Billy Dee Williams will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian. Two new actors joining them will be Richart E. Grant and newcomer Naomi Ackie. One name missing from the list was Keri Russell who had been previously reported to be in talks for a role. Perhaps those talks fell through, or perhaps they are still ongoing.
Star Wars Episode IX will begin filming August 1 with this announced cast, and is set to hit theaters in December of 2019.