Star Wars has just made its latest high-profile casting, with Justin Theroux — husband of Jennifer Aniston, and known as both an actor and a writer — now on board. According to MakingStarWars.net, the Leftovers star will be playing an "expert slicer" who has a pivotal moment in The Last Jedi. It's an intriguing detail, and an exciting piece of casting, but it's likely to leave many fans wondering: what's a slicer?!
Your Guide to Slicers
In the real world, we have hackers; in the #StarWars galaxy, they have slicers. A slicer is a computer expert who has a specialism in encryption, and has developed all manner of ways of hacking (or "slicing") into computer systems. Timothy Zahn introduced the concept way back in his 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, and his slicers were most commonly associated with the criminal underworld. Expert slicers could slice their way into shipping manifests, for example, and identify best pickings for pirates; or they could adjust the records at a port to ensure a smuggler went under the radar.
We're getting a growing sense that The Last Jedi will explore the seedy underbelly of our beloved Galaxy Far, Far Away — not least because there are rumors Billy Dee Williams will be reprising his role as Lando Calrissian. For all Lando may have taken back Bespin from the Empire, I can't see him staying on the up-and-up. Meanwhile, set photos have also hinted at a casino scene, and StarWarsNews.net suggest that Theroux's slicer may be tied to this somehow. It's tempting to assume that the casino is on Bespin, and that Theroux is working for Lando.
Will Ghent Make An Appearance?
In the old Expanded Universe, the most famous slicer is Zakarisz Ghent. He was one of the countless innovative characters created by Timothy Zahn, and he proved a mainstay in the EU. Ghent was introduced as an associate of smuggler Talon Karrde, and was a child prodigy who was more comfortable with binary than with people. To give you an idea of his skill level, the Rebel Alliance's top slicer team took a month to crack the Imperial ILKO encryption code. The twelve-year-old Ghent cracked it himself in two months.
The teenage Ghent first got caught up in galactic events in the aftermath of the Battle of Endor. The Rebel Alliance lured him out to the Mid Rim as part of a plot to take down an Imperial Star Destroyer, but Ghent stumbled out of it with the help of Mara Jade, and wound up recruited by Talon Karrde. As the years passed, he became a more and more important character; Karrde loaned him to the New Republic a couple of times and, in a nice parallel to some real-world examples, Ghent ultimately became the New Republic's Chief of Cryptography.
Timothy Zahn's characters are gradually making their way back into the Star Wars canon; Thrawn played a major role in Season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels, and Zahn has implied he's going to reintroduce Talon Karrde in his next novel, Thrawn. What's more, Lucasfilm has given subtle hints that they may even be considering importing Mara Jade into the canon too. I can't help but wonder if we'll soon be adding Ghent's name to the list of EU characters to transition into the new canon — and if Justin Theroux could perhaps be playing the character.
The Last Jedi sounds to be a fascinating Star Wars movie, exposing once again the seedy underbelly of galactic society. That's been a part of Star Wars since the beginning, when Obi-Wan Kenobi took Luke Skywalker to Mos Eisley Cantina. But with a slicer playing a 'pivotal role' in the next movie, it looks as though the criminal elements will be playing a very important role in The Last Jedi!