Shooting starts on "Star Wars: Episode VIII"

NEW YORK - The Walt Disney Company officially announced Monday that filming has begun on the latest "Star Wars" adventure.

"Episode VIII" started principal photography at London's Pinewood Studios.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson ("Looper"), the "Star Wars" sequel will follow J.J. Abrams' box-office smash "The Force Awakens," which has so far grossed more than $2 billion worldwide.

Joining the returning cast members are Oscar-winner Benicio del Toro ("Traffic"), Oscar-nominee Laura Dern ("Jurassic Park"), and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran.

The production start announcement was accompanied by a brief video that showed shooting picking up right where "The Force Awakens" left off, with (SPOILER!) Johnson directing Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, on an island off the coast of Ireland.

Also in the cast are Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis.

The film is scheduled for release in December 2017.

"Rogue One," a standalone "Star Wars" film (part of its Anthology series), will hit theatres this Christmas.