Billy Dee Williams to return as Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: Episode IX
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Billy Dee Williams is set to reprise the role of Lando Calrissian in 'Star Wars: Episode IX'.

The 81-year-old actor first played the part of the former smuggler in 'The Empire Strikes Back' in 1980 and is now set to return as Lando in the J.J. Abrams-directed sci-fi movie, which is scheduled for release in 2019.

Williams recently bowed out of an upcoming sci-fi convention, citing a conflict with a film schedule as his reason, and The Hollywood Reporter has claimed that his belated withdrawal is linked to his return to the 'Star Wars' movies.

The actor has not appeared in the role of Lando since 1983's 'Return of the Jedi', but Donald Glover recently played a younger version of the character in the much-maligned 'Solo: A Star Wars Story'.

In recent years, Williams has also voiced the part in a number of cartoon series and video games.

News of Williams' return comes shortly after director James Mangold defended Rian Johnson amid the backlash against 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'.

The 54-year-old director came out in support of Johnson, after his 2017 'Star Wars' movie divided fans of the money-spinning sci-fi franchise.

He wrote on Twitter: "At the point when work writing & directing big franchises has become the emotionally loaded equivalent of writing a new chapter of The Bible (w/ the probable danger of being stoned & called a blasphemer), then a lot of bolder minds r gonna leave these films 2 hacks & corp boards. (sic)"

He also called on 'Star Wars' fans to channel their inner-Yoda when they're reacting to a new movie in the series.

He wrote: "The fervor of some attacks has an evangelical ferocity. Now, I get it cause for many folk, including me, the SW saga holds tremendous spiritual power, similar to a religious text. But we must remember to try to handle our disappointments the way Yoda might, as opposed to Darth. (sic)"

This article originally ran on celebretainment.com.

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