Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern have joined the cast of Star Wars: Episode VIII, Disney announced on Monday, the same day production began on the latest instalment of the sci-fi epic.

The Puerto Rico-born Del Toro, who won Best Supporting Actor at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards in 2000 for Traffic, is also known for roles including Che Guevara and Pablo Escobar.

Laura Dern, the daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, is slated to star in the Twin Peaks series reboot coming next year. She was nominated twice for an Oscar, for her roles in Wild and Rambling Rose.

The studio hasn't said what roles Del Toro and Dern will play, but a report in Variety magazine last year said Del Toro was offered the villain role.

Disney also announced that filming for Star Wars: Episode VIII began Monday at Pinewood Studios in London.

Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher return, along with cast members Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, and Andy Serkis.

Star Wars: Episode VIII is scheduled to be released on December 15, 2017.