Since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, the studios have expanded on the “Star Wars” legacy with blockbuster hits like “The Force Awakens”, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “The Last Jedi”. Slated next for the saga is “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” a film where fans are taken to a time before the original trilogy in a western-type tale of how the space cowboy came to be the scoundrel fans have loved since the beginning. But how do you tell an origin story about a prolific, fan-favorite character decades later, and have it feel like it belongs in the same universe, and do the franchise justice? – With a masterfully selected cast and crew.
As much as fans have felt drawn to Solo, he happens to be the single reason “The Empire Strikes Back” writer Lawrence Kasden was pulled to the “Star Wars” story early on in his career. “From the moment when I was relatively young and I first saw Han Solo in the cantina, he lifted up the whole movie instantly,” he recalled. “This is the kind of character that I have loved always. This is a character that is reckless, cynical, doesn’t trust anybody, a little bit stupid – I love that.”
Director Ron Howard also knew the stakes were high when he jumped onboard mid-way through production. “The level of anticipation is unlike anything I’ve ever done,” he said. He could tell from the moment it was announced that the pressure was on. “Of course the fans care, and they should care.”
Even with a proven “Star Wars” legend like Kasden and Academy Award winning director like Howard, the film is still left with one giant hurdle – who could possibly fill Harrison Ford’s boots as Han Solo? Enter Alden Ehrenreich, an actor most recently known for his scene-stealing role in “Hail, Caesar!” The first step for him was getting Ford’s approval. “Right before we started shooting, I wanted to talk to Harrison, just to kind of pay respect and have him give us the blessing of the film,” he said. “He was really encouraging, really supportive.” Meeting with Ford after the premiere, Ehrenreich said Ford was “so effusive about the movie.” He followed, “It’s just such a huge deal to have him really genuinely love it.”
Ehrenreich really captures the essence of Solo without feeling like he’s trying to mimic Harrison Ford. Similarly, Donald Glover embodies a young Lando Calrissian, originally portrayed by Billy Dee Williams, as viewers will get to see how the two met in this film. The “Atlanta” creator has always idolized Lando, but even his agent understood it wouldn’t be an easy role to fill. “When I heard they were making these [movies], I told my agent if they are making anything with Lando in it, I have to be Lando,” Glover said. “And he was like ‘I hear you – I don’t like your odds.’ I auditioned like it was the only role I had ever wanted in the world, because it really was.”
Of course, the return of Han Solo means the return of Solo’s co-pilot Chewbacca. Viewers will finally discover how the two met, a question that has plagued fans for years, which the filmmakers knew would be crucial to the story. They also took time to expand Chewy’s background giving both heroes a more complete story on how they developed their unbreakable bond.
In true “Star Wars” fashion, fans are introduced to a slew of new characters, one being the brand new, quippy droid L3-37. Though timeline-speaking, this story takes place ages ago, this social justice robot brings a freshness to the screen that resonates with a 2018 audience. The film also offers another strong, female character in Qi’ra portrayed by “Game of Thrones” actress Emilia Clarke and a fierce villain in Dryden Vos from Paul Bettany. Woody Harrelson also joins the cast as an outlaw named Beckett, who can be best described as the Han Solo to Han Solo. All of the new characters play a calculated role in painting Solo’s background, each adding to his life while maintaining agendas of their own. “All of the different relationships were very important to me,” said Howard, “because it’s all about what impact all of these characters are going to have on this young Han Solo.”
Writer Kasden keeps the entire project in perspective in regards to pulling off what some would unthinkable. “George Lucas set this up that it could go off in many directions and that it would be wonderful for a long time. And I’ve never really changed my opinion of that,” he said. “It happens to be a ‘Star Wars’ story, but always first, we were trying to tell a story that would keep you interested. And that is much more important to me than any particular ‘Star Wars.’”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” opens nationwide on May 25. Tickets are available now.
Below is our spider-free video review. We also have a separate written review of “Solo” at this link.
Here’s the full press conference with the cast and crew: