THE KESSEL RON
Empire contributing editor Ian Freer on why we should have faith in Han Solo’s new shooter
IN 1969, 14-year-old Ronny Howard made a two-minute movie called Cards, Cads, Guns,
Gore And Death. It’s about a gambler who goes all in, then comes out firing, killing, among others, Howard’s brother Clint in a blood (well, ketchup) bath. Shooting first, it seems, is in Howard’s genes, which is just as well — the director of
Frost/nixon is now helming Solo/greedo. Announced on 22 June, Ron Howard’s takeover of the so-far untitled Han Solo film, following Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s departure over “creative differences”, is rumoured to be built on producer Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm’s feeling that the tone was too flip, not
Star Wars-y enough. Their choice of replacement comes with a long history with the Lucasverse. Learning of Lucas’ idea to combine Flash Gordon and 2001: A Space Odyssey on the set of American
Graffiti in 1972, Howard saw A New Hope twice on its opening day, directed fantasy Willow from Lucas’ idea and had preliminary discussions about directing a prequel. “I immediately said, ‘George, that is your universe, your galaxy,’” he recalled in 2015. “‘You should be doing it.’”
Following the departure of Lord and Miller, Howard’s appointment sent the Twittersphere into apoplexy, deriding it as retrograde and safe. But in a lot of ways he is simply continuing a lineage of Star Wars directors. Howard is a craftsman in the same way Irvin Kershner, director of The Empire Strikes Back, was. Like Lucas and Kershner, Howard studied film at USC School Of Cinematic Arts. Recently his touch has been a little off (In
The Heart Of The Sea, Inferno), but over his career he has delivered strong performances (Chris Hemsworth’s James Hunt in Rush is a model of Solo-esque swagger), developed a classical style that suits Kennedy’s reference point of Frederic Remington’s Wild West paintings (look at Far And Away’s land rush), and knows how to juggle comic relief and — that oftforgotten Solo quality — sincerity. Think of the moment in A New Hope when Solo, watching Luke go off to blow up the Death Star, says, “Hey, Luke… may the Force be with you.” It’s straight-faced, corny, perfect Star Wars — and pure Ron Howard.
So, will Howard stretch the very fabric of what Star Wars could be? Probably not. With eight weeks of shooting and a genius Oscar-winning editor in JFK and Gladiator’s Pietro Scalia (himself a replacement for Chris Dickens) to seamlessly stitch disparate footage together, can he deliver a perfectly tailored Solo-esque waistcoat? Never tell him the odds.
THE ‘UNTITLED HAN SOLO FILM’ IS IN CINEMAS FROM 25 MAY 2018
Above: Ron Howard, a Han-dy bet. Left: Former directors Chris Miller (bottom left) and Phil Lord (second from right) on set with cast members Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-bridge, Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca and Donald Glover.