Fraser Coast Chronicle - - WEEKEND - WORDS: SEANNA CRONIN

The op­por­tu­nity to delve into Han Solo’s ori­gin story was ir­re­sistible for di­rec­tor Ron Howard. The self-con­fessed Star Wars fan helms Lu­cas­film’s sec­ond spin-off of the fran­chise. Fol­low­ing on from the suc­cess of 2016’s pre­quel Rogue One, which was set im­me­di­ately be­fore the events of the orig­i­nal Star Wars film A New Hope, Solo charts the ad­ven­ture-filled past of the galactic scoundrel and smug­gler made fa­mous by Har­ri­son Ford.

“In a way, this is the first real char­ac­ter study in the galaxy so far for fans,” he says. “The story very much re­flects the spirit of the orig­i­nal movies in the com­bi­na­tion of play­ful­ness, the­matic fo­cus mixed with great ac­tion and a uni­verse that is fas­ci­nat­ing, invit­ing, en­ter­tain­ing and a lit­tle bit thought-pro­vok­ing.”

Solo ex­plores Han Solo’s for­ma­tive years and fol­lows his jour­ney through a se­ries of cru­cial en­coun­ters.

“This is a rite of pas­sage story con­sis­tent with Star Wars, with many themes that will res­onate with au­di­ences,” Howard says.

“It’s about one char­ac­ter’s jour­ney, the way that he is tested by the unique chal­lenges that he faces and by the peo­ple he meets to be­come the char­ac­ter we know so well.”

Through a se­ries of dar­ing es­capades deep within a dark and danger­ous crim­i­nal un­der­world, Solo will meet his fu­ture copi­lot Chew­bacca (Joonas Suo­tamo) and en­counter the no­to­ri­ous gam­bler Lando Cal­ris­sian (Don­ald Glover) in a jour­ney that sets the course of one of the saga’s most un­likely he­roes.

Af­ter Dis­ney’s ac­qui­si­tion of the Star Wars fran­chise in 2012, cre­ator Ge­orge Lu­cas re­tained the rights to make spin-off films based in the same uni­verse. Solo was re­port­edly the first project Lu­cas talked about when out­lin­ing his plans to pro­ducer Kathleen Kennedy.

“He’s very au­then­tic,” Kennedy says of the beloved char­ac­ter. “He’s a scoundrel, he’s a mav­er­ick and there’s a mys­tery to him. Hand­some, in­cred­i­bly charis­matic, and adorable – that’s a pretty great com­bi­na­tion for a Star Wars ac­tion hero.”

When it came to find­ing their young Solo, Lu­cas and Kennedy couldn’t go past Alden Ehren­re­ich who was one of the very first ac­tors the film­mak­ers saw dur­ing the cast­ing process.

While not widely known to main­stream au­di­ences, he has re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim for his scene-steal­ing per­for­mances in Hail, Cae­sar, Rules Don’t Ap­ply and opposite Cate Blanchett in Blue Jas­mine.

“Alden is thought­ful; he’s an artist and he’s very pas­sion­ate about his work on a very pure level,” Howard says.

“He has thrown him­self into cre­at­ing this char­ac­ter not as an im­i­ta­tion of Har­ri­son but un­der­stand­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween Har­ri­son, the Han Solo char­ac­ter and his own in­stincts that can con­nect him to the char­ac­ter in sim­i­lar ways.”

Ehren­re­ich is joined by a tal­ented cast in­clud­ing Woody Har­rel­son, Don­ald Glover (aka mu­si­cian Child­ish Gam­bino), Thandie New­ton, Paul Bet­tany and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke as Han’s first love Qi’ra.

“Emilia is wise be­yond her years in a way I re­ally ad­mire and ap­pre­ci­ate,” Howard says.

“Un­der­stand­ing Han’s re­la­tion­ships with women on a more emo­tional level is help­ful in broad­en­ing out the char­ac­ter, un­der­stand­ing what makes him tick, what’s he’s ca­pa­ble of feel­ing.

“Emilia re­ally un­der­stood that in or­der to learn more about Han, we needed to see a very di­men­sional fe­male lead.”

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens on Thurs­day.

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