FORCE IS WITH KAS­DAN

The vet­eran writer has be­come a guardian of the soul of Star Wars, en­sur­ing he stepped in to guide the di­rec­tion of the new Solo spin-off

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When J.J. Abrams was a Star Wars novice, Lawrence, Kas­dan, the writer of The Em­pire Strikes Back and The Re­turn of the Jedi, had some ad­vice for him: Star Wars is not im­por­tant.

“But what is im­por­tant is the way peo­ple feel about it,” Kas­dan says. “And they are very com­mit­ted to it.”

The ques­tion of what con­sti­tutes a Star Wars film – how it should feel and what it should sound like – was at the cen­tre of the bat­tle over the Han Solo spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story and the dis­pute that re­sulted in di­rec­tors Chris Miller and Phil Lord be­ing re­placed in mid-pro­duc­tion with Ron Howard.

Lord and Miller, the film­mak­ing duo of ir­rev­er­ent, highly meta come­dies like 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, wanted to push Solo into Guardians of the Gal­axy ter­ri­tory. Kas­dan did not.

“You can have fun with the tone but you never make fun of the tone, in my world,” Kas­dan said in an in­ter­view along­side his son and cowriter Jon Kas­dan, the morn­ing af­ter the Solo pre­miere at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val.

The pains of find­ing the bal­ance be­tween re­cap­tur­ing the feel of Ge­orge Lu­cas’ orig­i­nal tril­ogy and al­low­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of film­mak­ers to put their own stamp on Star Wars may be the most press­ing cre­ative is­sue be­fore Lu­cas­film pres­i­dent Kath­leen Kennedy.

The first spin-off, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, saw Gareth Ed­wards booted for Tony Gil­roy. Colin Trevor­row ( Juras­sic World) was to helm 2019’s Episode IX be­fore Force Awak­ens di­rec­tor J.J. Abrams was brought back in the fold. And even Rian John­son’s The Last Jedi, which ac­cord­ing to crit­ics suc­ceeded the most in fresh­en­ing up Star Wars with a dis­tinct film­mak­ing sen­si­bil­ity, was very di­vi­sive among fans.

Some ap­plauded John­son’s changes and some re­viled them – and the split hurt busi­ness. The Last Jedi grossed $1.3 bil­lion world­wide, but ticket sales fell sharply af­ter the first two weeks of re­lease and it made only $42.6 mil­lion in China.

Solo came to Cannes – the world’s largest film fes­ti­val – with an eye to­ward boost­ing global aware­ness.

Much of the con­ver­sa­tion lead­ing up to the re­lease of Solo has been es­ti­mat­ing how much of the film is Lord and Miller’s and how much is Howard’s. But the high­est per cent might be­long to Kas­dan, who ini­ti­ated the film’s premise years ago, and who – when the comic tenor started shift­ing – felt some own­er­ship of the film.

“There is that, no ques­tion. I got ex­cited be­cause I wanted it to sound like a cer­tain thing. It’s all about sound and tone and voice,” Kas­dan says. “We were very ex­cited to get Phil and Chris on to the movie. It was a very dif­fi­cult movie and they shot a lot of it. And it was a strug­gle to main­tain that voice and hear that tone.”

The 69-year-old Kas­dan, who also co-wrote The Force Awak­ens, has emerged as some­thing of a guardian of the soul of Star Wars.

“Larry, hav­ing writ­ten Em­pire and Jedi, just fig­ures into this equa­tion dif­fer­ently than any writer could,” Jon Kas­dan says. “He’s in a very funny and chal­leng­ing po­si­tion, to be kind of the keeper of the flame and to help usher it into a new era with new film­mak­ers.”

Lord and Miller, who have taken ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer cred­its, have only spo­ken pub­licly once about the fall­out. In Novem­ber, Lord said there was sim­ply a “re­ally big gap to bridge and it proved to be too big. Some­times peo­ple break up and it’s re­ally sad and it’s re­ally dis­ap­point­ing, but it hap­pens and we learned a lot from our col­lab­o­ra­tors”.

Re­views for Solo have been a lit­tle tepid but crit­ics have been im­pressed by how lit­tle ev­i­dence there is of the film’s schiz­o­phrenic pro­duc­tion.

Ad­vance track­ing has es­ti­mated a pos­si­ble week­end open­ing of around $170 mil­lion, sug­gest­ing fans re­main ex­cited for the film star­ring Alden Ehren­re­ich in Har­ri­son Ford’s iconic role and Don­ald Glover as Lando Cal­ris­sian.

Ul­ti­mately, the el­der Kas­dan doesn’t think the soul of Star Wars is any­thing too deep. “What drew me to it was there was this guy who walked into the cantina,” says Kas­dan. “A gun­slinger with a great side­kick.”

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in ma­jor cin­e­mas to­day

YOU CAN HAVE FUN WITH THE TONE BUT YOU NEVER MAKE FUN OF THE TONE, IN MY WORLD

Joonas Suo­tamo as Chewie and Alden Ehren­re­ich as Han in a scene from new block­buster, Solo: A Star Wars Story.

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