GO­ING SOLO

Direc­tor Ron Howard’s long friend­ship with Ge­orge Lu­cas fi­nally con­vinced him to dive into the Star Wars fir­ma­ment, writes Philippa Hawker

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Cover Story -

that felt right.” Solo — like Rogue One (2016) — stands apart from the Star Wars trilo­gies. Rogue One cre­ated an en­tirely new set of char­ac­ters, but Solo is a dif­fer­ent kind of chal­lenge: pre­sent­ing ex­ist­ing char­ac­ters in new in­car­na­tions. In the film, Han Solo is a work in progress, a cocky yet ac­ci­dent-prone young­ster who has been on the streets since the age of 10 and is con­vinced he will be the great­est pilot in the uni­verse.

In Star Wars (1977), Solo was an ad­ven­turer with a back­story. There were ref­er­ences to a debt to crime king­pin Jabba the Hutt, and a bounty hunter on his trail. In the next film, The Em­pire Strikes Back (1980), we met one of his old friends, the first owner of the Fal­con, gam­bler Lando Cal­ris­sian (Billy Dee Wil­liams), who went on to be­tray Solo, then had a change of heart and joined forces with the rebels.

The plot of Solo is a closely guarded se­cret, but some el­e­ments of the back­story are clearly in play, judg­ing from the trail­ers: there’s a suave Lando Cal­ris­sian, played by Don­ald Glover; Chew­bacca is there, played by Fin­nish actor and ex-bas­ket­baller Joonas Suo­tamo. He has al­ready played the role in The Force Awak­ens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017).

There’s no sign of Jabba the Hutt or bounty hunter Boba Fett, and no one at Lu­cas­film is say­ing any­thing one way or the other, but it’s hard to be­lieve they won’t be part of the sto­ry­line. The trail­ers have also in­tro­duced some new char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing: Solo’s part­ner in crime Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones); a crim­i­nal men­tor, Tobias Beck­ett (Woody Har­rel­son); and a droid called L3-37, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag.

Another of the key de­ci­sion-mak­ers in the Star Wars galaxy is film­maker Lawrence Kas­dan. He wrote The Em­pire Strikes Back and Re­turn of the Jedi (1983), co-wrote The Force Awak­ens and, with his son Jonathan Kas­dan, wrote the screen­play for Solo.

Some fans’ ex­pec­ta­tions about the back­story are likely to be ful­filled in the film, Howard says.

“What’s re­ally in­spired about the Kas­dan screen­play is that it doesn’t fill in all of them, of course, but the boxes that it ticks, it does in a way that’s very sat­is­fy­ing, and they feel right, and they’re sur­pris­ing — there’s more there than you would ex­pect. That’s where a lot of the en­ter­tain­ment value is.

“But the ac­tion is also al­ways ad­dress­ing the ques­tion: how does this test Han? How did it shape him? How does the ac­tion of this crazy tense ac­tion set-piece im­pact him? I thought it was re­ally in­ge­nious, the way it cre­ated this defin­ing ad­ven­ture story fo­cus­ing on Han.”

It wasn’t easy, he says, step­ping in mid­movie, when di­rect­ing team Phil Lord and Chris Miller ( The Lego Movie, the Jump Street se­ries) were re­moved from the film in June last year.

Va­ri­ety re­ported at the time that “it was a cul­ture clash from day one”: that Lawrence Kas­dan and Kennedy found the pair’s way of work­ing too loose, and Miller and Lord chafed against Dis­ney’s and Lu­cas­film’s need for tight con­trol.

Howard chooses his words care­fully. “I don’t want to go into it too much, but it was a clas­sic case of cre­ative dif­fer­ences if ever there was one. I wasn’t around, I didn’t wit­ness it, didn’t delve into it too much,” he says.

“But by the time I came on board, that dif­fer­ence of opin­ion had left the pro­duc­ers in a si­t­u­a­tion where there were al­ready some scenes they knew they wanted to see ap­proached in a dif­fer­ent way. I saw those scenes and agreed to that. And then there was a lot of other work we agreed was ev­ery­thing that it should be, and it was great — a sense of fun and a com­edy vibe that I wanted to pre­serve. Every­body did.

“There was a pe­riod of dis­cus­sion about what was left to be shot, and some things that the pro­duc­ers and the stu­dio were in­ter­ested in try­ing to get ... I was en­cour­aged to bring my fresh ideas to the whole process, which was

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