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