We all know about Han Solo. His ship, his co-pilot, his one-liners, even his heroics. But what about his past? How did he become such a notorious smuggler? How did he win the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian? How did he and Chewbacca become such good friends? All of these questions and more could potentially be answered in Disney’s newest film, Solo: A Star Wars Story.
The film will provide the backstory for the war hero and rebellion general Han Solo. But when did Disney decide to make this film? Did George Lucas have any say in its development? What about director Ron Howard stepping in towards the end of production? Before the movie opens worldwide later this month, let’s take a look at the film’s unique and sometimes complicated history.
All About Han
Before George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, he wanted a Han Solo prequel film. And why not? If Anakin, Obi-Wan, and the Emperor could get prequels, then why not Han? According to EW, Lucas hired Star Wars and Indiana Jones alum, writer Lawrence Kasdan, to pen the script for a Han Solo film.
After the Disney purchase, Bob Iger announced that two stand-alone films were in development, which Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy later dubbed “anthology films.” EW broke the news that the two films would focus on Boba Fett and Han Solo, respectively. The Boba Fett film transformed into Rogue One, and the yet untitled Han Solo film was greenlit for production.
In July of 2015, StarWars.com announced that LEGO Movie Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller would be directing the film. Cameras started rolling on the film in February of 2017, just a year and half later, after an extensive casting call went out and the full cast was finalized.
The Quest for the Perfect Han
Speaking of casting, in what might be considered the most extensive casting in the last 20 years, Lucasfilm took a loooong time to look for the perfect Han Solo. Can you blame them for wanting to cast the right person to embody THE Han Solo?
According to THR, by December of 2015, over 2,500 actors had read for the role of Han Solo. By January, a short-list had been released. Variety reported at the time that Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Dave Franco, Jack Reynor, Scott Eastwood, Logan Lerman, Emory Cohen, and Blake Jenner were in top contention for the role.
It came as quite a surprise, when four months later, Alden Ehrenreich was announced to be playing the lead role, according to Deadline. Alden greeted fans at Star Wars Celebration later that year and was officially welcomed to the cast. Donald Glover was then announced by StarWars.com in October of 2016, Emilia Clarke was confirmed by November, and Woody Harrelson, Pheobe Waller-Bridge, and Thandie Newton were also confirmed early in 2017.
Ron Howard Steps in to Direct
Filming began on the still-untitled Han Solo film in February of 2017. StarWars.com announced the begin of production alongside the official cast list. The announcement also confirmed that the film’s initial writers, Lawrence and his son Jon Kasdan, would be working on the script, under the direction of Miller and Lord.
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly until June, when Lucasfilm announced they were parting ways with the film’s directors. With two years of pre-production behind them and a good four months of film already shot, Miller and Lord left the film. This sent immediate signals to fans and industry critics alike that the film was in trouble.
Enter Ron Howard. While best known for his role on Happy Days and his directorial work on films like Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture), Ron Howard was no stranger to the Star Wars universe. The director recently recalled spending time with George Lucas on the set of the original Star Wars trilogy during a Q&A session on Twitter.
— Star Wars (@starwars) May 7, 2018
Solo: A Star Wars Story
So, what did Ron change from Kasdan’s script? No one is quite sure. What did he change or re-shoot from Lord and Miller’s directing? Again, no one would know the answer to that question except the men and women involved in the film. So, what do we know?
We know that Ron Howard did not keep Michael K. Williams on the film, but instead cast Paul Bettany to be the film’s antagonist. The AV Club reports that while Williams and Bettany’s character names were the same — Dryden Vos — their species was entirely different. William’s character was meant to be part CG, as his version of Vos was part animal. As you can see from the trailer, Bettany is an entirely humanoid character.
Howard also kept the name and the release date, which was more of Lucasfilm and Disney’s decision. The official name of the film, Solo: A Star Wars Story was announced in January of 2018, which was followed by its first trailer during Super Bowl LII. Marketing then ramped up for the film, until it premiered this week in Los Angeles to rave reviews.
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on May 25, 2018.