Solo: A Star Wars Story–Preview, What to Expect

Solo: A Star Wars Story world premieres at the 2018 Cannes Film Fest.

Our review will be posted out of Cannes, right after the first press screening. Stay tuned!

Lucasfilm new tale depicts the adventure-filled past of Han Solo, one of the most beloved characters in cinema history. Through a series of daring escapades within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian.

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters May 25.

THE STORY

Han Solo, the legendary smuggler with the heart of gold, is the hero of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” the second story film from Lucasfilm, following 2016’s hit “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Producer Kathleen Kennedy, describing what makes Han Solo such an iconic and beloved character, says, “He’s very authentic. 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.”

The “Solo” project was one of the first George Lucas talked about when he outlined his plans to Kennedy for the Star Wars standalone stories. They both agreed that Lawrence Kasdan, writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, should pen it. “Larry Kasdan knows Han Solo better than anybody,” says Kennedy.  “Given his long association with Star Wars, and deep understanding of Han Solo’s character, there was no one better to tell the story, and preserve the spirit and feeling of the original movies.”

Lawrence Kasdan was hooked: “I always wanted to know the history of the guy that comes into the Mos Eisley Cantina. He’s the most exciting guy in the saga for me. He’s unpredictable.  He’s reckless. He’s not brilliant. He’ll say things that he can’t back up. He’ll leap in when he should stay back. There’s nothing more attractive to me than a screw-up who’s actually got a good heart but hides it as best he can.”

Kasdan brought on his son, Jonathan Kasdan, as co-writer. It was their first experience of writing together, and the dynamic brings a unique and compelling perspective to the project, fitting in thematically to a saga that has family at its heart. “Jon had grown up in a household of Star Wars,” says Kasdan. “He had enormous enthusiasm for Star Wars and for Han in particular. He re-awakened in me everything that had gotten me excited about the character.”

Jonathan Kasdan discovered he and his father were able to find a rhythm that was highly energizing, serving both their creative instincts and the story itself. “I come at this as a fan who thinks of these stories as written in stone, while Larry comes at it as more of a dramatist who thinks of them as tools. I think that my reverence and Larry’s confidence complemented each other well in the writing process.”

Director Ron Howard, a self-avowed Star Wars fan, whose friendship with George Lucas goes back to Lucas’ 1973’s “American Graffiti,” appreciated the merit of this writing team.  “Larry Kasdan is the greatest resource, not only his sense of Star Wars, but his overall sense of movies and movie heroes, where those muscular, action situations intersect with character and test the character in ways that are thematically interesting, and sometimes moving and surprising. Jon loves movies, and he is encyclopedic about them. He thoroughly understands what’s great about Star Wars, what’s great about Han Solo, as a classic movie character. But critically he also has a cutting-edge sense of humor and a contemporary sensibility.  This film is charged with youthful energy and cool, while it had to be true to the aesthetic and sensibility of Star Wars, we also wanted to push the envelope to make it work for young audiences, so it would feel more relatable than nostalgic.”

Howard adds, “This is the first real character study in the galaxy so far for fans. 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.”

The film explores Han Solo’s formative years and follows his journey through a series of impactful encounters, combining themes of trust, loyalty, love and betrayal with light-hearted humor, wit and rollicking action. As Howard explains: “This is a rite of passage story, consistent with Star Wars, with many themes that will resonate with audiences. 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.”

 

The Characters

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” features an exciting cast of both emerging and veteran stars in its impressive lineup.

The filmmakers had a big challenge casting Han Solo. Says Kennedy: “Harrison Ford is so unique and has embodied the character for so many years that they were gigantic shoes to fill. We weren’t looking for someone who looked like Harrison; we didn’t want an impersonation of him nor his Han Solo. We wanted an actor who could find those traits that are so loveable, so roguish about Han Solo.”

Alden Ehrenreich

Ehrenreich was one of the very first actors the filmmakers saw. He was not widely known to mainstream audiences but had caught the filmmakers’ attention, and the critics’ alike, with his scene-stealing performances in “Hail, Caesar,” “Blue Jasmine” and “Rules Don’t Apply.”

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

As a fan, Ehrenreich was thrilled when he learned he had the role. “It’s really special to be part of a franchise that has so much heart and that means so much to people, and to play such a multi-dimensional character in the Star Wars universe.”

Three-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson brings charm, a maverick spirit and danger to the role of Beckett, a career criminal, thief and smuggler. Says Howard, “Woody always brings so much to every role because of his honesty. He has a great sense of humor and an exciting creative streak. He loves to find the nuances that will make a character interesting and entertaining. If there’s laughter to be found in a scene, he will find it.”

Harrelson describes the relationship Beckett has with Han Solo in the film: “Han joins forces with Beckett and his group. They’re trying to pull off these heists, but there are a lot of complications and, during the course of them, I think Beckett does teach Han a thing or two about how to live—perhaps not the most positive things, like don’t trust anyone and shoot first, but things that become codes he lives by.”

Emilia Clarke

Qi’ra, Han’s first love, is played by one of the U.K.’s most talented and popular actresses, Emilia Clarke, known for “Game of Thrones.”

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

Clarke admits to ‘geeking up’ on Star Wars to get her performance pitch-perfect. “It’s really exciting to be creating a new, strong, female character in the Star Wars universe, especially one who is integral to the story of such a beloved character in cinema history.”

Donald Glover was the only name on the filmmakers’ list to play Lando Calrissian. Recalls Kennedy: “I have 18 and 20-year-old kids who went insane when they heard that Donald was playing this role.”

Glover is an award-winning writer, director, musician, stand-up comedian and actor, known for his work on “Community,” “Atlanta,” “30 Rock” and as his alter ego Childish Gambino. Says Howard, “Lando is incredibly cool. He’s funny, he’s entertaining, handsome and charismatic. Donald has brought the role to the screen with such enthusiasm and commitment. He’s an extremely creative guy, with tremendous respect of who Lando was, what he meant to the Star Wars films and to pop culture.”

“Lando was my first action toy, the character really spoke to me, and I am honored to dig a little deeper into him,” says Glover. “I think he’s a really intriguing character. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes bad, and really only beholden to himself. These are interesting and honest traits.”

The beautiful British actress Thandie Newton plays Val, a tough, no-nonsense gangster in Beckett’s group. “Thandie is incredibly charismatic and has an extraordinary presence,” says the director. “She is very intelligent, very gracious, and wildly talented. She lives by a code of ethics and principles that are very admirable, and which she infused into the character of Val.”

Describing Val, Thandie Newton says, “Val’s so calm, nothing fazes her. Even when she’s in the most threatening situation, she remains calm. She’s incredibly sure of herself.”

An English actress and writer, known for the hit comedy TV series “Fleabag,” Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who with the help of Industrial Light & Magic, takes on the role of L3-37, a self-made droid and Lando’s co-pilot. “She reconstructed herself,” says Waller-Bridge. “She started out as an astromech droid like R2, gave herself a voice and limbs and is able to do lots of things that she wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do. She’s very revolutionary, very determined.”

British actor Paul Bettany takes on the role of the mercurial Dryden Vos. “He is a sociopath, unpredictable, anarchic,” offers Bettany. “He’s like one of those characters that appeared post-perestroika, after the introduction of the free market economy into a country that culturally had no system of ownership. Some people were trodden on, and some people did the treading. Dryden is like one of those guys who clawed his way up.”

The closest relationship Han Solo has is with Chewbacca, played by former college basketball player Joonas Suotamo. Chewbacca is central to the action, which gave Suotamo a real opportunity to embrace the character.

Says Suotamo, “Chewbacca is truly the most loyal companion. He’s very attentive, always alert to danger because he’s lived such a long, dangerous life, always on the watch. He is the perfect partner to have watching out for you. It becomes clear to Chewbacca that Han needs someone to take care of him.”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Ron Howard, the fun-filled, galactic heist movie stars Alden Ehrenreich (“Hail, Caesar!,” “Tetro”) Woody Harrelson (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “The Messenger”), Emilia Clarke (“Me Before You,” “Game of Thrones”), Donald Glover (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “The Martian”), Thandie Newton (“Gringo,” “Crash”), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag,” “Killing Eve”) and Paul Bettany (“Captain America: Civil War,” “Master & Commander”). Joonas Suotamo (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) returns to play Chewbacca.

Written by Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel. Lawrence Kasdan, Jason McGatlin, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are executive producers.

To create the unique look of the film, some of the industry’s top talent has been recruited, Oscar nominee Bradford Young (“Arrival”), director of photography; two-time Academy Award–winning editor Pietro Scalia (“Alien: Covenant”); Dominic Tuohy (“The Mummy”), special effects supervisor; Rob Bredow (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”), visual effects supervisor.

They are joined by returning Star Wars veteran crew members:  Neil Lamont, production designer; Neal Scanlan, special creature effects; David Crossman and Glyn Dillon, costume designers; Jamie Wilkinson, prop master; Lisa Tomblin-Fitzpatrick, hair designer; and Amanda Knight, makeup designer.

The legendary John Williams is credited with the “Han Solo Theme” and Original Star Wars Music.

 

 

 

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