The legend of Han Solo lives on in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Lucasfilm’s latest spinoff chronicles Han’s rise up the ranks of the criminal underworld as the lovable rogue sets out to make a name for himself while also making a few friends like Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian along the way. Alden Ehrenreich plays the younger version of the title character, made famous by Harrison Ford. Donald Glover plays Lando Calrissian, a character made famous by Billy Dee Williams; while Joonas Suotamo takes the role of Chewbacca, again, made famous by Peter Mayhew.
We were fortunate enough to sit down with our fellow journalists to talk to the aforementioned actors, along with Emilia Clarke (Qi’ra), Woody Harrelson (Tobias Beckett), Thandie Newton (Val), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (L3-37), and Paul Bettany (Dryden Vos) about the upcoming film. The group talked about their experience on set, what it was like to be a part of a Star Wars film, and much more. Check out what they had to say, below.
Big Shoes To Fill
Ehrenreich had some pretty big shoes to fill playing Han Solo. He knew that this is a character that everyone loves. Still, he couldn’t believe that he got the role. “It’s kind of bigger than you can wrap your head around,” Ehrenreich said. “It’s wonderful, particularly being in the Millennium Falcon.”
Being in the Millennium Falcon is one thing, but getting to fly it is every Star Wars fan’s dream. “Getting into the cockpit there are two things: one is you get in and can’t believe you’re in it and it’s so surreal,” Ehrenreich said. “And then, a couple months into shooting, you’re inside of it, you’re flying it, you know where the buttons are and you’re like, okay this feels like my ship now.”
But the actor knew that he would have to find that balance of becoming the character and making him his own. “I went about it pretty much was to watch the original movies very early on and just kind of absorb as much as I could,” Ehrenreich said. “I tried to kind of take in as much of that as I could very early…and then move into working on the part and kind of put all of that aside and forget about it and play this guy where he is now in his life because the most important thing is that it feels like a real person.
Never Tell Donald Glover The Odds
“I think as much as any, like, seven-year-old boy, it was like, of course, you pretend to be Lando,” Glover said. The actor talked about his childhood, when he would give a lightsaber to Lando by biting off Darth Vader’s lightsaber. Of course, this worried his mother who took his toys away so that he wouldn’t choke on them. But it was when Glover first heard that Lucasfilm would be making spinoffs that he told his agent that “if they are making anything with Lando in it, I have to be Lando.” He said that his agent told him “I hear you, I don’t like your odds.”
Of course, you should never tell any Star Wars fan the odds. And as it turns out, Glover would get the role. “That was exactly what I needed to hear,” Glover said. “I really did audition like it was the only role I wanted in the world.”
Bigger Shoes To Fill
Joonas says being Chewbacca was life-changing for him. “I was borderline jobless when I got this role,” Suotamo said. “My now fiancée, my then girlfriend, has seen me going from living with my mom to becoming Chewbacca. That’s the span of my relationship.”
He went on to say how the weeklong boot camp with Peter Mayhew was instrumental in helping him become Chewbacca. “I never could understand what went on underneath of Peter Mayhew, and now I got to know that, it was so easy shooting this film, which is so much about Han and Chewie, which was so important to get right,” Suotamo said.
The Femme Fatale
Emilia Clarke, says it was really fun to play a character that was as mysterious and intriguing as Qi’ra. But it was not without its difficulties. “You need to keep tabs on her throughout the entire movie,” Clarke said. She admitted that she could not speak too much about her character.
While she was able to say that we meet Qi’ra with Han very early on in the film, the two become separated, and when they reunite, it’s clear that their relationship will never be the same. “When we find her again, she seems to have lived a pretty dark life,” Clarke said. “You can’t quite figure out what it is that’s happened in the time that you haven’t been with her and who it is that she is now.”
“It’s a question that kind of keeps coming up during the movie,” Clarke said.
Like Looking In A Mirror
They say that there’s no honor among thieves, and that could not be truer for a character like Tobias Beckett. While it may seem challenging to play someone as morally ambiguous as Tobias, his fun personality made it easy for Woody Harrelson to play. “It was a really easy character for me to play because he’s a scoundrel a thief,” Harrelson joked.
Fun Times On Set
Newton said her time on the set was fun, despite the intense battle sequences that were being shot. “We would have fun,” Newton said. “The production design was so amazing. So we would feel like in real battle scenarios with explosions going off, debris, and mud in places you didn’t know you had.” But she says the camaraderie was always humorous. That chemistry obviously helped as she compared the entire experience to going into battle together.
Unlike BB-8, K-2S0, and R2-D2, the sharp L3-37 is a self-made droid. Phoebe Waller-Bridge described the droid as an inspiration while at the same time very frightening because she built herself.
“She turned herself into a unique creature that’s taller, stronger and more independent than she originally was,” she said. The actor said L3 has “a great attitude,” and is “very upbeat and fun to be around.”
And there is something about the droid’s personality that is unlike the others. “She’s fearless, uncensored, she’s very funny, and a revolutionary,” Waller-Bridge said. “She’s got an agenda, and she’s bigger than the sum of her parts, which is quite extraordinary,” Waller-Bridge said.
“It’s great to play a droid with a message,” Waller-Bridge added.
Going From Good To Bad
Having played a hero for so long, Bettany could not help but gush about playing the ruthless Dryden Vos. “Coming from Avengers where Vision is fundamentally good, just to somebody who’s deliciously bad and really OK with it,” Bettany said. “No guilt, just super happy about being evil.”
Just Being A Fan
It’s hard not to be amazed by what happens on a set like Solo: A Star Wars Story. With the practical sets and creatures, one can’t help but be a fan. “Everyday you are walking into a new set that these craftsmen and designers, who are the best in the world, have made,” Ehrenreich said. “You walk into these incredible environments and you see 300 creatures that are actually there, that are actually built.”
Newton chimed in to talk about how her two-year-old responded to seeing a real-life droid. She recalled a time where she was chatting with the crew and her son walked towards R2-D2. She said the person operating the droid made it chat with her son in what she called “R2-D2” speak to which she said her son would gabble back to it. “It ended, I kid you not, with my son hugging R2-D2,” Newton said. “That was the first impression my son has had with that character.” She added, “This is the stuff that dreams are made of. These characters have a kind of magnetism that is unparalleled.”
While the actor recognizes that his character is having too much fun hurting people, Bettany could not help but be a fan on set. The actor said one of his first takes with Chewbacca went from a handshake to a hug which then turned into a cuddle. “It was really embarrassing for everyone,” Suotamo said.
With so much fun stuff on the set, it’s hard not to be tempted to take something back home. It makes it even harder when you have capes as cool as Lando Calrissian. Glover talked about how he was unable to take any capes, but he revealed that there was a consolation prize. “The fur cape I had, they had extra material, and they made a pillow out of it for me,” Glover says. “Now I have a pillow that I try and wear as a cape.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on May 25, 2018. Click right here for much more on the film, including trailers.