Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second of the Star Wars spinoffs. The films are a part of a larger anthology of stories that may not have Jedis but are still a part of the same universe. Directed by Ron Howard, the film follows the adventures of a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) as he navigates the dangerous criminal underworld. Along the way, he will make new friends like his future co-pilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and the smooth gambler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). This journey will set the course for one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes.
We sat down with our fellow journalists to talk to Howard and screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan at the film’s press day. There we talked to the three about the challenges of making a Star Wars film, bringing a new Han Solo to life, and the film’s moral ambiguity. Check out what they had to say below.
Don’t F*** This Up
While Howard has made some exciting and award-winning films, he says nothing really compares to sitting behind the lens of a Star Wars film. “The level of anticipation is really unlike anything I have ever done,” Howard said.
Although directing a film about a character as iconic as Han Solo can be scary. Howard compared the experience to the Beatles documentary he took on a few years back. Using that previous experience, the director took the opportunity to take some creative chances. “I’m at a point in my life where I like experimenting, I like to take some chances,” Howard said. “I’m not too worried about the outcome.”
But he did acknowledge some of the production problems the film had before he climbed aboard. “There was a lot of work that Phil [Lord] and Chris [Miller] had done and unfortunately with creative differences led to the circumstances where they were not going to carry on,” Howard said. “Within that, there were a lot of things that were really strong and already worked and we knew we wanted to keep, and other things that hadn’t been done yet,” Howard continued.
The director added that there were other scenes that gave him the “opportunity to experiment with and explore.”
Aside from the idea of directing a Star Wars film, Howard was excited about exploring Han’s relationships. “This is a little bit different than the other movies,” Howard said. “This is one guy’s adventure story. It’s why I feel like this is in some ways kind of similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark, which Larry [Kasdan] also wrote. But it is a single hero’s journey. All those relationships were very important to me because it was all about what impact all these characters are going to have on this young Han Solo.”
Still, coming into a film like Solo does have its challenges. And with something that has as big of a fan base as Star Wars, you run the risk of ruining a galaxy for them if they end up not liking the film. Howard told himself “Ron, don’t fuck this up.”
Howard also recognized that he may not be as well versed about Star Wars as some of the other hardcore fans. “I’m a fan and I always appreciated the movies, but I’m not encyclopedic,” Howard said. “I don’t know everything, I haven’t seen everything, I haven’t read everything.”
So the director took an interesting approach to the film. He treated it as if it was a true story. “I’ve done a lot of true stories and I always have technical advisors,” Howard said. “I go for the heart, the drama, and the excitement of the narrative of the story and let the technical advisors tell me where else it could go.” He added that the Kasdans were a great help and often would operate around his imagination and vision for the film.
Bringing A New Han To Life
For Lawrence Kasdan, the moment he knew that Han deserved his own film was when he first appeared in the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars: A New Hope. “This is the kind of character that I have loved always,” Kasdan says. “This is a character who’s reckless, who’s cynical, doesn’t trust anybody. He’s a little bit stupid. I love that. He just does things he shouldn’t do. He gets in over his head.”
But we saw everything we needed to know about Han from that one scene alone. “You can see it in the brilliance of George’s cantina scene. It’s just a few minutes and you get everything about who this guy is.”
Jon Kasdan, Lawrence’s son, chimed in. “Larry got into Star Wars based on Han, that is the movie he wanted to make first,” Jon said. “He got pulled into Force Awakens, and he came out of it and said ‘I need somebody to do this with me.’ I was sort of the obvious choice for the above reasons, but also I share a deep love of this.”
The younger Kasdan said he approached the script from a totally different place than his father. “I grew up loving Star Wars and I grew up playing with the toys,” Kasdan said. “Between our two dynamics, me as a fan and him as an older Jedi master, we could figure out some sort of dynamic where we could forge a story together that felt both contemporary and true to the spirit of the character.
There was a collaborative spirit on set. Some of the actors provided some input on their characters and what they would say in certain situations. “To be able to write situations and then have performers and writers in their own right be able to contribute a better idea on top of what you created is a big part of it,” Jon Kasdan said. “There is always a way that the script can be enriched and made more on point with what it is supposed to be about.”
While Solo may be a Star Wars film, Lawrence Kasdan wanted to be sure that he told a story first. “George [Lucas] had set up something that could go off in many different directions and it would be wonderful for a long time,” Kasdan said. “I’ve never really changed my opinion. It happens to be a Star Wars story, but always first we’re trying to tell a story that will keep you interested.”
These Star Wars spinoffs step away from the fantasy of the main saga. In them, we get to see a whole new side to the galaxy far, far away. And that’s what makes Solo so refreshing. Instead of seeing the war between the Jedi and the Sith, we get to see a new story and one that is more of a commentary on what is going on today.
Because Solo deals with a lot of morally ambiguous characters, it will be interesting to see how the young scoundrel will react to someone as suspicious as Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) or as dubious as Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). One thing is for sure, we see that Han will do what is right by him and do the right thing – even if that means doing the wrong thing.
Howard addressed some of the similarities the film has with the times that we live in now. The screenplay and the cast did a lot of the heavy lifting according to Howard. “What I love is collaborating,” Howard said.
Lawrence Kasdan said it wasn’t too difficult to create given the world that we live in now. “People we admire can do things we don’t admire, that we’re driven by forces that we may not be proud of,” Kasdan said. “And then sometimes we rise to the occasion, doing the right thing. That world, for me, is the world we live in.”
Jon Kasdan chimed in saying Solo would have a different kind of conflict, one that explores Han’s war within himself. “Star Wars so often and up until this moment has been a very classic story of the dark and the light, good and evil,” Kasdan Said. So that gray area presented an opportunity to explore Han Solo’s history. “We saw this as an opportunity to really make a character movie where every character had some ambiguity to them.”
“His core is there is this conflict that is beautifully laid out in A New Hope between his ideals and his desires,” Kasdan said.
So the two used that idea as the premise to address the moral ambiguity of the Star Wars universe. “What was exciting to us about writing this was to really make a character movie where every character has ambiguity to them.” The younger Kasdan said that when A New Hope first came out, it was a very different time. “The world that we live in now is reflected in our art.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story also stars Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Paul Bettany. It opens in theaters on May 25, 2018. Click right here for trailers and much more on the film.