This Friday, Star Wars fans across the galaxy will be introduced to a new Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian while also discovering an origin story they haven’t heard (most of) before. Under most circumstances, that all would probably make for a pretty exciting prospect. However, following the controversial saga installment The Last Jedi and given the well-documented production drama surrounding Solo, it’s no wonder that some moviegoers have some hesitations about the latest spin-off. Speaking at a press conference about the film a couple of weekends ago, the cast and crew of Solo: A Star Wars Story seemed to acknowledge some of these concerns while also sharing what their visions for the project were and how everything came together.
First up, late-comer director Ron Howard touched on what it was like to create a film set in the legendary Star Wars universe. He told the audience, “The level of anticipation is really unlike anything I’ve done,” going on to say, “I’m not too worried about the outcome. I wanted to have the creative experience and I sort of felt that way about jumping into a Star Wars movie.” The famed director also compared the experience to a Beatles documentary he created in terms of the built-in pressure not to mess things up.
Of course, while this project may have put a heavy weight on Howard’s shoulders, one can only imagine what it’s like for actors Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, and Joonas Suotamo to fill-in for a few major icons with some very large shoes to fill (perhaps more literally in Suotamo’s case). Thankfully, each of the actors received some inspiration and validation from the originators of their various roles before shooting began. In fact, Han Solo himself Harrison Ford stopped by to surprise Ehrenreich moments before the press conference began. After sharing how he had spoken with a supportive Ford at the time of his casting, Ehrenreich noted that the actor was “effusive about the movie.” As for the surprise moment itself and Ford’s continued support, Ehrenreich said, “It meant so much to me and I know for Ron [Howard] and the Kathy [Kennedy] and everybody… it’s just such a huge deal to have him really genuinely love it.”
Similar to Ehrenreich’s experience, the gravity of playing Lando Calrissian certainly wasn’t lost on one Donald Glover. In fact, Glover — who’s riding high at the time of Solo‘s release thanks in part to a breakout hit from his musical alter-ego Childish Gambino — says that, when he first heard that Lucasfilm would be making Star Wars spinoff films, he told his agent he wanted to play Lando. The multi-talent Glover reports that, upon hearing this request, his agent responded, “I hear you… I don’t like your odds.” Luckily for him, it all worked out, with the actor concluding, “I’m just really happy to be part of this experience of it. It’s really cool.”
While Solo: A Star Wars Story does include some characters audiences are well familiar with, it also includes a handful of fresh faces. This list includes Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos, Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett, Thandie Newton’s Val, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37. In each case, these new characters were given a chance to shine. For example, Harrelson says he was excited to play Beckett, joking “I thought it was a really easy character for me to play, because he’s a scoundrel and a thief,” while also noting how well-written the character was. That’s clearly a compliment to screenwriters Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, although the duo was willing to give credit where credit’s due when one audience member asked about a specific scene-stealing line from Waller-Bridge’s L3-37 droid character. As Jonathan Kasdan confirmed the line (which you’ll have to see for yourself) was improvised, saying, “That is Phoebe Waller-Bridge.” However, Waller-Bridge rebutted, “You guys set that up perfectly, though.”
With the on-going expansion of the Star Wars universe, there is now an elite class of Disney veterans who have a place in that world as well as in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and various other Disney-branded projects. So far this list includes the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Samuel L. Jackson, and the aforementioned Donald Glover. Coming off of the massive success of Avengers: Infinity War, Paul Bettany is also now well on his way to joining the club. In fact, Bettany briefly mentioned his role as Vision during the press conference, saying, “Vision is fundamentally good.” Because of that fact, Bettany says he enjoyed playing the villainous Dryden, who he notes is, “Somebody who’s just deliciously bad.”
Of course, just because Dryden is decidedly bad doesn’t mean the other characters in the film are completely good — including our beloved Han. In the press conference, screenwriter Jonathan Kasdin said, “We saw this as an opportunity and what was exciting to us about writing this was to really make a character movie, where every character has some ambiguity to him.” Similarly, Donald Glover noted that, in the film, “You get to see why Han is complicated.”
“Complicated” may be the perfect way to sum up Solo: A Star Wars Story. From the complicated production it endured to the complicated relationship Star Wars sometimes has with its fans, there are certainly obstacles to overcome with the release of the film. That said, listening to the cast and crew speak about Solo on stage, it was clear that all involved are proud of what they were able to create. Now, in just a few days, the “Star Wars Story” they’ve worked so hard on crafting will finally be told.
Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theatres May 25th,