Return to a galaxy far, far away with the cast of 'Solo: A Star Wars Story'
This Friday, Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm Ltd. are inviting fans to return to a galaxy far, far away for an all-new big screen adventure. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” takes a look at the origins of the iconic “Star Wars” rogue with Alden Ehrenreich taking a seat at the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
“It’s really wild,” Ehrenreich says. “It’s really exciting. It’s kind of bigger than you can even wrap your head around. It’s wonderful; particularly, being in the Millennium Falcon is very, very cool. A couple months into shooting in it, you’re inside of it and you’re flying it. You know where the buttons are. You know how the chair feels. You know the yoke and you feel like, ‘Okay. This is kind of like my ship now.’”
When the Millennium Falcon enters the “Solo” story, however, it is in the possession of another ne’er-do-well, Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian.
“When I heard they were making these, I told my agent, ‘If they’re making anything with Lando in it, I have to be Lando,’” explains Glover. “He was like, ‘I hear you. I don’t like your odds.’ That was exactly what I needed to hear. I really did audition like it was the only role I wanted in the world, because it really was. My dad imprinted me with this kind of ‘Star Wars’ longing. Because it does feel like the Bible to me in a lot of ways.”
Han Solo and Lando Calrissian aren’t the only classic “Star Wars” characters at the center of “Solo.” Joonas Suotamo reprises his saga role as everyone’s favorite Wookiee, Chewbacca.
“When I got to know that I was going to playing this character, I really couldn’t sleep at night,” he recalls. “I was so excited. This was a life-changer for me. I was borderline jobless when I got this role. My now fiancée — my then girlfriend — has seen me going from living with my mom to becoming Chewbacca. That’s the span of our relationship right now.”
Providing the script for “Solo” is the father-and-son pair of Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan. The elder Kasdan is no stranger to “Star Wars,” having provided the script for “The Empire Strikes Back.”
“Larry had decided to get involved in ‘Star Wars’ based on Han,” the younger Kasdan explains. “That was the movie he wanted to make first. He got pulled into ‘Force Awakens’ and when he came out he said, ‘I need somebody to do this with me.’ I shared a deep love of this and I came at it from a totally different place than Larry did. I had grown up with ‘Star Wars,’ I’d grown up playing with the toys, and we thought that somehow between our two dynamics, between 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 that felt both contemporary and true to the spirit of ‘Solo.’”
Although he has been a fan of the character for more then four decades, Lawrence Kasdan says that the story of “Solo” is entirely new.
“The story hadn’t been bubbling for a long time,” he explains. “What had been bubbling for me was from [the moment] I first saw Han Solo in the cantina, I immediately sparked to him. He lifted up the whole movie instantly and I loved the movie. This is the kind of character that I have loved always and it’s been so important in all the movies that I care about. This is a character who’s reckless, who’s cynical, who 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 instantly and you can see that in the brilliance of George Lucas’ cantina scene. It’s just a few minutes and you get everything about who this guy is. I think he wanted me to write it with him because I am all those things.”
“In some ways it’s kind of similar to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ which Larry also wrote,” adds director Ron Howard. “It is a single hero’s journey and then there’s a lot of fun in that journey and there are a lot of twists and turns, but it’s really about that character.”
For Howard, the key to getting “Solo” right was to treat the “Star Wars” galaxy as an actual historical tale.
“I’ve done a lot of true stories,” he explains. “And I always have technical advisors around. I sort of go for the heart. I go for the drama — the excitement of the narrative. Then I let the technical advisors tell me where else it could go or what I might be overlooking. That’s honestly the way I approached this. So many people around it were those guides for me, but I was just operating off my own imagination and my own sort of sense of what I’d like to see or where I think these characters could be going.”
Taking over “Solo” from original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Howard brought with him the story’s villain in Paul Bettany. The “Infinity War” star previously worked with Howard on “A Beautiful Mind” and “The Da Vinci Code.”
“[I] texted Ron and said, ‘Ron, you haven’t spent long winter evenings like I have wondering why you’re not in the ‘Star Wars’ franchise?” He said, ‘Give me a minute.’”
In “Solo,” Bettany plays Dryden Vos. For the sake of keeping the story unspoiled, let’s just say he’s not a very nice guy.
“Having come from ‘Avengers’ where Vision is fundamentally good, [it was just lovely to play] somebody who’s just deliciously bad,” Bettany laughs. “I’m really okay with it. No neurosis. No guilt. Just super happy about being evil.”
Dryden Vos has a close connection with Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, a young woman from Han’s past.
“It’s really difficult to talk about because she is a pretty mysterious character,” admits Clarke. “You kind of need to keep tabs on her throughout the movie, and so I’m promoting a movie that you can’t really speak too much about. She is one of the harder ones to discuss. We meet her quite early on with Han and then they’re separated for whatever reason and when we find her again, she seems to have lived a pretty dark life in that time. So when you re-find her, you can’t quite figure out what it is that’s happened to her in the time that you haven’t been with her and who it is that she is now, and I think that’s a question that kind of keeps coming up throughout the movie.”
“Solo” also introduces some new “scoundrels” to “Star Wars” lore, not the least of which is Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett.
“[He’s] a really easy character for me to play,” Harrelson laughs. “Because he’s a scoundrel and a thief.”
One of the key members of Beckett’s crew is Thandie Newton’s Val.
“I had my son with me and he was 2 years old,” she says. “He didn’t really know anything about ‘Star Wars.’ We were in this amazing set. It was extraordinary. I was chatting with the crew and stuff and my kid decided to walk away. I mean, I watched where he was going. He was walking toward R2-D2. Everyone kind of moved aside and my kid just walked over and the guide who was operating R2-D2 saw my son, knew it was my kid and started to make R2-D2 chat, not in language, but in R2-D2 speak. My son would kind of gabble back and R2 gabbled to him and it ended, I kid you not, with my son hugging R2-D2. I think that it goes so far beyond even us as filmmakers, just the stuff that dreams are made of.”
No “Star Wars” film would be complete without a droid, and “Solo” has one that is destined to become an immediate fan favorite with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37.
“L3 is a real inspiration to me,” says the actress who performed via performance capture. “She’s a self-made droid, so she created herself out of parts of other droids. It sounds kind of frightening, actually, when I put it like that. Where did you get those bits? But she creates herself out of astromech droids and protocol droids so she turns herself into a unique creature that’s kind of taller, stronger and more independent than she originally was.”
The eclectic ensemble cast of “Solo” helps establish a cinematic galaxy that is at once familiar and unlike anything audiences have seen before.
“‘Star Wars’ so often — almost really up until this moment — has been a very classic story of the dark and the light, the good and evil,” says Jonathan Kasdan. “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. When ‘A New Hope’ came out it was a different world.”
“That’s my favorite part of the movie, really,” adds Glover. “I love that there are rich people and poor people in this movie. You can go to the airport and just see immediately who’s rich and who’s poor. You get to see why Han is complicated.”
“It’s such a big part of what drives the movie for us, that he is centrally conflicted,” Jonathan Kasdan continues. “At his core there is the conflict and it’s beautifully laid out in ‘New Hope,’ between his ideals and his desires. He’s constantly at war with that and he’s at war with that in this movie and he’s at war with it in all the movies that will follow in his life.”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” hits the big screen Friday, May 25.