With all the hype, news, and various going-ons that surround the Star Wars franchise, you’d be forgiven for missing the odd thing. The Force Awakens made everyone sit up and, once again, take notice of the galaxy far, far away, as it sailed to over $2 billion at the worldwide box office. Since then, discussion’s been ripe over plots, characters, and general behind-the-scenes wizardry, having seamlessly moved onto Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII (which is currently filming), as well as Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – the latter being set to hit theaters this year in time for Christmas.
However, arguably the one upcoming installment in the Star Wars franchise that has fans more concerned than excited right now is the untitled young Han Solo movie. When Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) was semi-officially cast as the younger version of Harrison Ford’s iconic smuggler, the internet almost exploded, and the focus was very firmly on how this (as far as the general public is concerned) little-known 26-year-old will be propelled to stardom.
According to THR‘s sources, filmmaking legends Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola both recommended Ehrenreich to play young Han Solo to Star Wars producer and Lucasfilm president, Kathleen Kennedy (who herself is a longtime collaborator of Spielberg’s, at that). The actor was originally discovered by Spielberg in a bat mitzvah video, at the tender age of 14. What’s more, his first two movies were for Coppola – he appeared in Tetro and Twixt in 2009 and 2011, respectively – so clearly he must’ve made an impact. The sources say that, while Disney/Lucasfilm declined to comment on how the studios decided on their casting choice, Spielberg and Coppola both urged their close friend Kennedy to sign Ehrenreich up for the lead role.
In a business that works largely, but not entirely, on who you know, it appears Ehrenrich had made some influential allies in high places. Obviously, the success of the audition would’ve been based on his acting ability and his suitability for the role (which looks to be a sound choice) and how he personally impressed the bods at Lucasfilm and Disney – but positive recommendations couldn’t have hurt his cause, either.
Having appeared in the Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! earlier this year, in addition to having had a small role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Ehrenreich’s previous work has been much more under the radar – compared to the fame that comes with a lead role in a Star Wars movie, that is. Just look at how Daisy Ridley and John Boyega’s fame has rocketed since they appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There are few other franchises that can turn an actor into a big-name performer overnight.
For anyone who’s got any interest in the Star Wars universe, the prospect of a young Han Solo film is no doubt unnerving yet exciting all at once, especially with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller co-directing. That filmmaking duo previously thrilled audiences with the hit action/comedies 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street, as well as the superlative (and Oscar-nominated) animated film, The LEGO Movie.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is available on DVD & Blu-ray now, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opening in U.S. theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.