When casting the young Han for Solo: A Star Wars Story, original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller looked to pop culture's other iconic sci-fi property for inspiration. It's not an exaggeration to say Alden Ehrenreich is under a tremendous amount of pressure as he follows the footsteps of Harrison Ford as the iconic smuggler. For many viewers, his performance will make or break Solo, and fortunately it looks like the actor was up for the challenge. The footage released in trailers and TV spots showcases Han's trademark bravado and swagger, and Ehrenreich seems to have excellent chemistry with Chewbacca.
The biggest challenge Ehrenreich faces is making the part his own while also honoring what Ford established, which is quite the tightrope to navigate. Him doing a Harrison Ford impression was never part of the equation, as the filmmakers (whether it was Lord & Miller or Ron Howard) simply wanted Ehrenreich to convey the spirit of the character. Fortunately for Lucasfilm, the rebooted Star Trek films laid out the template for what to do.
Long before J.J. Abrams brought back Star Wars, he revived Star Trek with the 2009 movie. That project had the gargantuan task of recasting characters like James T. Kirk and Spock with younger actors, who did a great job embodying their characters. As it turns out, Lord and Miller wanted to do the Star Wars version of that with Solo. Miller explained their thought process to Esquire:
"An impression of Harrison Ford would have felt like an extended Saturday Night Live sketch. We wanted someone who could evoke the spirit of the iconic performance we all remember while bringing something new and fresh. We talked a little bit about how Chris Pine, playing Captain Kirk, didn’t do a Shatner voice, and brought his own spin to the character while still evoking the vibe of the character. We felt Alden did the same with Han Solo.”
This is an excellent mindset to have, especially since the cast of Star Trek's Kelvin Timeline was very well-received. As long as Ehrenreich feels like Han onscreen, audiences should be able to buy in. Over the course of the past year, there were growing concerns about the actor due to reports about acting coaches, but those fears appear to be overblown. Marketing hasn't raised any obvious red flags in Ehrenreich's turn, and it's becoming more apparent he was the right choice. It also helps that due to Solo's place in the timeline, Ehrenreich has the luxury of portraying a different kind of Han than we're accustomed to. In A New Hope, Ford was a jaded cynic, but Ehrenreich's version is much more wide-eyed and optimistic. That personality shift gives the youngster some leeway in crafting his interpretation, and he should be able to stand on his own.
Hopefully, the reception for Ehrenreich's Han is akin to Pine's Kirk. There's a chance Solo isn't just an original trilogy complement, but a launching pad for a sub-franchise. Ehrenreich recently confirmed he signed a standard three-film deal with Lucasfilm when he was cast, meaning the studio is leaving the possibility of Solo sequels on the table. Of course, Ehrenreich's future in Star Wars depends very much on how things turn out next month. With high box office projections and a buzzed-about Cannes premiere, perhaps it'll be another winner.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019