Fans finally have their first real look at Alden Ehrenreich's Han Solo, and based on the early returns, the actor looks like he was the right choice. Recasting the iconic role made famous by living legend Harrison Ford for Solo: A Star Wars Story was no easy task, so Lucasfilm went through an arduous casting process that saw no less than 2,500 actors try out. The first man who auditioned, Ehrenreich, landed the part and the spotlight will be on him in a major way. Leading a Star Wars film is a pressure-packed gig, but at least the likes of Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones had the freedom of crafting original characters. Ehrenreich is portraying one of the most beloved Star Wars figures of all-time and has been under the microscope from day one.
Despite the best efforts of the behind-the-scenes team, Ehrenreich bears little physical resemblance to Ford. Ultimately, Solo is going to come down to whether or not the Hail, Caesar! standout can capture the spirit of the smuggler and convincingly sell audiences that he is Han. The situation is similar to the first Star Trek film in the Kelvin Timeline, which starred younger versions of the classic Enterprise crew. There, audiences responded well to the new Kirk and Spock, so will Star Wars fans take to the new Han? Ehrenreich seems to have passed his first test, but he still has a ways to go after all the film's been through.
The Worry About Alden
In typical Star Wars form, Ehrenreich was plucked out of relative obscurity to star as Han in Solo, poised to have his big breakout after years of smaller roles. Prior to joining the galaxy far, far away, the actor's highest-profile project was the Coen brothers' comedy Hail, Caesar!, where he played Hobie Doyle. Though the film itself earned a mixed response from viewers, Ehrenreich was frequently cited as one of its best parts, demonstrating the charm and screen presence of a leading man. When he was cast as Han, it was somewhat unexpected (his name never came up in the multitude of rumors), but many seemed onboard with the idea. That changed over time, however.
As many people know by now, Solo's original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired in June 2017 (four months into filming) due to creative differences with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. In the aftermath of that unprecedented situation, a troubling report emerged stating the studio brought in an acting coach midway through production in order to help Ehrenreich improve his performance. Though acting coaches are fairly common on film sets, the timing of all this raised red flags. Some blew things out of proportion by saying it was an indictment on Ehrenreich's abilities and Solo was doomed because he "can't act."
In actuality, the decision to bring on the acting coach may have stemmed more from the director switch than anything Ehrenreich did. One of the reasons why Lord and Miller were dismissed was because they were frequently going off-script and encouraging comedic improv, making Solo a more humorous film than initially anticipated. Much like Howard was hired to steer the ship back on course and steady the waters, the acting coach could have been a simple, standard measure to calm everything down after a hectic period and aid Ehrenreich in adjusting to Howard's style. The actor also has to emulate the mannerisms and persona of the Han we all know and love, which is no walk in the park for anyone. Ehrenreich needs to find the tricky balance between making the role his own and honoring what came before.
Still, with other reports comparing Ehrenreich's take to Ace Ventura of all people, many fans grew even more concerned. Not only was Solo now in the hands of an erratic (albeit Oscar-winning) director, Lucasfilm was entrusting one of their signature characters to a newcomer yet to prove himself. Numerous questions were raised about the project's potential quality, but the studio took their first steps to changing the conversation by finally unveiling the first trailer. As the whole world watched, Ehrenreich showed he was up for the challenge.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019