In 1977, viewers were introduced to George Lucas's vision of a galaxy far, far away. Lucas was an expert in world-building, and he peopled his galaxy with characters who quickly became legends. One of the greatest legends was Harrison Ford's Han Solo, the lovable scoundrel who bragged about the speed of his beloved Millennium Falcon.
Over 40 years later, moviegoers are about to learn Han's backstory. Lucasfilm has recruited Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) to play the part of the young Han Solo. He'll be joined by Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, and Emilia Clarke as a new character called Qi'Ra. The movie will be set between the first two Star Wars trilogies, and will reveal how Han became the cocky, roguish hero fans know and love. But who is Alden Ehrenreich, and why do Lucasfilm believe he's the right man to play the part?
Meet Alden Ehrenreich, The Star Of Solo
Few Star Wars fans had heard of Ehrenreich before he was cast for the part of Han Solo. Aged just 29, he's already worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Back when he was just 14, Ehrenreich starred in a comedy put together for a Jewish friend's Bat Mitzvah. The short film was entirely improv, and featured Ehrenreich trying on girls' clothes and even eating dirt. What he couldn't have known was that Steven Spielberg would be at the Bat Mitzvah too. Spielberg was impressed, and gave Ehrenreich a resounding endorsement.
After graduating from high school, Ehrenreich studied acting at New York University, but never finished his degree. Instead, in 2009 he co-founded The Collectin, a group of young actors, writers, producers, and directors who worked together on film and theater performance. Meanwhile, Spielberg's confidence gave Ehrenreich a remarkable boost in Hollywood. He landed roles in TV series including Supernatural and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and soon moved on to the big screen.
Update: The full Solo: A Star Wars Story trailer is now online.
Ehrenreich has described his career as "surreal." With good reason; he's already worked with the likes of Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, and Warren Beatty. His big break was in Hail Caesar! Joel and Ethan Coen's comedy gave Ehrenreich a chance to shine as Hobie Doyle. Ehrenreich's performance was one of the film's highlights, particularly his interaction with Ralph Fiennes.
How Did Ehrenreich Get The Role Of Han Solo?
Han Solo is one of science-fiction's greatest characters, and the role was hotly contested. Ehrenreich competed with major names, including Miles Teller and Jack O'Connell, but was ultimately picked above all the rest by original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Lord and Miller put Ehrenreich through an intensive audition process that Miller described in an interview with USAToday as "an audition pentathlon." He insisted that Ehrenreich was "the first person who auditioned out of thousands, and just out of the box, made you believe that someday he'd grow into the character we know."
The audition included sitting in the Millennium Falcon cockpit, with the Chewbacca sat next to him. In spite of the "audition pentathlon," Ehrenreich shone.
Alden Ehrenreich Is Han Solo
Unfortunately, Solo has proved to be a troubled film. Lord and Miller left due to "creative differences" with Lucasfilm, and Ron Howard was hired to take over as director. There have been reports of both extensive and expensive reshoots, and not all rumors have been positive when it comes to Ehrenreich's performance. In June last year, it was reported that Lucasfilm actually hired an acting coach for Ehrenreich late into production. It's not unusual for an acting coach to be brought onboard during production, but by all accounts this was fairly late in the day. Hopefully Lucasfilm's actions have corrected any problems; Disney licensees were reportedly impressed by a sizzle reel of Solo, singling out both Ehrenreich and Glover.
This role was always a high-pressure one. Ehrenreich is literally stepping into the shoes of Harrison Ford - one of Hollywood's greatest. Matters haven't been helped by Solo's troubled history, and the late trailer drop has left many fans concerned. Still, Ehrenreich is a man who - at age 14 - could impress the likes of Steven Spielberg.
Will Ehrenreich pull it off? He'll certainly do his best, but would do well to remember the sage advice of Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no try."
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019