Harrison Ford's role as Han Solo in Star Wars made his career, and created one of the franchise's most beloved characters. It's a success that another relative newcomer, Alden Ehrenreich, hopes to replicate with Solo: A Star Wars Story. Yet, there is another actor who was in contention for the Han Solo role. Someone whose about as far, visually, from Harrison Ford and/or Alden Ehrenreich as it's possible to get.
The stories of of actors who were almost cast in huge rules are numerous in Hollywood. There's even one about Ford's other big role in Indiana Jones, as Tom Selleck was originally set to play the swashbuckling archaeologist. Yet few of them are as weird as this latest revelation. According to Kelsey Grammer, before Star Wars had really gotten off the ground he was in line to play Han Solo. Things even went as far as Grammer having a face-to-face chat with George Lucas.
In an interview on Conan, Kelsey recalled an incident when he was just 20 years old. He had been recently thrown out of Juilliard. Looking for work, one of his former teachers put him in touch with an agent. Eventually, Grammer found his way into a room with none other than George Lucas. The actor recalled:
I walked up there, and I sat down and there's Lucas sitting there. He explains to me that they're doing this movie about a fairy tale in space. He said, 'There's two guys in it who go and rescue a princess. That's pretty much it,' and he said, 'I think maybe you're a little old for the younger guy and maybe a little too young for the older guy, but you might make a pretty good, sort of like a John Wayne character.' I thought, 'Oh I can do that,' and he said, 'Well I'll think about it,' and then that's the last I heard of it.
The above information is shocking for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Lucas' pitch makes it sound like Han was originally much more minor of a character. As nearly everyone knows, it's really the combination of Han and Luke who end up saving Princess Leia on board the Death Star in Star Wars. Obi-Wan is on the Death Star but only tangentially involved in the rescue. Yet according to Grammer, or at least Grammer's recollection of an event nearly 40 years ago, it was more Obi-Wan and Luke who ended up saving Leia. Han was much more the mysterious and aloof "John Wayne" type.
Obviously though things changed and quite dramatically. Han not only got a much bigger part but he couldn't be more different than a Kelsey Grammer type. Star Wars would've been Grammer's first major role ever. As it is, the first time Grammer appeared on any screen was in 1979 as a waiter on the soap opera Ryan's Hope. Yet Grammer's known for playing much more dignified or refined characters. He's not much of a smuggler.
Some of the other actors who famously missed out on Han Solo - like Kurt Russell, Burt Reynolds, James Caan and even Christopher Walken - make sense. Kelsey Grammer is way out of left field. The idea of the same actor who played Frasier Crane being the famous scruffy looking nerf herder is almost too insane to compute.
Interestingly, decades later Grammer would get a chance to play a space captain. In a pivotal episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation Grammer played Captain Morgan Bateson. The role happened well into Grammers' stint on Cheers and happened because the actor was a genuine fan of Star Trek. Yet even that role has most of the usual Grammer-isms, like his character being slightly pretentious and prone to fits of anger.
It's impossible to know exactly what Grammer's Han would've really been like in the end. It's even possible that landing the role of Han could've sent Grammer's career on an altogether different route. Perhaps Grammer would've become the action superstar that Harrison Ford did, if only he would've been the man inside the Millennium Falcon.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019