How Han and Chewie First Met Went Through Many, Many Iterations
As already mentioned, Kasdan's script appears to have been remarkably fluid. As a result, he scripted several different versions of the first meeting between Han and Chewie. In one early draft, Han was actually a pilot flying in a rebel fleet; in a scene inspired by Top Gun, the cocky pilot crashed his starfighter into a hangar, and wound up court-martialled. Sentenced to front-line combat on Mimban, he and Chewbacca were part of the same unit, and Chewie saved his life; an interesting inversion of the traditional Wookiee life debt. In another version, Han and Chewie were both serving in the Imperial army and had a brawl in an officer's mess. It's no surprise that idea was ditched, given Chewbacca's lifelong animosity towards the Empire and friendship with the Jedi. Another early script seems to have seen Han and Chewie meet on Corellia. In that draft, the young Han worked in Corellia's Imperial foundries. He was imprisoned by the Empire for reasons not specified in the book, and Chewbacca was actually Han's cellmate.
It really does look as though Lucasfilm had no real vision for how Han and Chewie first met; the final draft seems to draw on a few of these ideas, with the two forging a loose alliance in order to escape the Empire on Mimban.
Even when Kasdan settled on the Mimban plot, he still seems to have gone through a number of drafts. One saw Beckett save Han from death, earning his position as "father figure". It's not clear how that version would have built up to Chewbacca's life debt to Han, but it would certainly have made for a more emotional arc given Beckett's ultimate betrayal.
The Kessel Run and Beyond
But, moving beyond characters to the plot of the film, there's still a lot of variance, especially in the central Kessel heist. Concept art suggests that the script originally envisioned the Empire in control of Kessel, with Imperial stormtroopers shooting at the Falcon. Possibly the single most exciting piece of concept art in the entire book is this image of Han reaching out to rescue Chewbacca from the surface of Kessel. According to The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the original idea was for Imperial TIE fighters to pursue Han into the Kessel Run. "The story elements of enslaved Wookiees on Kessel, and Han and Chewie's flight from the Empire, would both end up in the final film," the book notes.
It also seems that famous Kessel Run was originally a far more important part of the story. In the theatrical cut, the Kessel Run sees Han head off to Savareen, ready for a confrontation with Enfys Nest. The script originally intended Han and his rival to meet during the Kessel Run instead. "Enfys Nest's Buckshot was going to have a big moment in the Kessel Run," design supervisor James Clyne explained. "She catches up with them, and harpoons the Falcon to slow it down, collaring onto one of the docking ports of the Falcon." It's a fascinating comment, suggesting the film's third act was almost very different, but no further details are provided.
All in all, The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fascinating peek behind the Star Wars curtain. The book carefully avoids giving any clues as to the behind-the-scenes drama that plagued the film's production, but it still offers some valuable insights. Perhaps the most remarkable element of it all, though, is just how disjointed the whole process feels. It's pretty clear the drafts of Solo's scripts were incredibly different, suggesting a lack of a central vision that would ultimately harm the movie's box office performance.
- 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