Original Solo: A Star Wars Story directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were reportedly fired for taking too many risks with their approach to the film. To be fair, the movie itself - Disney and Lucasfilm's second Star Wars anthology film after Rogue One - was one giant risk from the very beginning. The idea of anyone other than Harrison Ford playing Han Solo, even a much younger version, has always been controversial among not only Star Wars fans, but moviegoers in general. For that very reason, there's as much (if not more) pressure on the filmmakers behind Solo to "get it right" as there has been on any of the other Disney-era Star Wars movies so far.
The Solo cast and crew have been asked many times over now about what, exactly, led to Lord and Miller being fired from the production last year, with but a few weeks left of shooting. Though most of them have chalked it up to creative differences and left it at that, anonymous sources closer to the film have specifically cited Lord and Miller's emphasis on improvisation and the Guardians of the Galaxy-style action/comedy tone they were aiming for as being the culprits responsible. The short of it: Lord and Miller were simply taking too many risks on an already-risky movie for Lucasfilm's liking.
Related: Han 'No Doubt' Shoots First in Solo
Variety's in-depth report on the Solo director change-up and reshoots reaches a similar conclusion, based on the testimonies from not only the cast and crew, but other sources close to the film. One particular source revealed that Lord and Miller felt that Solo needed to be as daring and willing to take risks as Han Solo himself - something that didn't sit well with the film's (understandably) anxious producers:
“In their minds, Phil and Chris were hired to make a movie that was unexpected and would take a risk, not something that would just service the fans. They wanted it to be fresh, new, emotional, surprising and unique. These guys looked at Han as a maverick, so they wanted to make a movie about a maverick. But at every turn, when they went to take a risk, it was met with a no.”
A common criticism among Solo's reviews (which have been positive on the whole) is that the film offers too much of a by-the-numbers origin story for the Han Solo character. However, based on Variety's report, it sounds like that was very much intentional. The Star Wars movies have begun to incorporate different genres and visual styles under Disney's watch, but tone and story are another matter. Rogue One's own infamous reshoots reportedly resulted in some significant re-tooling of the film's plot and tone, and it sounds like Lucasfilm wanted to avoid having to make similar post-production revisions to Solo. Hence, Lord and Miller were dropped and Ron Howard was brought in to replace them.
When interviewed by Variety, Solo costar Woody Harrelson admitted that as much as he liked Lord and Miller's approach to the film, "they wanted to do it different than the way the powers that be were used to ‘Star Wars’ being done.” Emilia Clarke, who plays Qi'ra in the movie, similarly noted that Howard took a different approach than Lord and Miller, but also felt that it ultimately benefited the project:
“I think they were figuring it out. We were all still very much in a collaborative place of ‘Where does this want to go?’ This is a movie that has an enormous amount of pressure on its shoulders, therefore everybody making it feels some of that pressure. So when Ron came on, for me it felt amazing to be able to have a second set of eyes come in at this point in making the movie. How often do you get that chance to go back and try different things?”
If Solo is a "safer" Star Wars movie than what Lord and Miller had in mind, then it comes at a good time for the franchise. Last December's Star Wars: The Last Jedi was both widely celebrated by critics, yet very polarizing among Star Wars fans in no small part because it took so many risks with the brand and its long-standing tropes. Even now, debates rage on about whether The Last Jedi is a celebration of all things Star Wars or the exact opposite of just that. The question of whether Lord and Miller's riskier take on Solo would have panned out will never be answered, but maybe a less challenging and "safer" Star Wars movie like Howard's version is what many fans need after The Last Jedi anyway.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019