Concept art of Solo: A Star Wars Story's Dryden Vos showcases just how different the character could have been. Under the watch of original directors Phil Lord & Chris Miller, Michael K. Williams was in the role, which at the time was envisioned as a motion-capture alien. However, when Solo underwent extensive reshoots with new helmsman Ron Howard, Williams was unable to return due to a scheduling conflict. As a result, he was the only member of the principal ensemble recast, with Paul Bettany filling in. This wasn't the only change Dryden went through amidst the production turmoil, either.
Williams previously mentioned Vos was going to be some kind of mountain lion creature, but Bettany's version is most definitely quite human (he's a being with markings across his face). Since the plan was altered so heavily, some wondered what Lucasfilm originally had in mind for Dryden. Thanks to the release of the Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story book, we can now see some of the options that were on the table.
The section detailing Dryden Vos and Crimson Dawn included a few alternate versions the art department came up with before settling on the final product. This is a wide range of ideas, as there were points when Dryden was reptilian and then furry. It's possible the first image below was close to what Williams would have appeared as if he remained in the film. Check out the pictures:
Since Solo was essentially remade from scratch (Howard's reshoots are about 80 percent of the final film) and the team was trying to keep the project on course for its May 2018 release, it's only logical for Dryden to be substantially retooled. CGI characters are sophisticated undertakings, and even the masters of ILM would have had trouble making sure the animation on Dryden was up to snuff while also handling the rest of the visual effects. There's no denying any of these creatures would have been fascinating to see, but give the time constraints, Dryden almost had to be more human. And since Bettany gave a menacing performance as the suave kingpin, these alternatives are just fun "what ifs" to look at.
Besides the real-world film production issues, the Solo team had an in-universe storytelling explanation for the change. According to creature and make-up effects supervisor Neal Scanlan, the idea behind Dryden was for him to be someone Han "would feel some jealousy, envy, or threat toward" because of a perceived Han-Qi'ra-Dryden love triangle Solo had built up in his head. That dynamic influenced the filmmakers moving forward, as they felt it would be too outlandish for Qi'ra to be romantically involved with a "reptilian bird." While this may have been an opportunity for Star Wars to play up the pansexuality in space, there's no denying the dapper Dryden Bettany played fits that intended description.
Source: The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019