Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story
In early drafts of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Wookiee slaves fought for the Empire, wearing stormtrooper armor into battle. The spinoff marks the first time the Imperials' severe mistreatment of the Wookiee race was depicted on the big screen. Followers of the non-movie canon have known about this dynamic for years (the novel Life Debt, Rebels), but it was still a shock to see it in live-action. Chewbacca's introductory scene finds him malnourished and mangy as a prisoner, and later on he frees some fellow Wookiees from the mines of Kessel. These sequences helped flesh Chewie out and made him a stronger character than he already was.
Of course, how things play out in the finished film wasn't in place from the beginning. The script went through different variations over the course of its development, and the original plan for the Wookiees would have led to an eye-catching visual. We almost got to see Wookiees fighting as stormtroopers.
The book The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story details this, revealing a screenplay draft from 2016 Chewbacca and other Wookiees were fighting in the Battle of Mimban, clad in their stormtrooper armor. The feeling was this would make things easier for the creature department, since they wouldn't have to produce a plethora of "articulated Wookiee faces" for the scene. You can check out concept art of the Wookiee stormtroopers below:
It would appear Han's fateful first encounter with his future co-pilot went through several iterations before the caged "beast" was settled on. Recently, it was confirmed at one point, Chewbacca and Han fought alongside each other in a multi-species army united against the Empire (and Chewie saved Han). In this case, the two friends would have been paired up as unwilling soldiers, battling for a cause they do not believe in. Though Han quickly enlisted in the Empire so he could return to Corellia ASAP and reunite with Qi'ra, he eventually learned he wasn't the best fit in an organization that prides itself on order and authority. Through the different versions, it sounds like the broad strokes remained, the creative team just needed to iron out the specifics.
While some of these options may have been better than what's actually in Solo, that's not to say the "Han meets Chewie" scene is bad. In fact, Howard and company deserve credit for underplaying it a bit. This checking of the box is just a moment that happens, not something portrayed as a life-altering event. Them crossing paths in an epic battle would have been great spectacle, but a more intimate introduction where it's just the two of them working together to bust out of imprisonment was a fun genesis for a decades-long friendship.
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