From the very beginning the plan for The Force Awakens was always to have major connections to Return of the Jedi, but to have our familiar heroes spread apart. Episode VI ended on an extremely positive note and so Episode VII had to undo that. Kylo Ren was the key plot device that could separate all these characters.
Arndt explains that their ideas for the backstory would see Luke Skywalker having a pupil who turned against him and his Jedi academy, killing all the other students. This would be how and why all the relationships we knew of fell apart.
And so when The Force Awakens was being written, Arndt had initially planned to have it be about Han and Leia reuniting... but that wouldn't be doing much with the character of Han Solo.
“I had thought Han’s story and Leia’s story was just about them coming back together. At the end of the movie they would have reconciled and gotten over their differences. And you would have said, ‘Okay, bad stuff happened, but at least they’re back together again. J.J. rightly asked, ‘What is Han doing in this movie?’ If we’re not going to have something important and irreversible happen to him, then he kind of feels like luggage. He feels like this great, sexy piece of luggage you have in your movie. But he’s not really evolving. He’s not really pushing the story forward.”
But what did Harrison Ford think Han Solo being killed off? Abrams joked saying "he was fine" but we know that was absolutely true. Ford always said in interviews (like this one) that Han Solo should have died in the original trilogy. Lawrence Kasdan, who co-write the rewrites of Arndt's draft with Abrams, followed up Abrams' words by reiterating that Ford was pushing for that to happen during Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (both of which Kasdan wrote). The actor didn't even find the smuggler to be that interesting.
Any doubts Abrams had over this scene, over killing off one of the most iconic characters of all-time, were washed away by Kasdan's support of the idea. And it helped in how well Adam Driver and Harrison Ford played it on set, as Abrams describes:
“It was really chilling. Seeing these two actors, they weren’t chewing up the scenery. They were just doing this thing in a way that, frankly, was disturbing. To see Harrison reach out and touch Adam. I know this sounds stupid, but literally watching it, I forgot — I forgot that he wasn’t his son. He did it so beautifully.”
May the Force be with Han Solo. Share your thoughts in the comments.
The film is directed by J.J. Abrams and stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Max Von Sydow. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk are producing with Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The screenplay is by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.