Han Solo is one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe, but for a long time the actor who played him, Harrison Ford, didn't share that sentiment. He once called the iconic smuggler "dumb as a stump" and for a while appeared unwilling to sign on for Return of the Jedi. He even vouched for Captain Solo meeting his ultimate demise in the threequel, before George Lucas came up with the trilogy's more upbeat conclusion.
But things have certainly changed now. Ford, of course, is returning to his famous role in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens and has already given fans one moment they'll never forget ("Chewie, we're home"). Moviegoers are enthusiastically anticipating another adventure with Han, and perhaps nobody was as excited to see it become a reality than Ford himself.
In their coverage of The Force Awakens, EW did a whole feature dedicated to Ford coming back to the saga and why his attitude has changed so greatly after he spent years viewing Star Wars with a cynical eye. According to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, what really sold the actor on the project was the story director J.J. Abrams was developing:
"I think what really got him excited was when he read the first draft, and he saw where we were going and what we were doing. He was immediately on board, and then he sat down and had a great conversation with J.J. and went through, in detail, what we were thinking about doing. And then, you know, Harrison — and I’ve always found this over the years with the Indiana Jones films we’ve all done together — he’s incredibly collaborative when it comes to story and developing his character, and really engaged in the process. And he was every bit that on this film."
This should be very encouraging for longtime fans. While players like Mark Hamill have had their minds on an Episode VII for years, Ford appeared to have checked out after the Rebels destroyed the second Death Star. That Abrams was able to win Ford over and reignite his passion for the series is a great vote of confidence in The Force Awakens' narrative. It's also nice to hear that Ford was very eager and involved in the creative process, as it illustrates the new Star Wars is not simply a cash grab, but something he cares deeply about and wants to do justice.
Ford even didn't let the broken leg injury he suffered while filming dampen his spirits. While he was recuperating, Abrams and his co-writer Lawrence Kasdan had some spare time to fine tune the script. Abrams thought they would have to revise many of Ford's scenes as Han Solo as part of their script tinkering, but the writer/director told EW that ended up not being the case:
“It wasn’t something that we knew for a little while. When it became clear that he was going to be just fine, we realized we didn’t need to change [Han's scenes] at all. In fact, there are some places where he’s more active than he was prior to the accident. As you’ll see in the movie, he is running and doing more physical activity in this movie than I think anyone who knows he was injured would expect. Nothing was adjusted or lessened because of that accident. Even for Harrison, who is famously resilient and strong, he blew everyone’s minds.”
From the sound of it, it sounds like the man who once told The Today Show that he was happy to see his Star Wars costume for the last time was one of the most dedicated participants in this new film. As if fans weren't excited by the possibilities The Force Awakens presented already, the promise of a rejuvenated Ford in a lead role will only make the next four months that more unbearable.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18, 2015, followed by Star Wars: Rogue One on December 16, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars anthology film on May 25, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX has not received an official release date.