When Lucasfilm announced that one of their planned Star Wars anthology films would be a young Han Solo movie, everyone knew it would be a daunting task. Harrison Ford has become synonymous with the character, and his performance in last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens cemented his legacy with an emotional arc. Recasting such an iconic part is always a challenge, but in this instance, even the most passionate Star Wars fans were skeptical if it was something that could be done.
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller auditioned more than 2,500 actors for the role, and there were several big names rumored to be in the running. A couple of months ago, it was reported that Hail, Caesar! standout Alden Ehrenreich would be the new Han Solo, but Lucasfilm made no official statement on the matter. That all changed at Star Wars Celebration 2016 in London, when Lord and Miller brought out Ehrenreich to introduce him to the crowd during the Future Filmmakers panel.
Lord and Miller spent some time discussing their casting process, revealing that they "turned over every rock to find someone who has the charisma and magic swagger." Funnily enough, all that searching ended up being a waste of time and energy. According to Miller, Ehrenreich was "literally the first person to walk through the door" and ended up as the movie's lead. In retrospect, it's an amusing anecdote that highlights the difficulties of filmmaking. Viewers can rest easy knowing that the directors didn't take this responsibility lightly and pulled out all the stops to make sure they had the right man for the job.
As one would expect, Ehrenreich wasn't just handed the job after one screen test. The actor said that he "auditioned for about 6 months," a situation similar to Daisy Ridley and John Boyega during the casting of Star Wars 7. Ehrenreich got to work on the Millennium Falcon and audition with Chewbacca, who obviously is going to be a principal player in the spinoff. The chemistry between those two characters is going to be paramount, especially with the entire film focusing exclusively on them. With Ehrenreich doing screen tests on the Falcon, one has to wonder if the dynamic duo will already be in possession of the ship by the time the movie starts. Fans know that Han won it in a card game with Lando Calrissian, but that may not be shown in Lord and Miller's film, which will begin production in January or February next year.
It will no doubt be difficult for longtime fans to envision anyone other than Ford as Han Solo, but Lucasfilm snagged one of Hollywood's rising stars, a relative unknown who has demonstrated premiere talent on numerous occasions. Following the footsteps of a legend sounds rough, but Ehrenreich is more than up for it. He mentioned that his experience auditioning was "more exciting than it was nerve-wracking," so he's not going to crumble under the pressure of being involved with a massive franchise. He may never be able to truly "replace" Ford, but as the Kelvin Timeline Star Trek films have shown, it is possible for new actors to breathe life into established characters. It's worth giving Ehrenreich a chance to show what he's capable of before rushing to any judgments.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in U.S. theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IXin 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.