From now until well into the foreseeable future, there’s always going to be multiple Star Wars films in various stages of development. The Last Jedi is well into the edit and Colin Trevorrow has been prepping for Episode IX for years, and set to come in between is the Untitled Han Solo Standalone, which has just recently started principal photography (and this is discounting the various books, comics and TV projects).
What this means for fans is that there’s a constant stream of information coming in various forms from all corners of the galaxy far, far away. Everybody’s eagerly awaiting a trailer for Episode VIII (and the possibility of finally hearing old Luke talk), but to tide fans over until Star Wars Celebration, Lucasfilm has given a taste of Han Solo with a behind-the-scenes production photo that assembles the core cast and directors in the Millennium Falcon cockpit.
There’s more to the film than just the early days of the roguish smuggler, which the image attests to. In the wake of Solo-fever, we’re going to break down who’s starring in the film and who’s playing what.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller – Directors
If there’s one reason to be obscenely excited for this film, it’s these guys - Phil Lord (right) and Chris Miller (left). They’re not just behind some of the most entertaining movies of the past decade, but some of the most unexpected ones; Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie and 22 Jump Street. Every single one of those looked risky on paper and yet they turned them into original, self-aware features that almost seemed to mock those skeptical of the concepts.
Han Solo definitely fits that mold, and their presence also promises that the second Anthology film will be on the more comedic side of the Star Wars spectrum )or at the very least take itself less seriously than the likes of Rogue One). It's definitely the strongest endorsement of the project. In a rather cute wink, the pair are shown holding the controls in the picture, a nod to their role in the production.
Alden Ehrenreich – Han Solo
The star of the show, it sounds like pretty much every twenty-something, male actor in Hollywood was in the running to play Han Solo. The casting process went on for months, with a shortlist that reportedly included Logan Lerman, Jack Reynor, Miles Teller, Scott Eastwood, Ansel Elgort, Dave Franco, Emory Cohen and Blake Jenner. In the end, though, Lucasfilm went with the very first person they auditioned – Alden Ehrenreich.
Ehrenreich has been a few degrees from Star Wars for much of his career. One of his first major pictures was Tetro, directed by George Lucas contemporary Francis Ford Coppola, and he was noticed as a potential for the role by Steven Spielberg. He’s probably best known for his film-stealing turn in the Coen Brother’s Hail, Caesar! as a cowboy actor forced into prestige pictures, which allowed him to show both his classic movie star charisma, but also a jokey vulnerability beneath it.
Not much is known about how this take of Han will work. Based on the age of the actors auditioned, Lord and Miller are playing with a character anywhere between five and ten years younger than Solo’s debut in Star Wars, and with Ehrenreich reportedly signed on for three films there’s plenty of room for him to develop into his scoundrel ways.
Visually, Ehrenreich wasn’t necessarily closest to a young Ford out of the whole shortlist, but that attests to a wider stylistic approach of the film; whereas Rogue One was heavily focused on accurately recreating the setting of the original movie, Han Solo is taking a more feel-a-like approach - mood over looks.
Joonas Suotamo - Chewbacca
Chewbacca was confirmed to be a key part of the standalone almost a year ago, and since then everything about Han Solo points towards it essentially being a buddy movie with him and human buddy. This presumably includes their fateful meeting; in the EU that involved Imperial officer Solo deserting the Empire after freeing the Wookie from slavery, something Aftermath: Life Debt potentially alluded to.
This will actually be Finnish basketball player Joonas Suotamo’s third time playing the walking carpet – he did all of Chewbacca’s non-sitting parts in The Force Awakens (original actor Peter Mayhew provided the cockpit scenes) and will take on the part proper in The Last Jedi. Suotamo stands at 2.09m high, ten centimeters shorter than original actor Peter Mayhew, but from what we’ve seen of him in Episode VII he definitely has the right gait and presence.
Of course, this take on Chewie will be forty years younger than the version seen in the sequel trilogy. It’s unclear what this means of his personality or temperament, but it visually leads to the costume having less gray hair and a general fur makeup closer to the original trilogy look (and thankfully bearing little resemblance to his bizarre extended cameo from Revenge of the Sith).
Donald Glover – Lando Calrissian
Possibly the most inspired piece of casting in all of Disney-era Star Wars (followed closely by the father-son combo of Ehrenreich and Adam Driver) has to be Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. The rapper-slash-actor-slash-all-round-television-genius was confirmed in the part back in October 2016 and has since appeared incredibly humble, even caught on camera having dinner with original star Billy Dee Williams.
The core part of Han and Lando’s past is, of course, the fateful Sabaac game where the latter lost the Millennium Falcon to the former. This story was told in multiple forms in the EU and has been brought over to the new canon by The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, but Han Solo will finally show it on the big screen. How else Lando plays into the movie and his relationship is unknown, but Glover being able to perfectly embody Williams’ charm and swagger is a dead cert.
Woody Harrelson – Garris Shrike?
Woody Harrelson was first linked to the project in the early days of 2017 as Han Solo’s mentor and was confirmed as part of the cast shortly afterward. Knowing his criminal role, the big question over his character is whether he’s playing Han’s Expanded Universe father figure, Garris Shrike.
Shrike was featured in The Paradise Snare, the first in the late-1990s Han Solo trilogy of books, where he was established as the man who raised an orphaned Solo before Han ran away. In the book, Garris was presented as rather brutish and tough, hunting Han after his desertion before being killed by a third party. He was referenced sporadically, but in the grand scheme of Star Wars is a rather minor character.
Whether Harrelson is actually playing Shrike isn't 100% confirmed. When asked by Variety, Harrelson was coy in his confirmation, with it unclear if he was stating he was playing Shrike or simply the mentor role, and later Lucasfilm's own Pablo Hidalgo cast further doubt over it. The new Star Wars canon has been rather careful with what it lifts from the EU and even major elements brought over have been altered to fit the new stories (see Thrawn in Rebels), so even if the man Harrelson’s playing is called Garris, there may be differences in character or story.
Emilia Clarke – The Love Interest
The biggest surprise in the casting of the Han Solo movie, at least from a character perspective, has been Emilia Clarke; you expect Chewie and Lando, and a mentor makes sense, but it’s unclear how she fits in.
The common understanding is that she’s playing the film’s love interest, although the rumored shortlist suggested Lucasfilm were looking for a person of color, possibly to play Han’s new comic wife Sana Starros. It may be that the plan changed, or that there’s some more casting to come.
Clarke is best known for playing Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, which will have just finished by the time this film is finally released, giving her the perfect opportunity to move swiftly on from the Mother of Dragons. She previously tried to kickstart a movie career with Terminator Genisys, but the whole film – and her reimagining of Linda Hamilton’s waitress-cum-badass in particular – was panned. Han Solo has a much better chance of seeing her leap successfully to the big screen.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge - A Female Droid
The latest addition to the cast is Phoebe Waller-Bridge. A regular on the British sitcom circuit, the comedian broke out big last year with BBC Three’s online series Fleabag, which she both wrote and starred in, earning major plaudits. Curiously, just a few days ago Waller-Bridge said she was totally unaware of any Star Wars talk, meaning her deal’s gone down to the line or she’s already getting warmed up for the Disney secrecy machine.
The character she’s playing is rumoured to be the franchise’s first major female droid, a mo-cap creation who works along with Han. Fitting of BB-8 and K-2SO’s parts in The Force Awakens and Rogue One respectively, as well as her comedy background, it seems likely this will be a more comedy relief character.
Those who’ve been following the development of Han Solo will have spotted that one rumored member of the cast who’s conspicuously absent is Thandie Newton. The Westworld star was recently linked to the project, but there’s been no official announcement as there has been with the other six cast members, which may explain her absence – she hasn’t signed on the dotted line. It’s also possible that she’s playing a smaller part and hasn’t arrived on the set, or perhaps she’s the film’s villain so again wouldn’t quite fit.
It’s worth noting that original cast images for previous Star Wars movies were missing key players – The Force Awakens' massive announcement didn’t feature Gwendoline Christie or Lupita Nyong'o, while Rogue One’s first look only featured the rebel band, with no room for Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn or Mads Mikkelsen. So while the image shows Han Solo’s core cast, there may be many more to come.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019