WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Harrison Ford's days of playing iconic smuggler Han Solo may be over, as the character met his end in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. However, Lucasfilm still has big plans for the beloved character. One of the standalone anthology films they're developing is a young Han Solo film that Disney CEO Bob Iger recently described as an origin story for Han and his trusted pal Chewbacca. The LEGO Movie filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller are directing with Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon penning the script. The studio has since been on the hunt for the movie's lead.
Literally thousands of actors have auditioned for the role, with various names popping up from time to time. Recent rumors pointed towards Hail, Caesar! standout Alden Ehrenreich and Kingsman: The Secret Service star Taron Egerton being in the running, and they've apparently clinched spots on the final shortlist as Lucasfilm nears their decision.
THR is reporting that Ehrenreich, Egerton, and Transformers: Age of Extinction actor Jack Reynor have all conducted tests in London this month for Han Solo. Their sources caution that there could be other thespians in contention, but it's difficult to say for sure given the high levels of secrecy surrounding the project. In addition, Justin Kroll of Variety is saying that Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some) and Jack O'Connell (Unbroken) are also being considered. However, they do not appear to be frontrunners at this time.
If the search is indeed down to the names mentioned above, Egerton is the one most likely to emerge as the fan-favorite choice. He proved he had what it took to lead an action film in 2014's Kingsman, playing a charming rogue with a heart-of-gold in Eggsy. Egerton is a rising star, with Kingsman 2 and Robin Hood: Origins both hitting theaters next year, so Lucasfilm would be keen to pick him up now before he gets locked into another franchise. Though, 20th Century Fox reportedly wants to turn Kingsman into at least a trilogy, so it remains to be seen how clear Egerton's schedule will be in the future.
While Egerton has been at the top of fantasy casting lists from the moment the project was announced, his competitors aren't slouches, either. In particular, Ehrenreich would be a stellar signing for Lucasfilm. His turn in Hail, Caesar! was perhaps the most praised element of Joel and Ethan Coen's Hollywood satire, as he left viewers wanting more. It also would be interesting to see a relative unknown such as Jenner or O'Connell land the role, continuing the Star Wars tradition of placing fresh-faced actors up front. There's no denying he's an excellent pick, but Egerton may be too high-profile now to completely disappear into the part. Someone audiences are less familiar with might be able to sell a young Han Solo better.
Regardless of who plays Han, there's no denying that Lucasfilm went the extra mile to ensure they got the right man for the job. Recasting a classic role such as this, which is synonymous with Harrison Ford, is a massive risk and could break the film before it even starts principal photography. For their part, the studio seems to understand how important it is to nail this aspect of the film so fans can be excited about the prequel. It's worth mentioning that they've done a great job scouting franchise newcomers thus far (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, etc.), so the quest for the new Han Solo shouldn't be any different.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will be on Blu-ray April 5, 2016; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15th, 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.