It's hard to believe that despite Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens still playing in theaters and setting box office records, there's another Star Wars movie opening in cinemas in less than 12 months. Before Rian Johnson' Episode VIII picks up and continues the story of Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, etc. in summer 2017, Lucasfilm will take moviegoers back in time, to before the events of the original trilogy to tell a standalone adventure about the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance and their quest to acquire information on the Galactic Empire's Death Star superweapon.
That film is titled Rogue One, and it's just the first of (at least) three Anthology spinoff films in development, designed to expand the universe and fill in the gaps between the core saga episodic releases. According to a rumor a young Han Solo may make an appearance in said film before getting his own origin story in the second Star Wars spinoff coming in 2018, the untitled Han Solo movie in the works by writers and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller coming in 2018.
The casting process to find this new young Han is an arduous one with Lucasfilm reportedly having looked at 2500 candidates already for the part. The latest reports see the likes of recognizable stars Miles Teller, Logan Lerman, and Ansel Elgort listed as top candidates for the role (and all names I listed here). When asked about the casting reports by Variety, J.J. Abrams didn't have much to say since it's not a project he's involved with. He may not be directing the other episodes, but Abrams is sticking around in an executive producer capacity for them. He's not however, involved with the Anthology films.
“Nope. I wish I had something to say, but I don’t. I haven’t turned my attention to that.”
As for what advice he'd give the young actor tasked with bringing Han Solo to life post-Harrison Ford...
“Watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’ll all be right there.”
While Raiders may be the quintessential performance of young Harrison Ford, the joke by Abrams does highlight the ultimate issue with recasting Han Solo. It's an incredible challenge for any actor, no matter how talented, to step into Solo's boots without it feeling like an imitation of Ford's performance. And if that's not the case and the directors put their own spin on the character, is it really still the same character? It's a tough sell on paper and perhaps the greatest challenge yet for a live-action feature from Lucasfilm.
That being said, Phil Lord and Chris Miller will likely have the Millenium Falcon, Chewbacca, and Han's iconic DL-44 sidearm blaster to work with to help sell the package. Perhaps the movie will explain how Han Solo acquires his ship, companion and weapon of choice.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now playing in theaters. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will arrive in theaters on December 16th, 2016, followed by 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.
Han Solo art by Tony Foti for the "Jump to Lightspeed" Force Pack for the Star Wars: TCG.