The Star Wars franchise is back in a big way! Posting one of the highest box office takes in movie history, and selling an equally huge amount of merchandise, Star Wars - Episode 7: The Force Awakens succeeded in making the Galaxy Far, Far Away cool again to not just fans but casual filmgoers everywhere. Thanks to practical effects, young up-and-coming talents, and a cast of familiar facts - not to mention an adorable new droid - The Force Awakens set an extremely high bar for the films set to follow in the franchise.
Now that viewers are invested in the story of Rey and Finn, as well as the malevolent Kylo-Ren, the numbered Star Wars installments (Episode 8 and 9, to start) should have no problem bringing moviegoers back to the theater in the next several years. However, core saga chapters aren't the only big screen Star Wars stories Disney has planned and while fans are likely excited for the parade of Star Wars "stories" set to hit theaters, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story up first, the spin-off movies are a slightly greater risk for the studio. Rogue One has the benefit of introducing audiences to a new cast of characters in the Star Wars universe but the Han Solo prequel film is another situation. Even with fan-favorite filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller at the helm, the biggest Star Wars fans have been reluctant about the Solo solo movie - because who could ever fill the boots of Harrison Ford? Now we have an answer of who is likely to try.
Thanks to a Deadline report, we now know that Alden Ehrenreich is the frontrunner to portray Han Solo in the Star Wars spinoff film. The report makes it clear that the actor isn't confirmed for the part yet - and both Lucasfilm and the actor's agency are not commenting either way. Still, the trade makes it clear that, at this point, Ehrenreich is Disney's first choice for the part (pulling ahead of other actors who had competed for the role, including Taron Egerton and Jack Reynor). While the publication doesn't elaborate, their source indicated that Ehrenreich is now at the "front of the pack" after an "impressive" performance during testing. We previously heard casting for the part was nearly done, so there's a very good chance that, assuming contract negotiations go okay, Ehrenreich will portray Solo in Lord and Miller's movie.
So who is Alden Ehrenreich? He's exactly the kind of performer that Lucasfilm wanted - a talented but relative unknown who has just started proving himself in Hollywood. The actor is best known for stealing scenes in Joe and Ethan Coen's film Hail, Caesar! earlier this year (where he played Hobie Doyle) and audiences will get another look at him later in 2016 with the release of Warren Beatty's untitled Howard Hughes movie.
That said, unlike some of the fresh-faced actors joining the Star Wars universe, like Daisy Ridley, who had little-to-no experience prior to being cast into the franchise, Ehrenreich has been working in the industry for nearly a decade - with appearances, albeit small ones, on TV and film: including Blue Jasmine, Stoker, and Beautiful Creatures - after making his debut, back in 2005, on an episode of Supernatural. Skeptical fans will, no doubt, look at the critical and commercial bomb Beautiful Creatures on the actor's filmography and find cause for concern but, in a film that even fans found little to like, Ehrenreich's performance was one of only a few bright spots. That is to say, if Ehrenreich can deliver a likable turn in something as sappy and uninspired as Beautiful Creatures, there's plenty of reason to think the actor could shine with quality writing, directing, and a great character behind him - which is already apparent in Ehrenreich's more recent work.
No doubt, moviegoers will have reservations about any actor cast in the part - given that most will either have their own fan-casting picks or think its sacrilege for anyone but Ford to portray Solo in live action. Still, it's encouraging that Ehrenreich may have the part thanks to a quality performance, rather than simply looking the most like a young Harrison Ford. While it's fun to fantasy cast actors that bear striking resemblance to established characters, most fans will agree that nailing the balance between hero, scoundrel, heart, and humor, is the most important hurdle to clear for any young actor intent on portraying Solo. To that end, Ehrenreich is a great pick - albeit one that will still have a lot to prove.
For now, Ehrenreich's casting remains unconfirmed, we'll be sure to update you if/when Lucasfilm makes an official announcement.
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 IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.