If you’re going to play a younger version of the galaxy’s most beloved smuggler, you are going to want to go to straight to the source for information about just what makes him tick. That’s exactly what Alden Ehrenreich did last year shortly before production began on Solo: A Star Wars Story.
It has emerged that Ehrenreich met with Harrison Ford for lunch in January last year to talk all things Han Solo. While Ehrenreich has remained tightlipped on the advice he received from the man himself – “I gotta stick to my orders from the man himself,” Ehrenreich has said, that being “Tell them I told you everything you needed to know, and that you can’t tell anyone” – others on the Solo production have been more forthcoming about the generosity of the Star Wars veteran in sharing his thoughts and opinions on everything from how he approached the character to the Solo script.
Following his lunch with Ehrenreich, Ford spoke to Lucasfilm president and Solo producer Kathleen Kennedy to give his verdict on the young star. “It was perfect, classic Harrison,” Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly, breaking into his signature low-key grumble. “‘Good kid, good kid. Really good kid.’” Kennedy also revealed that she had shared the film’s script with Ford, who apparently read it and gave it a “thumbs-up”, though he didn’t offer up much more than that. Kennedy sees his response as being in true Ford style, “I think being who is Harrison is, there is no way he would step into the middle of this and start trying to dictate.”
Having lived with the character for over forty years, and discussed intently with creator and director George Lucas the character’s history and motivations back working on the first film, it appears that Ford suggested Ehrenreich do something similar when working on Solo. “What [Ford] did so beautifully for Alden was he talked a lot about what he remembered when he first read Star Wars, and what George had done with Han. Who the character was and the conversations he had for so many years with George about how that character developed,” Kennedy says. “He gave Alden that kind of insight which was invaluable. There were several times in the course of making the movie where Alden would actually recount some of the things that Harrison had pointed out. I think that was really, really helpful to him.”
Having sent the young Han Solo off on his way, you would be forgiven for thinking that was the extent of Ford’s involvement in the standalone episode. That was before Ron Howard took over directing duties from Phil Lord and Chris Miller and called on Ford for some guidance. “Harrison’s a very thoughtful actor and an artist, and I wanted to know what he learned about the character,” Howard says. “He said that Han is always torn between that sense that he was, in a way, an orphan, and therefore both yearned for connection with people and struggled with it at the same time. I thought that was pretty interesting.” You can definitely see that in his relationships with Luke and Leia in the original trilogy as well as Leia and Ben Solo in The Force Awakens so it will be interesting seeing how he deals with this at a young age and develops into the man we know so well.
Howard also shared some insight into Han’s recklessness – how he charges into situations without thinking of the consequences and then finds himself in over his head. “Han has survived and proven that he can survive, but he’s never sure he’s as quite as smart as he needs to be,” Howard said. “Change that. He’s not really ‘smart.’ That’s not the word he used. Han’s not as on top of it as he needs to be. So he wants to give the appearance of [control], but in fact, he’s often scrambling. I think Harrison played that beautifully, and Alden and I talked about both of those ideas a lot.”
Han Solo is one of my all-time favourite cinematic characters and I have to admit to a large amount of uneasiness and apprehension with Solo, made moreso with the change in directors after so much of principal photography had been completed. I’m trying to keep an open mind, but struggle seeing anyone other than Ford in the role. I mean, he is so iconic, he IS Han. Having heard of his limited involvement in the project does give me some comfort and reignited the hope that the movie won’t be as bad as I fear it will be. They certainly have an outstanding cast in their favour and Howard is a competent director and with a script in the hands of Lawrence Kasdan who wrote my favourite Star Wars film to date – The Empire Strikes Back – there is a lot to be hopeful and excited about.
Whether they succeed or not, we can all judge for ourselves when Solo: A Star Wars Story opens on May 25.
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