Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)


Introduction

Solo: A Star Wars Story (or simply Solo) is a 2018 American space Western film based around the Star Wars character Han Solo, also featuring his original trilogy co-protagonists Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian.

It is the second Star Wars anthology film, following Rogue One (2016). Alden Ehrenreich stars in the title role, with Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany co-starring.

The film explores the early adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca, who join a heist within the criminal underworld ten years prior to the events of Star Wars.

Outline

On the planet Corellia, orphans Han and Qi’ra escape a local gang. They bribe an Imperial officer with stolen fuel, known as coaxium, for passage on a transport, but Qi’ra is captured before she can board. Han vows to return for her and joins the Imperial Navy as a flight cadet, being given the name “Solo”.

Three years later, Han is serving as an infantryman on Mimban after being expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy for insubordination. He encounters a group of criminals posing as Imperial soldiers led by Tobias Beckett. Han attempts to blackmail Beckett into letting him join the gang, but Beckett has him arrested and thrown into a pit to be fed to a Wookiee prisoner named Chewbacca. Able to understand Chewbacca’s language, Han persuades him to cooperate to escape. Beckett, aware of the usefulness of a Wookiee’s strength, rescues and enlists them in the gang to steal a shipment of coaxium on Vandor-1. The plan fails when the Cloud Riders led by Enfys Nest arrive to hijack the shipment, resulting in the deaths of Beckett’s wife Val and another crewman, Rio, and the destruction of the coaxium.

Beckett reveals that he was ordered to steal the shipment for Dryden Vos, a high-ranking crime boss in the Crimson Dawn syndicate. Han and Chewbacca volunteer to help him steal another shipment to repay the debt. They travel to Vos’s yacht where Han finds Qi’ra, who has joined Crimson Dawn as Vos’s top lieutenant. Han suggests a risky plan to steal unrefined coaxium from the mines on Kessel; Vos approves but insists Qi’ra accompany the team. She leads them to Lando Calrissian, a smuggler and pilot, who she hopes will lend them his ship, the Millennium Falcon. Han challenges Lando to a game of sabacc, with the wager being Lando’s ship. Lando cheats to win but agrees to join the mission in exchange for a share of the profits.

After reaching Kessel in the Falcon and infiltrating the mine, Lando’s droid co-pilot L3-37 instigates a slave revolt. In the confusion, they steal the coaxium, but L3 is fatally damaged, and Lando is wounded during the escape. With the help of L3’s navigational computer, hot-wired into the ship’s systems, Han pilots the ship through the dangerous and uncharted Kessel Run to elude an Imperial blockade. The Falcon, badly damaged, lands on the planet Savareen to process the coaxium.

Enfys arrives, having tracked the team from Vandor, and Lando leaves in the Falcon, deserting everyone else. Enfys reveals that she and her crew are rebels trying to strike back at the syndicates and the Empire. Han becomes sympathetic to their cause and tries to trick Vos, who reveals Beckett has already alerted him to the double-cross. Vos sends his guards to kill Enfys, but the Cloud Riders overpower them, leaving Vos defenceless. Having anticipated Vos’s strategy, Han tries to take the coaxium, but Beckett betrays Vos and escapes with it, taking Chewbacca hostage. Qi’ra kills Vos and sends Han after Beckett. She contacts Vos’s superior, the former Sith Lord Maul, to inform him of the mission’s failure, which she blames on Beckett. Maul orders Qi’ra to meet with him on Dathomir.

Han confronts Beckett and shoots him before he can return fire. Qi’ra leaves in Vos’s yacht, while Han and Chewbacca give the coaxium to Enfys, who offers Han a chance to join the rebellion against the Empire. He declines, and she gives him a vial of coaxium, enough to purchase a ship of his own. Han and Chewbacca locate Lando and challenge him to a rematch in sabacc, once again wagering the Falcon.

Han wins, having stolen the card Lando used in order to cheat; he and Chewbacca leave for Tatooine to find a crime lord who is putting together a profitable job.

Cast

  • Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo:
    • A cynical smuggler who joins Beckett’s crew.
    • When asked how Solo differs from his appearance in other Star Wars films, Ehrenreich stated, “I think the main thing that’s different is that the Han we meet in this film is more of an idealist. He has certain dreams that he follows, and we watch how it affects him as those dreams meet new realities—realities that are harder and more challenging than he’d expected.”
    • Harrison Ford, who portrayed the character in previous films, met with Ehrenreich, giving him some insight and words of advice.
  • Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett:
    • A criminal and Han’s mentor.
    • The character of Beckett was based on Long John Silver from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra:
    • Han’s childhood friend and romantic interest.
    • Describing her character, Clarke said: “She has a couple of guises, but essentially she is just fighting to stay alive. If you’ve got a really glamorous lady in a really sordid environment, you kind of know the glamor is hiding a few rough roads.”
    • With regard to her character’s relationship with Solo, Clarke offered that “They grew up as comrades, essentially. They grew up as pals, as partners in crime. There is obviously the romantic side of things. But they grew up together. So they were kids together.”
  • Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian:
    • A smuggler, gambler, and self-proclaimed sportsman on the rise in the galaxy’s underworld.
    • Billy Dee Williams, who portrayed the character in the previous films, met with Glover, giving him some insight and words of advice about the character.
  • Thandie Newton as Val:
    • Beckett’s wife, a fellow criminal and member of her husband’s crew.
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37:
    • Lando’s droid companion and navigator.
    • When the character dies in the film her consciousness and data are uploaded to the Millennium Falcon which serves as a retcon of the previous Star Wars films including The Empire Strikes Back in which the starship was described as having “the most peculiar dialect”.
    • Screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan explained that this was done to give “the Falcon a personality that is fused with this amazing character played by Phoebe [which] I think does actually enrich the other movies”.
  • Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca:
    • Han’s Wookiee sidekick and best friend, who also serves as his first mate.
  • Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos:
    • A ruthless crime lord who has a history with Beckett.
    • Michael K. Williams had originally been cast, but he was removed from the final film after being unable to return to set during the film’s re-shoots.
    • Bettany was cast in his place, with the character being reworked from a motion-capture alien (described by Williams as half-mountain lion, half-human) to a scarred near-human alien lifeform.

Erin Kellyman appears as Enfys Nest, the leader of a gang of pirates called Cloud Riders. Jon Favreau voices Rio Durant, “a very cool and important alien character” and member of Beckett’s crew, and Linda Hunt voices Lady Proxima, the serpent-like leader of the gang to which teenage Han and Qi’ra belong. Ian Kenny portrays Rebolt while Clint Howard portrays Ralakili. Additionally, Anthony Daniels cameos as Tak, enslaved alongside Chewbacca, Kiran Shah plays Karjj and Warwick Davis briefly reprises his role from The Phantom Menace as Weazel, a Cloud Rider. Ray Park reprises his role as Maul, with Sam Witwer providing the voice, reprising the role from The Clone Wars (2008) and Rebels animated TV series. Peter Serafinowicz, Maul’s original voice actor in The Phantom Menace, was initially brought to record Maul’s dialogue, but his vocal performance was ultimately dropped in favour of Witwer’s. Dee Tails appears as Quay Tolsite, the director of the Pyke Syndicate’s operations on Kessel.

Screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan and first assistant director Toby Hefferman portrayed Tag Greenley and Bink Otauna, respectively – two characters that first appeared in the Star Wars Legends comics published by Dark Horse Comics. The scene was not included in the finished film.

Production

Development

A planned live-action TV series developed by Star Wars creator George Lucas titled Star Wars: Underworld would have depicted Han Solo’s first meeting with Chewbacca and his winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. In 2012, Lucas began developing a film about a young Solo, and hired veteran Star Wars screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan to write the screenplay. After Lucas sold his company to Disney in 2012, Kasdan was hired to help finish the script for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, leaving his son Jonathan Kasdan in charge of writing Solo until his return.

In February 2013, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed the development of two Star Wars standalone films, one written by Lawrence Kasdan. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Disney was working on a film featuring Solo. Disney CFO Jay Rasulo described the standalone films as origin stories. In July, Lucasfilm announced that an anthology film focusing “on how [a] young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley” would be released on 25 May 2018. The project was to be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from a script by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan. Kathleen Kennedy would serve as a producer, with Lawrence Kasdan and Jason McGatlin as executive producers; Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel also produce. Solo’s Wookiee friend Chewbacca was also announced to appear in the film. In May 2016, Lawrence Kasdan stated that filming would start in January 2017.

Casting

In January 2016, a list of actors was revealed for the role of young Han Solo, including Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Dave Franco, Jack Reynor, Scott Eastwood, Logan Lerman, Emory Cohen and Blake Jenner. In March 2016, it was reported that Alden Ehrenreich, Reynor and Taron Egerton were on a shortlist for the role. In May 2016, Ehrenreich was reported to have been cast as the young Han Solo, and was revealed in the role at Star Wars Celebration Europe III two months later. Miller called casting the role one of “the hardest casting challenges of all time”, adding that they “saw over 3,000 people for the part”.

By the following October, Tessa Thompson, Naomi Scott, Zoë Kravitz, Emilia Clarke, Kiersey Clemons, Jessica Henwick and Adria Arjona were being considered for the female lead, while Donald Glover was being considered to play a young Lando Calrissian. Glover was confirmed for Calrissian shortly after, with Clarke cast as the female lead the following month. Shameik Moore also auditioned for the role of Calrissian.

In early January 2017, Woody Harrelson was revealed to be in negotiations to portray Han Solo’s mentor, and was confirmed to be appearing in the film shortly after. Christian Bale had previously been in discussions for the role. A subsequent interview with Harrelson bolstered speculation that he may be specifically playing Legends character Garris Shrike, but Harrelson revealed the character’s name as Beckett in March 2017. In February 2017, Phoebe Waller-Bridge joined the cast in an undisclosed role, said to be “a CGI-driven performance” similar to Alan Tudyk in Rogue One as the droid K-2SO. Additionally, it was reported that Thandie Newton was in negotiations to star in the film. Waller-Bridge and Newton were confirmed as part of the cast by the end of February, alongside the announcement that Joonas Suotamo would appear as Chewbacca, reprising the role from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, where he shared it with original Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew. Michael K. Williams entered talks to join the film in early March 2017, and was confirmed shortly after, portraying a half-human, half-animal creature. By the end of the month, Ian Kenny had joined the cast. Warwick Davis was confirmed as part of the cast by the end of July 2017.

Peter Serafinowicz was set to reprise his voice role as Darth Maul and had recorded dialogue during production at Pinewood Studios. He was later informed by Lucasfilm after the film’s premiere that he had been replaced by Sam Witwer in order to maintain continuity with The Clone Wars and Rebels animated TV series, in which Witwer voiced the character.

Filming

Filming began on 30 January 2017, at Pinewood Studios, under the working title Star Wars: Red Cup. By 10 February, the film had spent $54.5 million on production. Lucasfilm announced that principal photography started on 20 February 2017. Bradford Young served as the cinematographer for the film. In May 2017, filming took place in Italy, with locations including Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Monte Piana in the Dolomites in Veneto, to the Fassa Dolomites in Trentino. Filming also took place in the Canary Islands that month.

On 20 June 2017, citing “creative differences”, Lucasfilm announced that the directors had left the project with a new director “to be announced soon”. It was reported that the directors were fired after Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan disagreed with their shooting style; Lord and Miller believed they were hired to make a comedy film, while Lucasfilm was looking for the duo only to add “a comedic touch”. Lucasfilm also felt the directors were encouraging too much improvisation from the actors, which was believed to be “shifting the story off-course” from the Kasdans’ script. To appease Kasdan, who was unhappy with scenes not being filmed “word for word”, Lord and Miller shot several takes exactly as written, then shot additional takes. Lord and Miller refused to compromise on certain scenes, such as filming a scene from fewer angles than Lucasfilm expected, thereby reducing the options available in editing. The duo were also unhappy when Lawrence Kasdan was brought to the London set, feeling he became a “shadow director”. The decision to remove Lord and Miller was made after a short hiatus in filming taken to review the footage so far. The original film editor, Chris Dickens, was also removed from the film, replaced by Pietro Scalia.

It was reported that Ron Howard, who had previously collaborated with Lucas as an actor in American Graffiti (1973) and the director of Willow (1988), was a frontrunner to step in as director. Howard had turned down an offer to direct Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Joe Johnston and Kasdan were also considered, though in regards to Kasdan Directors Guild of America rules state that a replacement for a director may not be someone already involved in the production. Two days later, it was announced that Howard would take over directing for the remaining three-and-a-half weeks of scheduled principal photography as well as the scheduled five weeks of re-shoots. Howard wrote, “I’m beyond grateful to add my voice to the Star Wars universe… I hope to honour the great work already done and help deliver on the promise of a Han Solo film.” Howard was expected to arrive in London on 26 June to complete filming. During the re-shoots, actor Michael K. Williams was unable to return to the production, due to a schedule conflict with filming The Red Sea Diving Resort, resulting in his part being redeveloped and recast with Paul Bettany. Williams stated the re-shoots for his character were “to match the new direction which the producers wanted Ron to carry the film in”, and that he would not have been available again until November 2017; the production did not want to wait for his availability to make a release in May 2018. Bettany, who previously worked with Howard on A Beautiful Mind, had heard of the director’s involvement with the film and texted him to inquire into joining the film. “Two weeks later I was flying to London to be in ‘Star Wars‘” Bettany detailed in a May 2018 interview with The Los Angeles Times.

Lucas, Howard’s friend, mentor and collaborator, made a surprise visit to the set to encourage Howard on his first day shooting. Intended as a short meeting, Lucas spent the whole day with the crew. While Lucas had not meant to interfere, at some point he forgot and asked “Why doesn’t Han just do this?”; Howard included his suggestion. On 17 October 2017, Howard announced that principal photography had been completed, and revealed the title of the film.

In March 2018, after it was reported Howard had re-shot around 70% of the film, it was announced that Lord and Miller would not challenge for director credit and instead agreed to executive producer credits. The duo saw an early cut of Howard’s film and provided him with their feedback. Post-production wrapped on 22 April 2018.

Visual Effects

The visual effects were provided by Industrial Light & Magic, Hybride and Blind LTD and Supervised by Nigel Sumner, Julian Foddy, Greg Kegel, Joseph Kasparian, Francois Lambert, Andrew Booth, Rob Bredow and Patrick Tubach with the help of Jellyfish Pictures, Raynault VFX, Lola VFX and Nvizage. Bredow described working on the train heist scene as a challenge. “I’ve always in my own life referenced the Star Wars films in terms of having the coolest explosions ever, you know, back to Joe Viskocil’s explosions of the Death Star and the way those evolved over time. It was like, ‘How am I going to do something that’s different and unique in the Star Wars universe?”. He would utilise miniature models and built a 3D model of the mountain in the film and blew it up with a variety of firecrackers within a large fish tank built at Pinewood. The team took inspiration from the YouTube channel The Slow Mo Guys, specifically a video of the creators Gavin Free and Daniel Gruchy conducting an experiment that saw them blowing up firecrackers in a fish tank to capture the explosion in slow motion.

60 versions of the design of the Millennium Falcon were created before the final version seen in the film was settled on. Taken into consideration by the design team was 1970’s culture, examining muscle cars, as well as concept art drafted for the 1977 film. Lead designer James Clyne described adding an escape pod to the front of the ship as solving a curiosity he had as a boy as to why the Falcon had that design. Rear-projection visual effects, a technique used to combine foreground performances with pre-filmed backgrounds, were used for the Falcon cockpit scenes, an updated version of the technique used in the original trilogy. This allowed the actors to have a visual reference for the scene.

The creation of L3 was a combination of practical and visual effects. Actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge was present on set and wore a costume to perform her scenes, with post-production visual effects done to erase Waller-Bridge out of the footage and to add in interior pieces and wires.

Trivia

  • Star Wars creator George Lucas began developing a Han Solo prequel in 2012, and commissioned Lawrence Kasdan to write the screenplay.
  • After Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, Kasdan was hired to write Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), leaving his son Jonathan to complete the Solo script.
  • Principal photography began in January 2017 at Pinewood Studios, under the direction of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
  • Both were fired in June 2017 following “creative differences” with Lucasfilm, and Howard was hired as their replacement.
  • With an estimated production budget of at least $275 million, Solo is one of the most expensive films ever made.
  • It received generally favourable reviews from critics who praised the film’s acting performances (particularly Ehrenreich and Glover), visuals, musical score, and action sequences, while some criticised its storyline and screenplay.
  • It is the first Star Wars film to be considered a box-office failure, grossing $393 million worldwide, making it the lowest-grossing live-action film in the franchise.
  • It received a nomination for Best Visual Effects at the 91st Academy Awards.
  • Alden Ehrenreich confirmed his contract deal to appear as Han Solo extended for two additional films, giving the studio the option to pursue a sequel to Solo: A Star Wars Story, or feature him in other anthology films in a supporting capacity.
    • Ehrenreich said he would like any sequels to differentiate themselves from the previous Star Wars trilogies by being standalone, in the vein of the Indiana Jones films, rather than direct follow-ups.
  • Emilia Clarke, who played Qi’ra, also signed on for future instalments.
  • On 20 June 2018, Collider claimed that all future anthology films were on hold due to the disappointing financial performance of Solo.
    • A day later, Lucasfilm denied the rumours as “inaccurate” and confirmed that there are multiple unannounced films in development.
    • Bob Iger has said that the production of new films would go on hiatus after 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, though none were cancelled.

Star Wars Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Ron Howard.
  • Producer(s): Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur. and Simon Emanuel.
  • Writer(s): Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan.
  • Music: John Powell and John Williams.
  • Cinematography: Bradford Young.
  • Editor(s): Pietro Scalia.
  • Production: Lucasfilm Ltd.
  • Distributor(s): Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
  • Release Date: 10 May 2018 (Los Angeles) and 25 May 2018 (US general release)
  • Running time: 135 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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