Star Wars has grown into more than a sci-fi fantasy, a world captivating generation after generation. The newest entry in the franchise - standalone Solo: A Star Wars Story had its world premiere on May 15, 2018 at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, a first for the brand.
The film’s director Ron Howard and its stars Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover met with the press, including TASS, to talk about the phenomenon of the Star Wars legacy and the unique challenges the cast and the crew faced making a prequel movie about a well-established beloved character.
Ron Howard, film director
Ron Howard was not the initial choice to direct Han Solo movie. Principal photography began under the filmmaking duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The directors then left the project after reportedly being fired over "creative differences" with Lucasfilm, and Howard took over. Star Wars creator George Lucas' close friend, Howard had around four weeks to finish the scheduled shooting as well as additional reshoots. According to the director himself, he was also deeply involved in editing, facing the unique challenge of not only joining production mid-way through the process, but also having to work with already established concept.
Howard first approached the movie as an adventure. “I have been curious about Star Wars movies. I know JJ Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens director - TASS), he had a very good experience. In the past, George Lucas once asked me if I would like to do a Star Wars movie and I said no. I would not want to do this, it was too close to the original movies. However, when I started to see this experimentation in Rogue One, I became curious. It is a huge commitment – two-three years just to work from scratch on one of these movies,” Howard said.
It was a creative adventure aspect of the production that convinced him to join the project. “I think this is probably the most standalone movie so far. It happens in a certain point of the cinematic history where you do not have to know anything - because Han did not know anything. It is a good entry point for people who have not seen other Star Wars movies. But of course we also needed to make the movie so that loyal dedicated fans would find that it felt right,” he said answering a question about the movie’s place in the new Star Wars canon.
Talking about whether the existence of the movie about an already well-established character is justified, Howard said he believes it is hard to say what is necessary in the entertainment industry. “I definitely think that it is valid and interesting. In fact, the idea for the film was born before Disney has acquired Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm - TASS) had just joined the company. They were talking about continuing the Skywalker saga,” he said. “The first thing that they agreed on was that Han Solo movie would make a lot of sense. He never carried a movie, he was never central and yet he a classic movie hero. There are many clues to his backstory, but also a lot of mystery. So when I read the script as a fan I thought it was interesting because it made sense - the idea of what his right of passage journey might have been like,” Howard said.
The director himself is a long-standing fan of the franchise. “I was completely blown away by New Hope,” he remembered. “I knew George, I did not know much about the movie, the reviews were mixed, but it looked interesting to me. I went and was transported. Me and my wife had left the theatre and saw these huge lines at the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood boulevard. I looked over at Cheryl and asked her if she wanted to see it again and we just got into another line. We waited for two hours and watched it twice that same day. It was amazing,” he said.
The conversation inevitably shifted to discussing potential sequels for the character, if the movie proves to be commercially successful. Howard said he believes the fate of standalone sequels is in the hands of fans. “You make these movies for the fans first and foremost, so I am really curious to see how they respond,” he said.
“Fans can be cruel. That is the fun about being a Star Wars fan – it is like sports. You have to know that if you are directing one of these movies, you are exposing yourself to it. But I think this is part of the joy of being a fan – to be really emotional about it and to have those heated conversations. Of course, you hope that everybody loves everything,” Howard said.
Alden Ehrenreich, Han Solo
Ehrenreich, who plays the iconic Han Solo, now has to face the perennial problem of all actors portraying beloved characters - becoming a hostage to one image. The actor, however, so far seemed largely unphased by the future, and said he hopes to prove himself following in Ford’s moviestar footsteps.
“I think in this movie he is more of a dreamer, he has not yet met with real life’s harsh reality. I think the joy of this movie is to watch all those things slowly happen,” Ehrenreich said talking about the differences between his version of the character and Ford’s portrayal.
“I think of this one as meeting him at a different point in his life – he is an idealist. He believes that he will find a way through whatever is thrown at him. In this movie, he is dreaming about creating a better life for himself, he comes from a hardscrabble background and he is fighting for his freedom,” he added.
Harrison Ford gave his blessing to the young actor. “I had lunch with him before we started shooting. He has seen the movie now and is really supportive of it, he loves it, which means the world to us,” Ehrenreich answered a question about his interactions with Ford.
Talking about the universal love for the Star Wars franchise, the actor noted the undeniable impact of George Lucas’ artistic mind. “He created this world, so brilliant and so layered, a new myth. We have been playing in that sandbox for 41 years,” Ehrenreich said.
Donald Glover, Lando Calrissian
Unlike the more serious Ehrenreich, Glover was constantly smiling, enjoying the recent career boost. His socially relevant ‘This is America’ single under the alter ego name Childish Gambino is a chart-topper, its music video currently has more than 180 million views on YouTube. He also recently hosted Saturday Night Live and now stars as the beloved schemer Lando Calrissian.
Glover was not shy talking about his recent success. “It feels good. You always want to be in the culture because that means you are part of the conversation. Maybe it is specific to Black American life but it allows you to speak, almost like having a megaphone. It feels really cool to have a voice. I think that is all you can really ask for as an artist,” he said.
“When you start to represent something, it is scary. You are not really a person at that point. It is a weird feeling and I am grateful for it. It is all I ever wanted – to be part of a conversation, to be an artist, make things for everybody,” Glover added.
According to the actor, Lando was his favorite Star Wars character growing up, largely thanks to the character’s diversity. “That is the great part about actual diversity. If it is really diverse, you do not have to think about it. I just liked him because he was cool,” he said, adding that the Lando action figure was the first toy he ever had.
The film is set to debut in the United States on May 25, 2018, the 41st anniversary of the release of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, in which Harrison Ford appeared as Han Solo for the first time. Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in Russia on May 24.