Insights into the STAR WARS Universe: Behind the Scenes of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
By Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
Some interesting, insightful news came out of the recent press conference for Disney’s new Star Wars movie, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.
First, as MOVIEGUIDE® concluded in its review of the movie, screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan Kasdan confirmed they designed their movie to play like a western and a heist movie. Of course, many westerns are also often heist movies about thieves, bank robbers, train robbers, and stagecoach robbers. From THE WAR WAGON starring John Wayne and Kirk Douglas in 1967 to THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES in 2007.
“At its base, it’s really trying to be [the] best version of a western, or of a crime movie,” Jonathan admitted.
He added that they wanted to insert Han Solo into a story “that comes out of a great tradition of Bogart characters and [Steve] McQueen characters,” to “plug that guy into the kind of movie we love and the kind of story we want to see.”
“It gives it an added level of pleasure, I think,” he said.
Lawrence Kasdan, who also co-wrote THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and wrote THE RETURN OF THE JEDI as well as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK for George Lucas years ago, said the first time he saw the Han Solo character in the original STAR WARS, he was drawn to him.
“When I was relatively young,” he said, “and I first saw Han Solo in the cantina. . .. I immediately sparked to him. He lifted up the whole movie instantly, and I loved the movie.
“This is the kind of character that I have loved always, and it’s been so important in all the movies that I care about. This is a character who’s reckless, who’s cynical, who doesn’t trust anybody. He’s a little bit stupid. I love that. He just does things he shouldn’t do. He gets in over his head instantly, and you can see that in the brilliance of George Lucas’s cantina scene. It’s just a few minutes, and you get everything about who this guy is.”
He added that his father wanted to get involved with helping George Lucas on the original STAR WARS movies because of Han Solo’s character, so it’s fitting that he and his father teamed up to do the script on SOLO.
Lawrence and Jonathan agreed that, like some of Bogart’s film characters, there’s a moral conflict within Han Solo.
“It’s such a big part of what drives the movie for us,” Jonathan said, “that he is centrally conflicted. At his core, there is the conflict, and it’s beautifully laid out in THE NEW HOPE, between his ideals and his desires. He’s constantly at war with that. He’s at war with that in this movie, and he’s at war with it in all the movies that will follow in his life. That’s a very fun sort of charged thing to write.”
Lawrence Kasdan said Han’s inner conflict also reflects the world people live in today.
“We’re swimming in it every day,” he said. “People we admire can do things we don’t admire. We’re driven by forces that we may not be proud of. And, then sometimes we rise to the occasion and do the right thing. It can’t be counted on that it’s going to happen, but you hope that it might happen”
Jonathan said, “STAR WARS. . . has been a very classic story of the dark and the light, the good and evil. . . . We saw this [movie] as an opportunity. And, what was exciting to us about writing this was to really make a character movie, where every character has some ambiguity to him. And, everyone was sort of after their own particular end. That informs every stage in the writing.”
In the end, of course, Han Solo decides to do the right thing. As his girlfriend says to him at one point in SOLO, “You’re the good guy.”
Alden Ehrenreich, who plays the young Han Solo in the movie, said he watched all the other STAR WARS movies to study the character and Harrison Ford’s performance.
“It’s really wild, really exciting,” he said about starring in SOLO. “It’s kind of bigger than you can even wrap your head around. And, it’s wonderful, particularly being in the Millennium Falcon is very, very cool.”
He described what it was like to sit in the Falcon’s cockpit as Han Solo.
“For me it was, it was two things,” he said. “One, you get in, and you can’t believe you’re in it, and it’s so surreal. . . . And then, you know, a couple months into shooting in it, you’re inside of it, and you’re flying it. You know where the buttons are. You know how the chair feels, you know the yoke, and you feel like, ‘Okay, this is kind of like my ship now. [LAUGHTER] And, that is. . . deeply, ah, gratifying.”
Actress Thandie Newton, who plays one of the thieves with whom Han Solo and Chewbacca get involved, described how STAR WARS affects many people by describing what happened when her 2-year-old son visited the set.
“I was chatting with the crew. . . and my kid decided to walk away. I watched where he was going. He was walking towards R2-D2. Everyone kind of moved aside, and my kid just walked over, and the guide was operating R2-D2, the remote control — saw my son, knew it was my kid and started to make R2-D2 kind of chat to my kid, not in [English], in R2-D2 speak. And, my son would kind of gabble back, and R2 gabbled to him, and it ended, I kid you not, with my son hugging R2-D2. [Laughter] That was the first impression my son has had of that character, of STAR WARS.
“This is the stuff that dreams are made of. My little boy didn’t have anything to do with STAR WARS, but these characters have a kind of magnetism that is unparalleled. I was like seven when the first movie came out. I’ll never forget it. That scroll of white going into black. John Williams’ music, his stuff like imprints on your psyche.”
It’s interesting to note that SOLO is the first STAR WARS movie to have none of the iconic religious metaphors about “The Force,” which tend to promote a false, pantheistic view of Creation and people’s relationship to Creation.
As such, SOLO is a story about a young hero who must overcome his greed and do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. In the end, he’s rewarded for that decision, and he seems content with the unexpected blessing he receives.
Thus, SOLO actually is one of the better, more entertaining, and more satisfying STAR WARS movies to be released.