Han is one of the most beloved characters of the Star Wars franchise. Now, he has a standalone movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story, which hits theaters on May 25.
During the Los Angeles press conference, Alden Ehrenreich (Han), Donald Glover (Lando Calrissian), Emilia Clarke (Qi’ra), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Woody Harrelson (Tobias Beckett), Thandie Newton (Val) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (L3-37), along with director Ron Howard and writers Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan talked to the press about their roles, the story, and more.
Check it out what they said:
Ron, what was it like making a Star Wars movie? How was it different from other films you’ve made over the years?
Ron Howard – Well, it’s its own, it’s the galaxy far, far away. The level of anticipation is really unlike anything I’ve done. Even some pretty big titles with a lot of, a lot of an interest. I began to recognize it as something similar to the Beatles documentary that I took on because I’m at a point in my life where I like experimenting, I like to take some chances. I’m not too worried about the outcome. I wanted to have the creative experience and felt that way about jumping into a Star Wars movie. I could tell from the moment it was announced, I said, “Ron, don’t fuck this up.” You know, the fans care – and they should care.
Star Wars movies are known for incredible practical sets and for their visual effects. How did you feel about combining the two?
Howard – The great effects supervisors will tell you in-camera is always what you want to go for first. So, with the Millennium Falcon and with great sets, the approach here always was to try to get as much in-camera as we could, and then build from there. That’s what’s so magical and amazing about ILM and what they can do. They made the experience as palpable and immersive as it could possibly be. The people around a movie like Solo are so dedicated, not only to what’s existed before, but what else they can do within that framework, within that universe, that galaxy. It’s unbelievably stimulating for a filmmaker. Bradford Young did a great job. The look is a little different than the movies have looked before. It has an esthetic I thought was incredibly exciting.
Lawrence and Jonathan, when the two of you sat down together, did you write a story that had been bubbling in your heads for a while or did you create it fresh together?
Lawrence Kasdan – Well, the story hadn’t been bubbling for a long time. What had been bubbling for me was from the moment, when I was relatively young, and I first saw Han Solo in the cantina and I immediately sparked to him. He lifted up the whole movie instantly and I loved the movie. But at that moment I thought, “Oh, this movie’s just got me. 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. It’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.
Jonathan Kasdan – And I think he wanted me to write it with him because I am all those things. It was funny because Larry had decided to get involved in Star Wars based on Han. That was the movie he wanted to make first. He got pulled into The Force Awakens and when he came out he said, “I need somebody to do this with me,” and I was sort of the obvious choice for the above reasons. But also because I shared a deep love of this and I came at it from a totally different place than Larry did. I had grown up with Star Wars; I’d grown up playing with the toys and we thought that somehow between our two dynamics, between me as a fan and him as an older Jedi master, we could figure out some sort of dynamic where we could forge a story that felt both sort of contemporary and true to the spirit of Solo.
Alden, what did it feel like for you to step into that cockpit of the Millennium Falcon as Han Solo?
Alden Ehrenreich – It’s really wild, it’s really exciting. It’s kind of bigger than you can even wrap your head around. It’s wonderful particularly being in the Millennium Falcon is very, very cool. You kind of get into the cockpit and for me it was two things. One, you get in and you can’t believe you’re in it and it’s so surreal and that’s what everybody you bring to set wants to see and they have that experience, too. And then, 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. That was deeply gratifying.
You had an unexpected reunion today with a certain legend. What can you say about that?
Ehrenreich – Unbelievable. Oh my God. So I had lunch with him right before we started shooting. I wanted to talk to Harrison, just to kind of pay respect and have him give us the blessings… for the film, so we had lunch. He was really encouraging and really supportive and then we went off, shot the film and everything like that and today I was doing an interview and they were asking, “Is there anything else you’d like to ask him?” And he was behind me! He’s so effusive about the movie. It meant so much to me and I know for Ron and the Kathy Kennedy and everybody. It’s just such a huge deal to have him really genuinely love it. It meant a lot to me that he took the time to come out here and do that.
Did you study Harrison Ford’s tics and mannerisms, either from the previous Star Wars films or Harrison’s other films? Or did you try to avoid that and just to kind of make the character your own?
Ehrenreich – The way I went about it pretty much was to watch the original movies very early on and just kind of absorb as much as I could, mainly the character and how he is operating in the world, and Harrison and the whole “Star Wars” universe—which is so rich and there’s so much to it. I tried to take in as much of that as I could very early, because I had the role for quite a long time before we actually shot. Then I moved into working on the part and kind of putting all of that aside and forgetting about it and playing the guy where he is now in his life, because it’s most important that it feels like a real person. So, I kind of moved into working on this character in this moment in time.
Donald, what was the experience of playing Lando like for you? Is that a character that you ever pictured yourself taking on?
Donald Glover – I think as much as any like 7-year-old boy does. Yeah, of course, you pretend to be him. I had a Darth Vader lightsaber and I bit it off. Then my mom wouldn’t let me have the lightsaber anymore because she thought I’d choke on it. When I heard they were making these, I told my agent, “If they’re making anything with Lando in it, I have to be Lando.” He was like, “I hear you. I don’t like your odds.” That was exactly what I needed to hear. I really did audition like it was like the only role I wanted in the world. I’m just really happy to be part of this experience of it. It’s really cool. My dad kind of imprinted me with this kind of Star Wars’ longing. Because it does feel like the Bible to me in a lot of ways.
Joonas, your character, Chewbacca, is such a popular character with the fans. Anytime you’re in the costume, it doesn’t matter who people are, they want a wookiee hug, right?
Joonas Suotamo – When I got to know that I was going to playing this character, I really couldn’t sleep at night and I was so excited because this was a life-changer for me. I was borderline jobless. My now fiancée, my then girlfriend has seen me going from living with my mom to becoming Chewbacca. That’s the span of our relationship right now. It’s funny because this character is so loved and Peter Mayhew, who created this character, along with George Lucas, has been so instrumental in giving me his blessing. Giving me some tips in our week-long session together, (like Chewie Boot Camp). I could never have understood what went on underneath the mask of Peter Mayhew. And now that I got to know that, it was so easy going into shooting this film, which is so much about Han and Chewie and everyone; that it was so important to get right, for this film.
Emilia, Qi’ra has such an air of mystery around her. What was it like playing her and what is her relationship with Han and the rest of the gang?
Emilia Clarke – Playing mysterious is quite a difficult note but it was really fun. You kind of need to keep tabs on her throughout the movie and so I’m promoting a movie that you can’t really speak too much about. She is one of the harder ones to discuss. But we meet her quite early on with Han and then they’re separated for whatever reason. When we find her again, she seems to have lived a pretty dark life in that time. So when you discover her again, you can’t quite figure out what it is that’s happened to her in the time that you haven’t been with her and who it is that she is now. I think that’s a question that kind of keeps coming up throughout the movie.
Thandie, playing Val in Beckett’s crew, you’ve obviously been through a lot together. How did that compare to the vibe of the crew and everybody who played them on set?
Thandie Newton – We would have fun. They were in extreme situations sometimes, the battle sequences. This room is honestly a quarter of the size of the cavernous spaces. The production design is so amazing. We would feel like we were in real sort of battle scenarios with explosions going off and debris. We had mud in places you didn’t even know you had. The camaraderie between us was just humor, always was humor. There would be situations where the helmets would come off and got smeared and things would go wrong but that camaraderie was really felt. We were really going into battle together. I mean, obviously, it’s a sort of fantasy, fun battle, but we’re still going into battle.
Phoebe, L3-37 is unlike any droid we have ever seen in a Star Wars movie. Can you tell us about what makes her an individual and what you tried to get across with her for the fans?
Phoebe Waller-Bridge – L3 is a real inspiration to me. She’s a self-made droid, so she created herself out of parts of other droids. It sounds kind of frightening, actually, when I put it like that. It’s like, where did you get those bits? Um, but she creates herself out of astormech droids so she turns herself into a unique creature that’s kind of taller, stronger more independent than she originally was. She’s got a great attitude and she’s very upbeat. She’s fearless, she’s uncensored, she’s very funny and she’s a revolutionary. She has an agenda, which is bigger than the sum of her parts and something that’s really extraordinary. It’s great to play that, great to play a droid, you know, with a message.
Dryden is legitimately terrifying. Paul, how did you approach him, and what did you want to do with that character?
Paul Bettany – He’s a lot of fun to play. It’s written really beautifully. I texted Ron and said, “Have you spent long winter evenings like I have wondering why you’re not in the ‘Star Wars’ franchise?” And, he said, “Give me a minute.” I came on set really quickly and he whispered, “Oligarch,” in my ear and I went, “Got it!” It was just lovely to play somebody, having come from “Avengers” where Vision is fundamentally good. To play somebody who’s just deliciously bad, I’m really okay with it. He’s no neurosis, no guilt. He’s just super-happy about being evil. He’s really good at hurting people, too.
Ron, how was it coming on board as director when the project was already under way with the previous filmmakers?
Howard – There was a lot of work Phil and Chris had done and, unfortunately, creative differences. There was this circumstance where they were not going to carry on. There were a lot of things that were really strong and already worked and we wanted to keep in, and other things that hadn’t been done yet. I was given the opportunity to sort of experiment with and explore. I sat down with Larry and Jonathan and we started talking about this, that and the other.
How do you balance the new stuff with the nods to what longtime “Star Wars” fans are going to expect?
Howard – I’m a fan. I’ve always appreciated the movies, but I’m not encyclopedic about Star Wars. I haven’t seen everything. I haven’t read everything. I came into this situation working more off instinct than anything else. I really believed in this great screenplay and cast. I certainly wouldn’t have come onboard if I didn’t love the cast and was excited about working with them. I immediately said, “I’m going to treat this like it’s a true story.” I’ve done a lot of true stories. And I always have technical advisors around. I sort of go for the heart. I go for the drama, the excitement of the narrative, of the story and then I let the technical advisors tell me where else it could go or what I might be overlooking. So many people around it were those guides for me, but I was just operating off my own imagination and my own sense of what I’d like to see and where I think these characters could be going. Jonathan Kasdan, in particular, who stayed throughout the production, was encyclopedic.