Now that Solo: A Star Wars Story is about to give fans the backstory to one of the franchise’s most beloved character, Han Solo, We Live Entertainment had a chance to sit in on a delightful press conference with the cast, including Alden Ehrenreich (“Han”), Donald Glover (“Lando Calrissian”), Joonas Suotamo (“Chewbacca”) and Emilia Clarke (“Qi’ra”), along with director Ron Howard and writers Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan to hear what they had to say about making the movie about our favorite scoundrel in a galaxy far, far away.
Here are 11 things we took away:
On how making a Star Wars movie compares to his other work:
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.
On creating the Han Solo story:
JONATHAN 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.
LAWRENCE KASDAN: And I think he wanted me to write it with him because I am all those things.
JONATHAN KASDAN: 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.
LAWRENCE KASDAN: When I got involved back on The Empire Strikes Back, I don’t think I ever thought of it, oh, this is Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars. I thought what had gotten me when I had no connection to it, on A New Hope, but this is a great story. And George had set up something that could go off in many different directions and that would be wonderful for a long time. And I’ve never really changed my opinion of that. It happens to be a Star Wars story, but I always first, we were trying to tell a story that would keep you interested — you meet these people and you say, well, that’s a great person and now they’re meeting a great person. And they’re going to be in a lot of trouble together. And that is much more important to me than any particular Star Wars.
On the challenges and surprises bringing Solo to life:
HOWARD: I think in terms of challenges, I’m very excited about the character relationships. Because this is a little bit different than the other movies. It’s really this one guy’s adventure story. In some ways, it’s kind of similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark, which Larry also wrote. It is a single hero’s journey and then there’s a lot of fun in that journey and there are a lot of twists and turns, but it’s really about that character. We had that going with this. So all of the different relationships were very important to me because the impact these characters are going to have on this young Han Solo.
But what surprised me was how complicated and exciting and fun it was to stage the big action scenes, which is something that I hadn’t done in a long, long time. And they were complicated and sometimes it was hard and sometimes it was physically difficult. We would change things and add and revise. The excitement was again, making even the action scenes, be cool, be Star Wars, but really be about testing Han Solo. What does this mean? What does this tell us about Han Solo? It sort of defines the way the action scenes would be cut, would be shot and roll out and, ah, it was challenging, but it was really run and exciting to work on. And the big surprise for me is what a blast it was, to do this action.
On stepping into the role and sitting down in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon:
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.
On Harrison Ford’s reaction:
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
On playing the incredibly beloved Chewbacca:
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.
On what was it like playing the mysterious Qi’ra and on her relationship with Han Solo:
EMILIA CLARKE: It’s really difficult to talk about because she is a pretty mysterious character. 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.
On how Lando Calrissian was a role he pictured himself taking on:
DONALD GLOVER: Um. 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.
On what makes L3 an individual:
PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE: Well, 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 and protocal 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.
On standing on the set and being awe-struck:
THANDIE NEWTON (who plays Val, one of Beckett’s crew): I remember there was the first day I went on set and I had my son with me. He was 2-years-old and didn’t really know anything about Star Wars. We were on this amazing set, and I was chatting with the crew and stuff and my kid decided to walk away. I mean, 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 language, in R2-D2 speak. 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. That was the first impression my son has had of that character, of Star Wars. What I mean is like, this is the stuff that dreams are made of. You know. My little boy didn’t have anything to do with Star Wars but these characters have a kind of magnetism that is unparalleled. I mean, for all of us as, when we were kids, I was like 7 when the first movie came out. I’ll never forget it. That scroll of white going into black. John Williams’ music, it like imprints on your psyche. I think that it goes so far beyond even us as filmmakers, just the stuff that dreams are made of. Really.
On the question of being moral ambiguous:
LAWRENCE KASDAN: That’s not too difficult in the world we live in. I think we’re swimming in it every day. And what seems like a fantasy now, not as interesting to me, is the thing that is a vision that doesn’t take in how complicated people are. The fact that people we admire can do things we don’t admire, that 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. And it can’t be counted on that it’s going to happen, but you hope that it might happen. So that world is, for me, the world that we live in.
JONATHAN KASDAN: And Star Wars so often, and almost really up until this moment has been a very classic story of the dark and the light, the good and evil and we saw this as an opportunity. 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 and that informs every stage in the writing. There are challenges also. When A New Hope came out it was a different world and you know, you hope, as writers and as filmmakers and the entire cast that are the world that we live in now and it’s reflected in our art and we try to be sort of faithful to what we think is appropriate for the time. And how our perception of Han would involve in 2018.
GLOVER: That’s my favorite part of the movie, really. I love that they’re like rich people and poor people in this movie. You can go to the airport and just see like immediately who’s rich and who’s poor and why they’re there and just love it. Because it’s really, you know, like that was the part of us reading and you get to see why Han is complicated. Even by the end, again, maybe he did the wrong thing but for the right reasons. Or maybe the right thing was for the wrong reasons. That’s how everybody has to live. It’s like a lost world out there, and I really love that, is that it’s not simple.