Harrison Ford is open to the idea of bringing Han Solo back to life on the silver screen in 2015, according to sources close to the just-announced Star Wars sequel, but don’t be surprised if his contract includes a mandatory death scene for the sly old space smuggler.
“Harrison is open to the idea of doing the movie and he’s upbeat about it, all three of them are,” said one highly placed source, referring to Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher, the trio that made a hyper-speed jump to global fame on May 25, 1977, the opening night for George Lucas’s original Star Wars film.
The Hollywood trajectories of Hamill and Fisher led to reinvention — he’s now an in-demand voice actor; she used a gift for acerbic memoir to deliver Postcards from the Edge and Wishful Drinking. But Ford, who reached his 35th birthday in the summer of 1977, launched himself on a truly historic career run that synced up with the blockbuster bonanza of the 1980s. Ford’s star rose with The Fugitive, Air Force One, Clear and Present Danger, Presumed Innocent, Blade Runner, and of course, the four fedora films as a certain archaeologist named Henry “Indiana” Jones.
The actor, now 70, is plenty proud of Indy, Jack Ryan, John Book, and Dr. Richard Kimble but in the past he didn’t disguise his disdain for Solo. “As a character he was not so interesting to me,” the frosty Ford explained in an ABC interview in 2010.
The slippery Corellian pilot’s great talent is keeping himself alive, a skill that apparently extended beyond the screen. Solo’s death scene in early outlines for Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was scrapped, according to Ford and others, because the character was a top seller as an action figure.
As Ford told ABC in the same interview: “I thought he should have died in the last one to give it some bottom…George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”
Disney, which acquired Lucasfilm in a $4.05 billion deal, sees plenty of retail future with Star Wars sitting on the same corporate toy shelf as Marvel and Pixar, and they’ll certainly be offering a stellar payday to coax Ford to bring his star power back to role that started it all.
More than money, Ford might be drawn back by the upside of changes at Lucasfilm where the respected Kathleen Kennedy is taking over as company president, and with the Jedi franchise as a whole now that Kennedy is in as executive producer and Lucas will take on a consultant role, leaving the director’s chair for someone else.
Indeed, Ford won’t go to the next level of contract talks until there’s a script and director in place. Either could be a deal breaker. Still, at any stage, an “upbeat” signal from Ford on any Solo matter is enough to shock and excite fans who view Star Wars as something close to religion.
Solo, Luke Skywalker (Hamill), and Princess Leia (Fisher) appeared in two more films and when last we left them (in 1983’s Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) they were on the forest moon of Endor reflecting on the downfall (literally) of the Emperor and Darth Vader’s final act of redemption.
Now a new-look Lucasfilm — with Lucas moving into retirement and the Walt Disney Company taking over — plans to circle back with a new trilogy that picks up the story decades later and presumably uses the original trio to hand off the franchise to a new generation. (It’s a familiar approach; 2009’s Star Trek beamed Leonard Nimoy back aboard or 2010’s Tron: Legacy turned to Jeff Bridges to initiate the next cycle.)
Hamill told EW that he and Fisher heard about the idea when Lucas summoned them for a lunch in August, not long after both were onstage return guest at Star Wars Celebration VI, an official Lucasfilm event that drew tens of thousands of fans to Orlando. Many of those true believers are delirious about the new hope of a third trilogy but Hamill, 61, knows that some outsiders will roll their eyes.
“I can see both sides of it,” Hamill said. “Because in a way, there was a beginning, a middle, and an end and we all lived happily ever after and that’s the way it should be — and it’s great that people have fond memories, if they do have fond memories. But on the other hand, there’s this ravenous desire on the part of the true believers to have more and more and more material.”
In the 29 years since the red carpet premiere of Return of the Jedi, Ford has declined hundreds — if not thousands — of offers to appear at Star Wars events and cast reunions even the ones sanctioned and run by Lucasfilm. In fact, in all those years was only one offer he accepted: He attended a 30th anniversary screening of the The Empire Strikes Back in 2010 to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
About 400 fans (including Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, Jon Favreau, and Kevin Feige) paid $100-$175 each to hear Ford reflect on his Millennium Falcon days. I was the moderator for the event and the star arrived in a cheery mood but, after watching the film, he was weary of the crowd’s zeal for something he could never love.
“I don’t know that I understood it very well,” Ford said in a flat tone of the franchise’s ascension in popular culture. “I’m not sure I understand it yet…I was very happy to be involved. I was pleased to be a part of an ensemble.”
It was a bare-bones answer but still the crowd cheered and no one asked for a refund – everyone was just excited to see Ford back in the same theater as the Star Wars universe. That alone may be the Force that brings Ford and Solo back together for their date with destiny.