To paraphrase Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”: “Ah, but Han was so much older then, he’s younger than that now…”
As Star Wars fans await The Force Awakens to discover what became of Han Solo in the years since Return of the Jedi, there’s another question being asked at Lucasfilm: What happened to him in the years before we met him in that Mos Eisley cantina?
Even as Harrison Ford suits up to reprise the character again this December, a young Han Solo movie is in the works and is already scheduled for release on May 25, 2018.
Here’s what everyone knows so far: It will be directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo behind Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The LEGO Movie, and the 21 Jump Street comedies. And the script will be penned by both Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on The Force Awakens (as well as The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) and his son Jon, who directed and wrote 2012’s The First Time and was a writer on the TV series Freaks and Geeks.
No actor has been hired yet, and they’re aren’t even close in that department. There’s plenty more we don’t know, too — both about the movie, and the history of Solo. So as EW reported on The Force Awakens, we had to ask Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy for an update.
A young Han Solo film sounds like a no-brainer to pull off, but it’s actually an extremely tricky maneuver. If Ford is finally back as the character in the new trilogy, there’s potential to confuse the pop-culture hive-mind by introducing an apparent reboot: Han Solo — again — but this time played by a younger actor in a different story. Lucasfilm has to avoid crossing those wires, and they also have to ask: How much should remain a mystery about the smuggler’s past?
“Those are exactly the questions we’re asking,” Kennedy says. “There’s got to be a reason for [the stand-alone film] to be. And obviously the thing that Star Wars has always done so well is it doesn’t spend a lot of time [explaining] the stories that have come before. We don’t want to do that either. We don’t want to spend time going back and answering a lot of questions that, quite frankly, I don’t think people want answered.”
LAUGH IT UP, FUZZBALL
So what do people want to know? And what’s the best way to present that?
“I think the key here is that we are identifying an event or events in Han Solo’s life that gives you some idea of who he is and why he is the character we have all grown to love,” Kennedy says.
A huge part of Solo’s appeal is that he’s a wise-ass in an otherwise solemn struggle between good and evil. He’s the skeptic, the troublemaker. So although the script is still in flux, fans should expect something along the lines of an adventure comedy.
“You can imagine, given who we’ve chosen to come in and direct, it should be very entertaining and funny,” Kennedy says. “Han Solo is the character inside Star Wars that everybody knows has a wit and sense of humor. So that’s what this should be.”
Although Kennedy couldn’t talk about details of the story, it’s clear it could involve a lot of figures we already know: Chewbacca, of course, Lando Calrissian, Jabba the Hutt, and even Greedo. (If there’s not an argument between the two about who shot something first, the movie is missing a trick.) The Star Wars comics being made now by Marvel, which are considered canon, are also adding surprising facets to Solo’s past — including the fact that he has a wife.
But there are still other questions fans have, among them…
Next Page: Exactly how young will young Han Solo be?
Plans for the standalone movies, known officially as “anthology” films, began long before Lucasfilm was purchased by The Walt Disney Co. in 2012. Although he is now retired from the Star Wars storytelling business, Lucas gave his blessing to exploring individual characters in one-off films.
“It was one of the first things he sat down to talk to me about: What would those movies be?” says Kennedy, who took over as head of the company in summer of 2012, just months before the Disney sale. “That’s where we discussed not only reigniting the saga, but talking about the standalone, what has now become the anthology films.”
After that conversation, the next discussion was who should write a potential Han Solo history? Kasdan’s history with Star Wars as a writer on Empire and Jedi, as well as his history with Ford, writing the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, helped make him the first choice.
Actually, he had the option to do any kind of Star Wars story he liked. Kasdan said he had turned Lucas down when approached about working on the prequels, yet it was a different sort of prequel that interested him this time.
“They said, ‘Here are the things that we’d like to make movies about,’ and I said, ‘Oh, well, Han Solo. I would write a movie about Han Solo. He’s always been my favorite.’ And that’s the job that I took,” Kasdan says.
Another question is how young they should go with young Han Solo. In the Star Wars prequels, Lucas began by presenting Darth Vader as a mischievous, pod-racing child. They won’t be venturing that far back with Solo.
“He’ll definitely be probably in the high teens, low 20s,” Kennedy says. “We’re not introducing you to a 10-year-old Han Solo.”
In the midst of working on that story, Kasdan was drafted to work with Abrams on Episode VII, using a loose story outline by Little Miss Sunshine writer Michael Arndt. As his work on The Force Awakens became more demanding, young Han Solo was put on hold. That’s when Kasdan, like a benevolent Vader, lured his son to join him on that project.
“Since I did not expect to be sidetracked like this, when I came back to it I said to Kathy, you know, I would like Jon to write this with me,” Kasdan recalls. “I could use some inspiration and Jon is really good, and he’s full of energy for the project, and I said, I think Jon would be a good one to do this. And we went forward that way.”
Now, it seems not only to be clear sailing on that standalone film, but it’s coming together at an accelerated pace after being moved up in the line-up when another Star Wars anthology project hit trouble.
In addition to Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One, about Rebel efforts to steal the original Death Star plans, which is shooting now, and the upcoming young Han Solo movie, there’s a third anthology movie is in the works — but it hit a snag.
X-Men producer and writer Simon Kinberg was developing that untitled movie, and Chronicle director Josh Trank was set to direct. When Trank ran into already-legendary trouble making the disastrous Fantastic Four reboot, he ended up stepping down from the Star Wars job. Sources tell EW that we almost saw a teaser reel for that film at Star Wars Celebration in April, until Trank’s participation was put on hold at the last minute. (Lucasfilm won’t comment on that, or the subject of the movie, but we heard about its lead character on good authority a while back.)
Kennedy did provide an update on the state of that movie, which has not yet hired a new director. In short: don’t worry, it’s not going away.
“It’s still one of the stories that we absolutely want to tell,” she says. “There is a lot of innovative technology in and around what it is we’re doing with that story, so for a lot of reasons, we were comfortable postponing that. But we’re definitely still developing it.”
It doesn’t have a date, but it will probably come in 2020, after the conclusion of this new trilogy with Episode IX in 2019.
Kennedy says there’s no rush. They want to get it right.
“We’re trying to get to a point,” she says, “where we’re never rushing for anything.”
Check back tomorrow for a few more Star Wars: The Force Awakens stories on EW.com.
To continue reading the cover story on EW’s Fall Movie Preview, and to see more exclusive photos, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, or buy it here.
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