Solo Speaks: Alden Ehrenreich on creating a portrait of a scoundrel as a young man
A Q&A with the actor who's piloting Han Solo into unexplored areas of the 'Star Wars' galaxy
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Han Solo has a cold.
The deadline for EW’s cover on Solo: A Star Wars Story was approaching at light speed, and we still lacked a key component: Alden Ehrenreich, the 28-year-old actor who would be taking over the role of the overconfident space cowboy from Harrison Ford.
Then, at the last second, he came through. Much like his onscreen anti-hero.
Unable to speak due to a painful sore throat, the actor known for the Coen brothers’ comedy Hail, Caesar! connected via chat to absorb a volley of questions about the new Star Wars standalone film.
Fans have been on edge since the studio waited until after The Last Jedi to begin releasing details about the May 25 film, and it has been an overall bumpy ride on this movie. A change-up in directors midway through principal photography caused understandable handwringing, as Ron Howard stepped in to replace Chris Miller and Phil Lord amid production disagreements with Lucasfilm (more on that Friday).
But for the Star Wars faithful, who are still mourning the end of an old friend they used to play with in the backyard (if action figures count), they just want to know: Does this movie get Han’s beginning right?
Here’s a little insight into that question, from the man who’s bringing the galactic reprobate back to life.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Ron describes Solo as a film noir/western. Han is a hardscrabble kid trying to make a name for himself in the underworld, but his decency holds him back. That sound about right?
ALDEN EHRENREICH: Something like that, yes.
Tell me your perspective on it. How would you characterize the journey this character is on?
I think it tells the story of a young man pursuing a dream to get out of his pretty rough upbringing, and a lot of the story is him trying to make this dream come true and finding out that it’s a lot harder than he had imagined.
He seems like someone who didn’t have a lot of people who cared about him at a young age. So he goes through life with shields up.
Yeah, that’s all basically right. One of the fun things about this movie but also one of the things that really shapes him is that it takes place in a real dark underworld of the Star Wars universe.
Basically, gangland, right?
Yes, and other planets and environments as well that are tough in different ways.
I know you had lunch with Harrison to talk things over.
He’s great. He is a real gentleman, too.
Could share some of what he was able to tell you about playing this character?
He said a great thing when I met him. “Tell them I told you everything you needed to know, and that you can’t tell anyone.”
Yeah, but … You can tell me. [Eyebrow flash]
[Laughs] No, I gotta stick to my orders from the man himself.
All right. I respect that.
I wanted to meet him because I just felt generally it wouldn’t be right to do the movie without some kind of contact with him, and I’m really glad I did. He was very, very supportive. And it’s just cool to have lunch with Harrison Ford. [Note: EW has intel on Ford’s actual advice, coming later today.]
Let’s talk about the other people in this character’s life. Qi’ra, Emilia Clarke’s character, is a big part of young Han Solo’s early years. What do we need to know about the two of them?
Yeah, they’ve known each other for a long time and she’s a very important person in his life
Is she more savvy than he is? Less idealistic? How would you contrast their personalities?
I think she has a slightly different way of handling herself in this tough universe. She’s better at working the system rather than bucking against it
Solo also meets Chewbacca for the first time in this film, and Ron says it’s not an instant Love Connection. Wookiees take a lot of effort before trusting someone, right?
Well, I think with anyone you meet in these tough worlds, trust doesn’t come easily, and both of them are very strong willed.
What’s Joonas like? I feel like articles never talk about him because he’s behind the furry mask.
Joonas is a really funny guy, and he also brings a lot to the role. It’s clear when you’re up close and seeing him do it just how much Wookiee craft he really has to do, knowing how to move in the suit to convey the right things. He’s got a big heart and is a great guy.
That brings us to Lando. Will this movie show us their first encounter, or does Han know him already from years past?
Han and Lando meet in this film. And I meet L3.
Are they … rivals? Friends? Enemies? Something in between?
That’s very hard to answer without giving things away, but I will say that their relationship is many different things. As it is when you see them in the originals.
It’s Complicated. That would be their Facebook status.
[Laughs] I think they have very different styles
Han is rougher around the edges?
You saw the Falcon! I think they have very different styles. But maybe aren’t too dissimilar in their personalities.
Can you give us a sense of what Han is like when we meet him at the start of the movie. Obviously, we see him evolve. What’s different from the guy we know?
I think the main thing that’s different is that the Han we meet in this film is more of an idealist, he has certain dreams that he follows, and we watch how it affects him as those dreams meet new realities, realities that are harder and more challenging than he’d expected.
Can you say what his dream is? I assume it’s bigger than “smuggler.”
I can’t say exactly, but it definitely involves independence, and calling your own shots. I thought the Kasdans did a wonderful job of kind of retroactively coming up with what kind of background would lead him to becoming the character we all know.
Can you explain “independence”? Do you mean, he just wants to call his own shots — or is he indentured in some way?
Well, one thing that you kind of know about the Star Wars universe, but that you learn in a much more impactful way as you get into it, is that living in that universe is hard. Most people, especially during the reign of the Empire, are under the control of some kind of force or another. No pun intended. Having the resources and stability to call your own shots, do what you want, have freedom, isn’t something that comes easily. So Han’s dream involves making that happen for himself.
Seems like he is forever trying to get out from under someone’s thumb. … Does Jabba have thumbs?
[Laughs] Yeah, I think you could say that. He is forever trying to do that.
More Thursday: EW zeroes in on Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian, Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, and more on the scoundrels who populate Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Coming up: Harrison Ford actually contributed a lot to the making of Solo …
Solo: A Star Wars Story