Jack Nicholson's influence on Alden Ehrenreich's young Han in Solo: A Star Wars Story
Watching Alden Ehrenreich in Solo: A Star Wars Story, I wasn’t reminded of Harrison Ford as much as another iconic actor — Jack Nicholson.
Young Han is a wiseass, who punctuates his smart remarks with devilishly arched eyebrows. Those eyes go wide when he’s easily scared. He has a bigger heart than he’d like for such a grim, cruel world. He’s like … Jake Gittes of the galaxy.
Supposedly, Nicholson — coming off his Oscar win for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — was among those originally considered by George Lucas for the part of Han Solo (or so says Al Pacino, who claims he also was up for the part).
But every established actor in that age range from that time period was probably put on a wish list.
Still, there’s something of a Jack vibe about Ehrenreich that seems to capture what it would be like to see Nicholson in the role as the in-over-his-head space smuggler.
Even legendary casting director Fred Roos, who helped Ehrenreich land his first movie and was responsible for the breakthrough of countless leading men and women in the 1970s (including Ford), mentioned noticing the similarity between Ehrenreich and Nicholson in a New York Times profile last year.
“I think he can be a real star,” Roos said in the article. “One of my oldest friends in the business, who’s a movie star that never fit any mold, is Jack Nicholson. Alden kind of has the Jack personality from the get-go.”
When I got a chance to talk to Ehrenreich and Chewbacca actor Joonas Suotamo the day after the Solo premiere, I asked about the connection.
“That wasn’t intentional, but he’s one of my favorite actors in my whole life,” Ehrenreich said. “And actually when I met Fred Roos when I was 17, Five Easy Pieces was probably my favorite movie. And I met him, and the first thing I said to him when I met him was, ‘You’re the first person I’ve met who was a part of one of my favorite movies, and I just wanna say thanks.’”
He acknowledged that maybe some aspect of Nicholson sneaked in subconsciously. “That’s probably somewhere. It’s not totally unlike that.”
Previously from EW’s interview with Solo stars Alden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo:
Part One: How to speak the Wookiee language
Tomorrow: Auditioning to play a smuggler and a Wookiee
Solo: A Star Wars Story