Solo: A Star Wars Story has more Star Wars in-jokes, references, and Easter eggs than any one fan could spot in a single viewing. But there's one mega cameo that's impossible to miss. We chatted with Solo's writers, father and son team Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, about how a Star Wars character nobody saw coming made it into Solo.
If you haven't seen Solo: A Star Wars Story yet, stop reading now, because there are major spoilers ahead.
Yup, that was Darth Maul who Qi'ra rang up right at the end of Solo, as she betrayed poor, naive Han one final time and took Dryden Vos's place in the criminal organization. It turns out the fearsome leader of the massive crime syndicate Crimson Dawn was Darth Maul all along. Who would have guessed? We're guessing no one, which made this a phenomenally shocking moment.
So how exactly did Darth Maul, who hasn't appeared in a Star Wars movie since 1999's Episode I: The Phantom Menace, make it into Solo? And didn't Maul get cut in half the last time we saw him? Shouldn't Darth Maul be way too dead to be making cameos?
The latter point is easy to address. Remember that Solo takes place ten years before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope. That puts it firmly after the prequel trilogy. But if you've watched either of the recent Star Wars animated series, you're already aware that Darth Maul actually survived the fight with Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace and got his newly liberated upper body surgically situated onto a set of robotic legs. (Initially, Maul traipsed around with mechanical spider legs. They were later replaced by a less audacious, but still robotic and cool, bipedal bottom half.)
So yes, Darth Maul is still alive. But the other big questions his appearance here raises are less easy to answer: How did Darth Maul wind up in Solo? And why?
"Jon was a particular champion of Darth Maul," said Lawrence Kasdan--who, in addition to writing Solo with his son Jonathan, served as co-writer on a prestigious list of movies that includes The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens.
"We knew that Dryden was not the top of this ladder at all, and we wanted it to be someone really powerful," he continued. "But Jon was the one who said, 'It's got to be Darth Maul.'"
"And [Solo director Ron Howard] was right there with me," Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence's son and co-writer, said, picking up his father's thread.
"I did my homework to know that, because of Rebels, because of Clone Wars, we were in a position where this part of [Darth Maul's] life was grey enough that we could fill it in with this thing," Jon Kasdan explained. "And it worked nicely with Rebels and Clone Wars in that he did survive that incident with Qui-Gon, and he did go into the world of crime and self interest and was separated from the Empire and the Sith and that whole thing, to go pursue his own life. So I thought this worked nicely, and it certainly left the door open to use great stuff from the Maul legacy in the future."
Jonathan went into detail describing the lengths to which they went in order to ensure Darth Maul's Solo cameo didn't leak out before the movie's release. He cited an incident involving the original opening scene that was planned for The Force Awakens, which was allegedly changed because it leaked.
"There was a great idea in Force Awakens...that leaked, and was cut because it leaked. And it drove me crazy, because I thought it was a great opening to the movie," he said. "So with this thing we were very careful to never say it in the script. It was written into the script as 'a character so shocking to see appear, we'd have to kill you if we told you who it was.'"
The Kasdans knew there needed to be a bigger boss in Crimson Dawn than Dryden Vos. "It was tied to this idea of the line that Qi'ra says very early on in the movie, which is, 'What if we get snatched by traffickers, Crimson Dawn or the Hutt Cartel?'" Jonathan Kasdan said. "We loved the idea that there were criminal organizations of the size and scale of Colombian drug cartels out there with armies of people, and that if we got to see them, we'd only see one tiny branch of them. And if Qi'ra moved up a step in the ladder, who was she looking to that's at the top of the food chain?"
For his part, Bettany told GameSpot that he's "not sure" whether Vos was fully aware of who he was actually working for. Now that he's dead, we'll probably never find out. But Bettany said the Darth Maul reveal itself had a tangible effect on those who saw Solo at its premiere. "You could really feel it in the room," he said.
That's not surprising, considering Darth Maul's shocking appearance is arguably the high point of the whole movie. What were your favorite Easter eggs or reference in Solo? Let us know in the comments below.