Star Wars: Solo Writer Takes Us Behind-The-Scenes On The Spin-Off
By Dan Auty on
Solo: A Star Wars Story is now available buy on digital formats, giving fans a second chance to dig into the latest movie in the much-loved franchise. The movie didn't have the smoothest ride to the screen, with original directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord fired during production and veteran filmmaker Ron Howard brought in to take over and reshoot a reported 70% of the entire movie. Solo made its May release slot this year but underperformed at the box office, putting a sequel and further standalone Star Wars spin-offs in doubt.
Nevertheless, it's a hugely entertaining movie well worth a revisit at home. The film, which focuses on the adventures of the young Han Solo, was written by Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan with his son Jon. Last week, Jon took to Twitter to release a lengthy list of behind-the-scene observations and opinions about the film, which makes for fascinating reading as you watch it.
Kasdan goes into detail about the many influences that he and the other filmmakers used for Solo, the film’s many Easter Eggs, and how the new characters were developed. He explains what changed from earlier drafts of the script and what scenes were shot but ended up on the cutting room floor. He also reveals that, despite the reshoots, the influence of Lord and Miller was greater than many fans might expect, with several key moments remaining from their time on the movie. Finally, Kasdan speculates on the future of the younger incarnations of Han, Chewie, and Lando, and if we'll get to see them in another movie. So here's our pick of Kasdan’s most fascinating insights into the making of Solo, presented in chronological order and in his own words.
1. Mother Proxima
"I always hoped Linda Hunt would voice Mother Proxima because she had done the haunting opening narration (an Edgar Allen Poe quote) for the short-lived and criminally-underrated Shelley Duvall Showtime series Nightmare Classics, which you can find on YouTube. When I told Linda this was why I'd thought of her, she had absolutely no recollection of having recorded that narration and disputed it. But it's definitely her. Also, Linda is one of the coolest people you're likely to meet."
2. Speeder Chase
"In early drafts of the script there was no speeder chase. This was something Chris and Phil conceived and Chris and Phil and Ron Howard executed, in my opinion, beautifully. They all felt we needed to see Han's skill "behind the yoke" and that it could it pay off later in the Kessel Run. Lawrence Kasdan, much more focused on the Dickensian element, was more passionate about the foot-chase and the deleted eel barrel scene which is included in the extras."
3. Coronet Spaceport
"Coronet Spaceport was a name we found on Wookieepedia while looking for spaceports on Corellia. We wanted the sequence to feel like the Ellis Island sequence in The Godfather Part 2, to give a sense of how small Han and Qi'ra are in the scheme of things and the cruel, impersonal machine that is the Empire."
"We wanted Mimban to evoke Kubrick's Paths of Glory and put Han into the most hellish-possible war environment. Originally, there was a fourth member of Beckett's crew, Korso, and in some shots you can even see him. His performance was great but, given the hectic environment, it became confusing to introduce that character we were going to immediately kill off. The original logic for Korso, who was a rather large man, was that Beckett had lost his muscle and Chewie is a useful replacement."
5. The Beast
"Chris and Phil had the idea that Chewie would be 'the beast,' a punishment for disobedient soldiers (and I suppose droids) on Mimban. They also had the brilliant idea to have Han, at the crucial moment, speak Shyriiwook. The mud pit is pure Chris and Phil and for my money, it's one of the best scenes in the movie."
6. Beckett Leaves
"One action sequence that was never filmed but survived several drafts fairly deep into production involved Beckett's crew leaving WITHOUT Han and Chewie, forcing Han and Chewie to steal an Imperial garbage ship on which they could escape. At one point, they dump the garbage onto several Stormtroopers who are chasing them. Writing this now, I'm relieved we didn't actually shoot that. It would've cost a fortune and NEVER would've made the cut."
7. Vandor 1
"We Kasdans spent many a Christmas, while I was growing up, in the Rocky Mountains of Southern Colorado which is only odd when you consider that NONE of us ski. The environment of Vandor 1 was always meant to evoke that beautiful landscape. It also made sense for the space-Western feeling we were trying to invoke."
8. The Conveyex Job
"The Conveyex Job was in every draft of the script. It was something we conceived very early on that people were consistently responded to. Originally, the cargo was not Coaxium but rather an extremely-dangerous criminal en-route to a maximum security prison. Our idea was that Beckett's crew was hired to bust this guy out by members of his gang. The criminal and his gang wordlessly departed after the job and wouldn't return until some unspecified sequel where they would rescue Han at some crucial moment."
"In retrospect, Thandie Newton may actually have been too good and too interesting as Val. It was always in the design of the story that Beckett would lose his trusted crew members during the Conveyex Job-gone-wrong and be forced to rely on newbies, Han and Chewie, and this would also open the door for Lando, Qi'ra, and L3 to join the crew. But Thandie is so compelling to watch that the death of her character feels a little like a cheat. It's an odd and unexpected problem that comes with working with such amazing, compelling actors in the Star Wars universe. You just want more of them."
10. Dryden's Base
"Dryden Vos's base of operation was originally not a ship but an island fortress like Mont-Saint Michel but with an elaborate system of canals. In the third act Lando drove a Star Wars-version of a go-fast boat through the canals. It was pretty cool stuff but ultimately impossible to execute and incredibly time-consuming."
11. Dryden Dispatches The Governor
"There was debate surrounding how exactly Dryden would dispose of that unfortunate regional governor. Some of us really wanted him decapitated and we actually shot a version where a head rolls across the floor. Others felt that was a little too rough for Star Wars."
12. Dryden's Influences
"Vos was Robert Prosky's character Leo in Michael Mann's Thief. Robert Prosky worked with Ron on Far and Away. Another influence was Don Draper. We wanted this character to be, physically, the antithesis of that other Star Wars crime boss. Ya know, the one with the weight problem."
13. Kessel Planning
"The scene in Dryden's study in which the Kessel Heist is first proposed is one of my personal favorites in the movie. It's where Han really becomes Han in a lot of ways. The way he improvises to save their skin in that scene felt true to the man he eventually becomes. 'We'll get the ship, we've already got the pilot.' felt like pure Han."
14. The Lodge
"The Lodge at Fort Ypso was something that came from Chris and Phil. They were inspired by Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller and really wanted to have that dark, wintery mountain lodge-feeling in the movie. [Cinematographer] Bradford [Young]'s work on that particular set is especially beautiful and was an anchor point for the look and feel of the whole movie."
"At this point it goes without saying, but Donald [Glover] was born to play Lando. I remember the thrill of seeing his screen test. Then the thrill of watching Bob Iger and Alan Horn watch his screen test, all of us knowing how much fun that was going to be and that he would steal each and every scene he was in. This was before Atlanta or Awaken My Love but after Community. In my opinion, Donald NEEDS to don the cape again and the sooner the better."
"L3 was a character conceived in conversations between Chris and Phil, Lawrence, and myself. It's interesting to see how divisive she's been in these extremely divisive and politically-charged times. If you're interested in that particular conversation, there was a great piece by Spencer Kornhaber in the Atlantic and another by Kate Gardner on The Mary Sue that illustrate differing points of view and the passion people feel about Star Wars. The truth is, she actually evolved out of Chris's astute observation that it was funny that the bartender at Mos Eisley objected to Threepio, considering droids seem to be the least rambunctious folk in the galaxy."
17. The Falcon
"The night we shot the scene where Han sees the Falcon for the first time was one of the most fun nights of our shoot. I vividly remember the cast sitting around listening to Ron tell stories about growing up in the business and his experiences. Ron is a world-class storyteller and almost no one alive has worked more consistently, since they were five, than he has."
18. The Cape Closet
"Lando's cape closet, another great idea that's pure Chris and Phil. That scene was always meant to parallel the scene between Leia and Han in the avionics closet in Empire. We liked the idea of seeing Han in a similar situation, with a similar type of banter, but a very different partner, one who maybe teaches him a thing or two. The relationship between Han and Qi'ra was never intended to be concluded at the end of this movie. It's a story I hope we get to tell more of someday 'cause I like their diverging paths."
19. Beckett and Han
"The scene between Beckett and Han in the lounge really demonstrates the Michael Mann influence on the movie. We wanted Beckett to be cut from same cloth as [Heat's] Neal McCauley. We wanted Beckett embody a moral cynicism that Han would, later in his life, outwardly project but never really posses. This kind of scene Woody does without a single false note. There was no take of his performance in this scene we couldn't have used. Some actors, they say it and you just believe it. Woody is one of those guys and every moment you spend with him, whether on set or in a restaurant, is pure fun. Also, if you haven't seen it yet, I can't recommend his movie Lost In London enough. It's truly sort of a marvel of filmmaking."
20. The Maelstrom
"The Maelstrom. This is another idea that stuck from the first draft. Trying to solve the problem of how to make the Kessel Run visually exciting, inventive, and at least somewhat logical, weighed heavily on all of us throughout the process. It was something we discussed endlessly and knew would never satisfy everyone, and specifically never satisfy Neil Degrasse Tyson. We wanted a Jules Verne flavor and we loved the idea of a storm in space, what that might look like. The Hubble image of the Pillars of Creation was a huge influence on this concept. ILM did tests in which they blow up canisters of different colored powder and photographed the explosion in slo-mo. Those test were fun to watch."
21. Qi'ra's Job Title
"Is Qi'ra's made-up job title, 'Assistant to the Vice Admiral of Trade Route Allocation and Monetization' a good-natured poke at some of the more confusing bits of exposition in previous Star Wars adventures? Of course not, we take all this s*** very seriously."
22. The Kessel Heist
"While figuring out the Kessel Heist, we kept revisiting the Mission Impossible movies because we wanted the sequence to have the kind of momentum and feeling of coordinated effort that the best sequences in those movies always have. Ultimately though, Han's personality is very different from Ethan Hunt. He's much more... laid back, and things tend to go best for him when he just sorta bulls***s his way though. Which is why Han Solo is the patron saint of screenwriters."
23. Lando's Memoirs
"Would the movie have made more money if it had just been two hours of Lando dictating his memoirs into his holorecorder? Perhaps. You live and learn."
24. Beckett's Armor
"I wish there was a special feature where you see Beckett toss aside the Tantel Armor and Gondar-tusk mask he uses as a disguise on Kessel, then just settle into a time-lapse shot of that gear lying in a closet in the Falcon for like, fifteen years... until Lando picks it up and wears it as a disguise himself for Jabba's Palace. And if you're wondering why or objecting to how interconnected the movie is with the others, it's 'cos that's the kind of nonsense I think about."
25. Han And Lando Get Blasting
"When I was growing up, there was a stack of Star Wars Marvel comics in my grandparents' house in Michigan that, I assume, belonged to my brother. It remained there, in exactly the same spot, for twenty-five years. I really wanted the shoot-out on the landing pad at Kessel to evoke the feeling of those wonderful Marvel comic covers from the '80s, Han and Lando, their blasters blazing. I think Ron achieved that and then some. Seeing those three guys beneath the Falcon is the absolute realization of that particular childhood fantasies. Thank you Ron and George Lucas."
26. Han The Pilot
"Does the movie work? I'm not the person to ask. But here's what I think DOES work: the moment when Han jumps into pilot's seat of the Falcon for the first time. It's directed beautifully, Alden nails every movement and look, and unless you're actively resisting it, John Powell's perfect cue will make your heart swell. That moment is as good as this movie gets in my opinion."
27. Imperial Blockade
"An Imperial Blockade was something we wanted to see the burgeoning smuggler deal with. We went through many iterations of that bit as well. For a long time, the idea was that the Falcon got stuck in a tractor beam and Han has the idea to disrupt it by removing a small amount of Coaxium, putting it into Lando's mini-ship and launching the mini-ship at the destroyer. We even filmed this version but it was incredibly time-consuming and the Kessel Run hadn't even started yet."
28. The Kessel Run
"Love it, hate it, or indifferent, watch the Kessel Run on the best screen with the best sound you can find. It's truly a technical marvel of visual effects and sound design that really represents the state of that art form at this moment. I'd put that sequence up against any visual effects in movie history. Rob Bredow knocked out of the park. It's simply gorgeous. It's also a testament to Chris Rouse, the brilliant writer and editor who came in and helped us streamline the Kessel Run sequence and the Conveyex Job."
"SUMMA-VERMINOTH, the creature the Falcon encounters in the Maelstrom had a long road to the screen. In the earliest drafts, the Kessel Run was interrupted with a forced pit stop on a spooky Ridley Scott-type planet. On that Nameless Planet, Beckett's crew encounters enormous Lovecraftian monsters that claim one of their number. When Chris and Phil got involved, they determined (correctly) that that pit-stop would kill the momentum of the Kessel Run. Later, when working on the sequence with Ron, the notion of a Lovecraftian monster returned (as we are both huge Lovecraft fans).
"I remember Kathleen Kennedy would go into her office and google images of frilled sharks and giant squids for reference. She loves that stuff. One thing we stumbled across while working on this was a fantastic short film/teaser directed Ruairi Robinson called The Leviathan. You can find it on YouTube and Vimeo. It has been long-rumored to be turned into a feature and I sincerely hope it will be. The name Summa-Verminoth is another Cthulhu mythos homage to Robert Bloch's fictional tome, De Vermis Mysteriis."
"In the script, the area of Savareen where the refinery is located is identified as the Pnakotic Dunes, another Lovecraft nod. Where we shot it, on Fuerteventura, was an incredibly remote and punishing location. You'd return to the hotel at the end of the day, chapped everywhere and with your boots full of sand. But there were moments when you'd be standing on that set, and look off in a certain direction, away from the crew, at Neil Lamont's incredible set and the hundreds of costumed extras, and you would swear you really were IN another galaxy."
31. Efts Nest
"Erin Kellyman was a discovery of [casting director] Nina Gold and Chris and Phil that exceeded our wildest hopes for Enfys Nest. She has a face made for the movies and is, I believe, busy shooting a new version of Les Miserables as I write this. Personally, I'd love to see more of Enfys Nest."
"While shooting in Fuerteventura I had another dream-fulfillment experience, getting to know and hang out with Warwick Davis. Maybe it was partly the way Bradford photographed him, but that guy just seems to get handsomer and cooler as he gets older. He's playing the same character he played in The Phantom Menace, Weazel, but I think maybe it's time Ron and I worked with Warwick to bring back another legacy character he once played. I don't know, what do you think?"
33. Qi'ra's Betrayal
"Qi'ra's betrayal/departure was also in the DNA of Solo from the very beginnIng. She was always intended to be more complicated and ambiguous than Han, at least at this point in their lives. This was a tricky thing to pull off as you're constantly weighing how invested you want the audience to be in that relationship with properly setting up the choice she makes in the end. Again, this was always intended to be just the first and second acts of their story. The third act, the resolution of Han and Qi'ra, has yet to be told."
"If you felt like it was just a cheap stunt, I suppose that's fair, but the the truth is Maul was built into the design of Solo in many subtle ways, including the name Crimson Dawn, the artifacts in Dryden's study, and Qi'ra's use of Teras Kasi. Maul is my favorite character from the prequel trilogy. I love that Dave Filoni brought him back and expanded on his story in The Clone Wars and Rebels. I love that there is at least some continuity between the shows and the movies. For me, Maul was destined to pass through Solo as the ultimate Star Wars Keyser Sozé."
35. Final Thoughts
"Will there ever be a sequel, 'cos it really seems like you guys were setting one up? To be honest, I think the challenge has much more to do with the foreign box office than the US. Personally, I think there are great Star Wars movies to be made that don't need to cost quite so much. Hopefully that will be the trend in the years to come, and maybe, just maybe that trend will allow us, one way or another, to tell more stories with Alden, Joonas, Emilia, and Donald. With those actors and Ron, I would jump at the opportunity. Given the way Hollywood, and the culture at large, seem to run from anything labeled a disappointment, the odds seem like they're against it happening anytime soon. But, I suppose, Han wouldn't have it any other way.
"We really appreciate the feedback, love talking about this stuff with the fans, and we couldn't be more excited that Solo is now available to anyone who wants to see it anytime they want to. May the Force be with you... always."