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It was only natural that Lucasfilm would peg Lawrence Kasdan to craft the Han Solo origin story film. After all, Kasdan co-wrote perhaps the definitive Solo story, The Empire Strikes Back, with Leigh Brackett in 1980. He also co-wrote The Force Awakens, which stands as Harrison Ford’s swan song in the role. Kasdan is not quite Han’s father as he is a very involved and conscientious uncle or even a cheery step-dad who steps in after George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney.
Kasdan also brought his son, Jon, into the process and together they crafted a screenplay that does what so many fans of the series have fantasized about for decades. They put Han Solo in the middle of a classic Western tale that just so happens to be set in space—full of tense showdowns, shifty characters, dusty landscapes, and unrequited love. Whatever one might think about the finished product, it nails the world we expect Han Solo to live in.
Lawrence, Jon, and I sat down for a chat in Pasadena earlier this month and while this occurred before the current controversy over Jon revealing that Lando was written to be pansexual, it does touch on the ever-widening gap between those who want to see Star Wars grow with the times and those who want to keep it frozen in carbonite.
Lawrence, you have done multiple Star Wars films, but this is obviously a unique one. It’s the first film that’s about one person. Was that the hardest challenge you’ve ever had to face, starting from page one on something like this?
Lawrence: No, I think, in many ways, this was the easiest for me. The writing is always hard. You’ve got to get up in the morning and do it. But, I had done so many things—my own pictures, Star Wars movies, that were all ensemble pictures. I liked the fact that we had a focus here. I knew that [Han] would never be alone in this movie. He’s Solo, but he’s going to meet people that are going to change his life and affect his attitude. It turns him into the guy we meet in A New Hope.
I thought there’s gonna be great characters here, but I’m not stuck with ‘em. I start with ‘em, and then when Jon came on, he embraced that freedom that we had. No Empire, no Force that we had to deal with.
Jon: What’s really hard is to be in the middle of one of these movies, then you cut to two completely different characters on a completely different planet, and they have to be as interesting and compelling as what you just came from. That can be a gift, sometimes, because you don’t know where to go and can skip ahead. But it can also be really tough and you can find yourself in a moment where the whole audience is like, “ugh, God, we have to go over to that. Why couldn’t we have just stayed with this character?” And we never have that with this movie. You never feel that possibility.
Lawrence: You’re following a story, which is my favorite thing to do, and you’re not having to intercut all the time, which I’ve done so many times.
I think one of the things fans are going to be interested in or comment on, is how optimistic Han Solo is, not necessarily about the state of the world, but about his ability to succeed in every instance. He’s known for being so cynical.
Lawrence: Yes, he triumphs against odds. He pulls off what he says he’s going to pull off. He’s inordinately confident. He’s mistakenly confident. He’s always overstepping. A lot of times, he gets away with it, but that’s going to be the story of his entire life.
Is that the one through line you had to keep with the character, that he always needs to have this irrational confidence about him?
Lawrence: That’s the thing I love about him, about the character. I didn’t feel like we had to keep that. I felt like the reason I wanted to do this and write another Star Wars movie is because I love a character like that. I wish I was more like that.
Jon: One of my favorite of my dad’s movies, as a fan of my dad’s movies, is Silverado. There’s a line in Silverado when Scott Glenn is looking for his brother, who’s played by Kevin Costner. He’s describing him to somebody. He says, “Young guy, full of juice, wears a fancy two-gun rig.” It stuck with me from when I heard it when I was six to the rest of my life. I thought about it a lot as we were writing, because Han had to be full of juice. I thought the sound of that phrase echoed through this whole movie. The movie had to be full of juice, the guy had to be full of juice. When Alden came in, he was full of juice. He didn’t look exactly like Harrison. He was the essence of that thing. It was a guiding principle to us, all along.
Is the hope that you guys will continue to do these, if there are more going forward. And, would either of you consider directing the next one, if they offer it to you?
Jon: We both consider anything in the right circumstances. Here’s what I would say. We left the movie open, certainly pregnant with possibilities for more stories—not just for Han, either. For Lando, for Qi’ra, for Enfys, for everybody. We love those characters and we’d love to see their stories play more, because they’re wonderful actors and they’re true to the spirit of what’s happened with Star Wars in the last five years. It’s building out in fun and exciting ways, and in different mediums, even. The opportunity is there and the actors are there. If the right thing and situation comes along, I think there’d be a lot of enthusiasm. But what we want now is for the audience to embrace the movie in a way that facilitates that.
Talking about the universe expanding, I think is an interesting point, because there’s this question of what is Star Wars now? People feel a certain way about Last Jedi and there are people who love that movie and I love that movie and there are people who say, “That’s not my Star Wars.”
It seems like a pointless debate, because it’s a world and all kinds of stories can be in there. Do you think this is going to continue and a deeper enriching of it or do you see a return to traditional Star Wars?
Jon: I don’t know. I spend a lot of time online. I’m a total nerd. I always say that one of the gifts Star Wars gives people is that they can fight about it. That’s part of the pleasure of Star Wars—what’s real Star Wars and what’s bullshit Star Wars. But the depth of passion on both sides of that argument, really more in the last year than I’ve ever seen, is surprising to me. How people will react to this movie who feel strongly about those other movies is totally mysterious to me. I don’t have the first clue who will come down where and people who had issues with what will have issue with this. It’s so divisive. If you’re determined to get no pleasure from Solo, I think you can be sure to not get any pleasure from it. And if you’re willing to get even a little bit of pleasure from it, I think it’s got a ton to offer. So, that’s a liberating way to think about it.