SOLO: A Star Wars Story Press Conference – How SOLO Got Its Groove Back

During the SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Press Conference on May 12th in Pasadena, CA, we learned that adversity really brought the cast and crew together to create one heck of a ride. The film has had a rocky road to its release, including the firing of its directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller with three weeks left of principal photography in the summer of 2017. Ron Howard assumed the director role a mere two days later. Now the Disney press juggernaut is in full swing as SOLO hits U.S. theaters as planned on May 25th. Here is the full video of the Press Conference from the front row, with pristine audio straight from the mixer. Keep reading for a more in-depth look at how SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY got its groove back.

These were the stars in attendance:

Ron Howard – Director
Lawrence Kasdan – Screenplay
Jon Kasdan – Screenplay
Alden Ehrenreich (“Han Solo”)
Donald Glover (“Lando Calrissian”)
Emilia Clarke (“Qi’ra”)
Paul Bettany (“Dryden Vos”)
Woody Harrelson (“Tobias Beckett”)
Thandie Newton (“Val”)
Joonas Suotamo (“Chewbacca”)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“L3-37”)

While the directors may have shifted, one constant in the development of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY are the writers. Legendary Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Silverado, The Bodyguard, The Force Awakens) had decided to get involved in Star Wars again based on Han. But he needed someone to help. Enter, his son Jon.

Jon Kasdan: I was sort of the obvious choice…because I shared a deep love of this and I came at it from a totally different place than Larry did. I had grown up with Star Wars; I’d grown up playing with the toys and we thought that somehow between our two dynamics, between me as a fan and him as an older Jedi master, we could figure out some sort of dynamic where we could forge a story that felt both sort of contemporary and true to the spirit of Solo.

Jon Kasdan really impressed me during this press conference, and he apparently surprised many involved with SOLO, including director Ron Howard. Howard approached SOLO like many of his other “true story” films including APOLLO 13 and RUSH.

Ron Howard: I go for the drama, the excitement of the narrative, of the story and then I let the technical advisors tell me where else it could go or what I might be overlooking. And that’s honestly the way I approached this. Jon, in particular, stayed throughout the production. He is encyclopedic [in his knowledge of Star Wars].

Solo Star Wars

While Jon Kasdan had the Star Wars expertise, Lawrence Kasdan is the storyteller. Together they wrote a roller coaster ride of a film.

Lawrence Kasdan: Always first, we were trying to tell a story that would keep you interested — you meet these people and you say, well, that’s a great person and now they’re meeting a great person. And they’re going to be in a lot of trouble together. And that is much more important to me than any particular Star Wars.

Jon Kasdan: Yeah, and we approached the movie much more in terms of ‘is there a kind of genre movie – crime or western – that we could fit Han Solo the character?’ How do we plug that guy into the kind of movie we love and the kind of story we want to see? In doing so, we’re able to have these moments that are familiar and that people connect with because they have personal relationships with these characters. It gives it an added level of pleasure.

We know the screenwriter(s) and director steer the film’s story and tone, but actors bring the characters to life. I was particularly blown away by the character of L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) who is unlike any droid we’ve ever seen in the Star Wars universe. She is Lando’s co-pilot (NOT his possession), and her character is better understood and introduced to us in the novel “Last Shot.” However, Phoebe does an excellent job of portraying this outspoken, extremely intelligent droid with witty jabs that resonate with a deeper meaning in 2018.

At one point, Lando is exiting the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit and asks L3 “Can I get you anything else?” and she pointedly responds, “equal rights.” It’s almost a throwaway line, but one that stuck with me so much that I had to ask Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the Kasdans at the press conference whether it was written or ad-libbed.

Jon Kasdan: That is Phoebe Waller-Bridge! It’s a real treat to write situations and then have performers and writers in their own right who can contribute a better idea on top of what you’ve created. Because there is always a way that these things can be enriched and that is a perfect example of something that just feels totally true to her character and to what we wanted it to be.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge: Well, L3 is a real inspiration to me, so thanks, guys. She’s a self-made droid, so she created herself out of parts of other droids. It sounds kind of frightening, actually, when I put it like that. Like, where did you get those bits? She’s fearless, uncensored and very funny. But she’s also a revolutionary and she has an agenda which is bigger than the sum of her parts. It’s great to play a droid with a message.

L3 is a scene-stealer, but I know which character you really want to hear about – Han Solo! Alden Ehrenreich had the incredibly challenging task of stepping into Han’s legendary Corellian bloodstripe pants, not to mention Harrison Ford. How did Alden set about this task?

Alden Ehrenreich: I went about it watching the original movies very early on. I tried to absorb as much as I could of the character and how he’s operating in the world very early, because I had the role for quite a long time before we actually shot. And then move into playing this guy where he is now in his life, because it’s most important, I think, that it feels like a real person.

After seeing the film, Harrison Ford actually surprised Alden in an Entertainment Tonight interview – giving Alden his admiration and blessing. What a moment!

These new actors all benefit from the previous generation of familiar Star Wars characters. Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca) had Peter Mayhew’s help training what goes on beneath the mask with a “Chewie Boot Camp”. Donald Glover has been preparing all his life for Lando.

Donald Glover: I told my agent, if they’re making anything with Lando in it, I have to be Lando. And I really did audition like it was like the only role I wanted in the world. My dad kind of imprinted me with this kind of Star Wars’ longing. Because it does feel like the Bible to me in a lot of ways.

So directors may change, the script may go through development hell, even actors have to switch out due to scheduling conflicts. But the thread of the story was always there in SOLO. And the fact that it’s Star Wars – which has a pull that’s hard to describe, though Thandie Newton tried to put it into words. Her son was two at the time of filming, and she brought him to set. He didn’t know anything about Star Wars, but wandered over to R2-D2. The droid operator helped R2 talk to her son in “R2-D2 speak.”

Thandie Newton: And my son would kind of gabble back and it ended, I kid you not, with my son hugging R2-D2. And that was the first impression my son has had of that character, of Star Wars. And what I mean is, these characters have a kind of magnetism that is unparalleled. I think that it goes so far beyond even us as filmmakers; it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY has that pull. After all, we are watching a film about a particular line we heard back in a cantina scene in 1977. Han Solo introduces himself and the Millenium Falcon – “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” I mean, doesn’t that sound like a good story!? SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY opens on May 25th at a theater near you. Enjoy the ride.

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About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod