Start Wars fans face a two-year gap between 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the still-untitled Episode IX, but everyone’s favorite shoot-first smuggler and all-around rogue is getting his very own movie in 2018. Solo: A Star Wars Story will explore Han Solo’s life in the years leading up to his fateful encounter with Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in a Mos Eisley cantina, and now we have our first, official overview of the story the movie will tell, courtesy of the studio’s synopsis.
The second “anthology” movie planned for the sci-fi franchise following 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Solo features two-time Academy Award winner Ron Howard behind the camera after the exit of original filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and Hail, Caesar! actor Alden Ehrenreich in the role of a young Han Solo.
The young Han Solo movie is currently scheduled to hit theaters May 25, 2018. Here’s everything we know about it so far.
A smuggler’s story
Disney and Lucasfilm released the official plot synopsis for Solo in January 2018, providing the most official summary so far of what fans can expect from the film when it hits theaters in May.
“Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in Solo: A Star Wars Story, an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy,” reads the synopsis. “Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes.”
While it (thankfully) doesn’t reveal much in the way of spoilers, the synopsis does offer some confirmation that Han’s criminal past will play a major role in this new (or is it old?) adventure.
Know the score
A familiar name is returning to the Star Wars family: veteran composer John Williams will pen the theme for the new film, Variety revealed.
“The present plan is that I’m writing a theme for Han Solo, and John Powell is going to write the score, which he’ll do brilliantly,” Williams says.
Oscar-nominated composer John Powell will take up the baton to score Solo: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm announced in July 2017. Best known for his work on the Jason Bourne franchise and the score he created for the 2010 animated feature How To Train Your Dragon that earned him an Academy Award nomination, Powell is just the third composer to score a live-action Star Wars movie. He joins an elite group that includes veteran, five-time Academy Award winner John Williams, who scored all eight of the episodic films in the series, and Michael Giacchino, who won an Academy Award for scoring 2009’s Up and scored last year’s Star Wars anthology film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Powell has received praise for his innovative use of live percussion — particularly the Indian Conga drum — in several films, beginning with 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy.
A Solo Star Wars story
Ron Howard dropped a few Millennium Falcon-size news bombs on Twitter on Tuesday, October 17, about the upcoming Han Solo film. The director revealed the film has recently ended production — and just as important, Howard finally revealed the name of the film: Solo: A Star Wars Story.
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) October 17, 2017
Now that production has wrapped and the name is picked, the next thing to wait for is the film’s first trailer. Last year, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s first trailer was released in August 2016, four months before its December 2016 release date. If Solo follows the same trend, we should be getting our first look into Han Solo’s backstory by the end of January 2018.
Lost in translation
On Tuesday, September 26, continuing his recent trend of teasing fans via Twitter, director Ron Howard shared a photo of some mysterious markings, carved into a stone tablet a la hieroglyphs. Howard captioned the tweet, “Can anybody translate for me?
#McQuarrie #UntitledHanSoloMovie” in an overt reference to concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, who worked extensively on the original trilogy.
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) September 26, 2017
Entertainment Weekly cast an educated eye on the symbols and realized that we’ve seen them before — a few times. Similar iconography is visible in some of McQuarrie’s artwork (especially in the Temple of the Blueleaf Cluster) as well as in an episode of the Star Wars: Rebels animated series, in the Temple of Lothal. Given the fact that both instances occur in temples, we predict that the symbols are somehow related to the Jedi Order.
Desperate and dangerous times
Howard kept the Han Solo movie teases and hints coming over several months in 2017. The director posted an intriguing set photo in September, with a caption that gave a few more details than his “spicey” post (see below). If anything, we’re only more curious. The image is foggy and reveals very little, and his caption was informative yet somehow still equally vague.
“Shooting a scene about desperate and dangerous times in the Galaxy,” he wrote.
Shooting a scene about desperate and dangerous times in the Galaxy pic.twitter.com/AtNZPOkzFO
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) September 23, 2017
We can only guess at what, specifically, these “desperate and dangerous” times will entail.
12 parsecs or bust
Every fan of Star Wars knows that Han Solo’s claim to fame is making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, and now it appears that we might finally get to see him perform that particular feat.
Howard revealed a photo (via Twitter) from the set of the film on Wednesday, September 20, with the caption “Spicey?” The image appears to show the entrance to a mine, leading many fans to suspect that it’s the entrance to the spice mines of Kessel — one end of the famous hyperspace route used by smugglers to make illegal deliveries of spice from the mines to customers.
The veracity of Solo’s claim has long been the subject of contention among both fans and those writing Star Wars history, as the canon has occasionally differed on whether the famous smuggler really accomplished such a feat in the Millennium Falcon. Now it seems like fans might finally learn the truth.
A villainous cameo
According to That Hashtag Show, everyone’s favorite Darth (sorry, Maul fans) will make an appearance in the Han Solo prequel.
A source “close to the production” revealed that someone was on the film’s set wearing the unmistakable Darth Vader armor and cloak; we don’t know who, though, as Spencer Wilding — who portrayed the Sith Lord in the ending scene of Rogue One — vehemently denied any association with the movie. Given that Vader’s mask probably isn’t going to come off (we don’t really expect a substantial role for Vader), we don’t really care who wears the dark helmet.
Recast, not removed
Recently, we were saddened to hear that Michael K. Williams was forced to leave the project as a result of scheduling conflicts (see below). Luckily, though, it turns out his character wasn’t removed entirely — just recast.
On September 1, Howard tweeted out a picture of himself and Paul Bettany (who directed The Avengers). It’s captioned “The Outer Rim just got a little bit wilder.”
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) September 1, 2017
Bettany and Howard have worked together twice before, on A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code. We’re looking forward to seeing what kind of character Bettany will portray; the actor is known for his chameleon-like ability to inhabit different roles seamlessly.
Williams was originally set to play a character he describes as a “warrior … with a lot of prestige,” and he had even shot all of his scenes. When Ron Howard took over, however, the project needed reshoots. That wasn’t possible for Williams, as he was already booked for the upcoming historical thriller The Red Sea Diving Resort.
“I would have had to be in London right now reshooting,” Williams told Vanity Fair in late August. “The only option was to cut my character from the film.”
Michael K. Williams as Freddy in HBO’s The Night Of
Ultimately, the role ended up being recast rather than cut. That is good news for fans because the character sounds interesting — Williams described him as a “warrior” with “a lot of prestige” — but it is a shame for the actor. Williams had hoped to fill the role in another film in the franchise. Alas.
One sweet cape
Along with chronicling the early years of Han Solo and Chewbacca, the film will also feature another famous — or perhaps infamous — rogue from the Star Wars universe: Lando Calrissian.
After rumors began circulating that Han’s former gambling buddy and predecessor as the pilot of the Millennium Falcon would have a role in the movie, Community and Atlanta actor Donald Glover was almost immediately reported as the leading contender for the role.
The casting was confirmed in October 2016 by Lucasfilm, which announced that Glover would play a young Lando opposite Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo, taking on the role that Billy Dee Williams originated in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.
As usual, the studio offered few hints about the context of the characters’ meeting in the movie, but did indicate that Lando would be portrayed “in his formative years as a scoundrel on the rise in the galaxy’s underworld — years before the events involving Han, Leia, and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and his rise to Rebel hero in Return of the Jedi.”
In the official casting announcement, former directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller also confirmed that Lando’s iconic cape would appear in the film — and that it fit Glover perfectly.
Finally, in July, Howard posted an image on Instagram that appears to offer the first, blurry look at Glover as Lando.
Although his iconic cape appears to be absent from the shot, that does appear to be Glover in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. It’s quite the tease for fans and has already led to some speculation about what the scene could entail.
Trouble on set?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the removal of co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller may have been the culmination of troubled interactions on set and an increasingly difficult relationship with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. According to inside sources, Lord and Miller’s improvisational directing style irked Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who preferred a more traditional take on the script.
Reportedly, Lord and Miller were shooting some scenes with just three cameras; Kennedy had expected a 12-15 camera setup, which would afford more opportunities for editing. After filming moved from London to the Canary Islands, editor Chris Dickens was removed and replaced with Pietro Scalia (The Martian), and after deciding that the directors’ work with star Alden Ehrenreich was unsatisfactory, the studio decided to hire an acting coach — an extremely unusual choice so late in production.
The move to replace Lord and Miller follows several reports of creative chafing on set for the franchise; during production for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016, screenwriter Tony Edwards was brought on to oversee massive reshoots, which clashed with director Gareth Edwards’ original vision for the movie. Even J.J. Abrams encountered some issues while filming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, pushing back on a release date that he deemed unrealistic.
It appears that Kennedy and the rest of Lucasfilm’s leadership team occasionally have problems ceding creative control to their chosen directors — in a statement, Kennedy said “One of the things I’ve come to realize since I’ve been in this position of keeping Star Wars going is that, in addition to looking for somebody who can creatively have an impact, you’re really looking for leadership skills. No one steps into these big movies without being able to genuinely lead the charge with hundreds of people and [handle] the relationship with the studio. That’s a very difficult thing to do, and you don’t know [a person can do] that until you get to spend time and watch somebody operate.”
Still, sources claim that Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi has gone off without a hitch, which could be a good sign going forward.
Enter Ron Howard
Celebrated filmmaker Ron Howard officially took over directing duties for Solo: A Star Wars Story just two days after news broke on June 20, 2017, that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were out due to creative differences.
Howard’s involvement was confirmed by Lucasfilm in a June 22 press release issued by the studio.
“At Lucasfilm, we believe the highest goal of each film is to delight, carrying forward the spirit of the saga that George Lucas began 40 years ago,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in the statement. “With that in mind, we’re thrilled to announce that Ron Howard will step in to direct the untitled Han Solo film. We have a wonderful script, an incredible cast and crew, and the absolute commitment to make a great movie. Filming will resume the 10th of July.”
Howard later offered up some comments of his own on joining the Star Wars universe via Twitter.
I'm beyond grateful to add my voice to the Star Wars Universe after being a fan since 5/25/77.
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) June 22, 2017
I hope to honor the great work already done & help deliver on the promise of a Han Solo film.
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) June 22, 2017
Given how deep into production Solo: A Star Wars Story was when Lord and Miller exited, the big question now involves the amount of footage Howard will keep, and how much he’ll reshoot to shape the film into something more in line with his own vision for it; reportedly, Howard said that Lord and Miller were “very supportive, very elegant” in communication. Three weeks of principal photography remained in the production schedule when he took over, with another five weeks of reshoots reportedly budgeted for the film.
Lord and Miller depart
Less than a year out from the movie’s May 2018 release date, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller exited the film, citing creative differences. The movie is still filming at Pinewood Studios in London and will be for several more weeks, with reshoots already planned for later this summer.
Lord and Miller have a distinctive style and a knack for comedy that breaks the fourth wall, which ultimately may have contributed to their removal from Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Statements from both the directorial duo and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy cited a difference of opinions about major creative elements. Lord and Miller apparently clashed with the sensibilities of screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, according to an account from The Hollywood Reporter, while Variety has reported that the directors were also in constant conflict with Kennedy and other LucasFilm creatives.
Ron Howard was initially reported to be one of the top picks to take on the project, per a report from Deadline.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that the production of a Star Wars spinoff has run into trouble at the 11th hour. Last year’s Rogue One underwent significant reshoots, and turned out to be well received by critics and fans alike. This personnel change doesn’t necessarily spell doom for the movie — although it’s certainly disappointing for fans of Lord and Miller’s previous output.
Two characters revealed?
Character details from the upcoming film have been in short supply, but the die-hard detectives of MakingStarWars.net have been hard at work trying to uncover more. (Warning: possible spoilers ahead!) The website’s sources have revealed that there is a new character named Mother Proxima in the young Han Solo movie, likely portrayed by a puppet. Dave Chapman, the man behind the droid BB-8, is reportedly operating the character, and it is possible that Mother Proxima will be voiced by one of the other cast members.
The website also caught wind of a female character named Val and speculates that she’ll be played by Emilia Clarke. The reasoning behind the suspicion is that Val is said to have “top billing.” However, the film’s cast has other actresses equally worthy of top billing, including Thandie Newton, so it’s too early to say.
Nothing is confirmed yet for either possible character, of course, so don’t start writing Mother Proxima or Val fanfic yet.
‘It will be weird’
Seeing someone else in the iconic role of Han Solo is going to be strange for us all, but that’s probably truer for Harrison Ford than anyone. The actor admitted during an interview for “The Star Wars Show” that “it will be weird” to have someone else fill his shoes. That said, he confirmed that he plans to watch the film and approves of Ehrenreich’s casting.
“I’ve met the fella who’s gonna play the younger Han Solo,” he said, according to Metro. “Wonderful guy, very sweet, and a very good actor.”
Ford added that he’s “delighted in the choice.”
The younger actor scored the role against stiff competition, possibly including former One Direction member Harry Styles, according to reports in April. The now-solo artist’s name came up as an early contender, and when asked about the rumors on The Graham Norton Show, his denial didn’t come across as the most convincing.
Their lips are sealed
Don’t expect the cast to reveal secrets about the film anytime soon. Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, whose role in the film was confirmed last fall, recently indicated to the Los Angeles Daily News that they’re under strict instructions to keep the mystery alive. She shared that she can’t even let slip details about who her character is.
“I genuinely can’t tell you anything other than Alden is magnificent, and it’s a delight to do something on that level with really cool actors and nice people,” the actress said.
The project is so hush-hush that Clarke describes it as “even scarier” to talk about than Game of Thrones — and that’s really saying something. It sounds like they’re going to leave us in the dark as long as they possibly can. Get used to being curious.
What’s in a name?
Disney CEO Bob Iger offered up a major revelation about the famous smuggler during a speaking event at the University of Southern California in mid-March 2017. While discussing the upcoming film — still without an official title at that point — Iger said the film will explore some key moments in Han’s life, “like acquiring a certain vehicle and meeting a certain Wookiee.”
“But you’ll also discover how he got his name,” he added.
Anyone who’s been following updates on the film was likely well aware that it would cover Han’s first meeting with Chewbacca, the Wookiee that would become his co-pilot and best friend, as well as the way in which he acquired his iconic starship, the Millennium Falcon. However, the suggestion that “Han Solo” isn’t the character’s original name is something entirely new for Star Wars fans to ponder — and has created a new wave of speculation regarding what this means for the character.
According to The Guardian, Iger also indicated that the film will span approximately six years of Han’s early life. The film reportedly “picks up when he was 18 years old and takes him through to when he was 24.”
A mentor reveals himself
When news broke that Woody Harrelson had joined the project, it was rumored that his character would serve as a mentor to the young Han, with some reports stating that his character was named Garris Shrike. The actor has since dropped a few breadcrumbs for hungry fans, indicating that the early intel wasn’t totally correct. While his character will indeed be an important mentor figure for Han, the older man is actually named Beckett.
“I play a guy named Beckett, who’s kind of a criminal and a mentor to Han,” he told Jimmy Fallon during a March 22 appearance on The Tonight Show.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t just the start of several intriguing reveals — that was it. The cast remains tight-lipped about the project, so we’re lucky Harrelson gave up even that much.
Cast and cameras rolling
Disney and Lucasfilm commemorated the start of filming on the movie February 21 with the first photo of the featured cast gathered together.
From left to right, the photo features former co-director Christopher Miller (seated), Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo (as Chewbacca), former co-director Phil Lord (seated), and Donald Glover.
A mystery in CG
The Star Wars saga has a long history of introducing compelling characters created with practical effects and through a combination of performance-capture technology and digital effects, such as with actress Lupita Nyong’o bringing the alien Maz Kanata to the screen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens through the latter method. The story of Han Solo’s early years will apparently continue that trend with yet another computer-generated character in a key role.
According to Variety, Fleabag actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge has joined the cast of the film in an unidentified role that will reportedly play a “significant role” in the story. Described as “a CGI-driven performance,” the outlet compares Waller-Bridge’s mystery role to that of Alan Tudyk’s part in the recent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as the android K-2SO.
Best known for her acclaimed Amazon Studios series Fleabag, which she created and stars in, Waller-Bridge earned several Critics Choice Award nominations for the series and her performance in it.
The first shot
Everyone knows that Han Solo shot first in the cantina, but former co-director Chris Miller commemorated taking the first shot of the upcoming film on January 30, 2017, with an image he posted on Twitter.
As the photo indicates, the working title for the movie is “Star Wars: Red Cup” — likely a reference to the popular “Solo” brand of red, plastic party cups. Naturally, that hasn’t stopped some fans from speculating that there could be a more complicated, secret meaning to the film’s working title.
A new (but still scruffy-looking) nerf-herder
Casting an actor to play one of the most iconic Hollywood heroes of all time was no easy task, and the list of contenders for the role was reportedly narrowed down to three actors back in March 2016: Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!), Jack Reynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction), and Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service). Prior to that report, the list of actors considered for the role also included Whiplash star Miles Teller and The Fault in Our Stars actor Ansel Elgort, among others.
After months of speculation, Ehrenreich was finally confirmed for the role in July 2016, with the announcement made during the Star Wars Celebration convention in London.
Laugh it up, fuzzball
No story about Han Solo is complete without acknowledging his Wookiee pal, Chewbacca, and the movie is expected to offer more insight on the pair’s friendship and partnership over the years. Few details have emerged about where the film will take Han and “Chewie” during their early adventures, but it’s expected that fans will finally learn the truth about why the pair have such a strong loyalty to each other.
Star Wars, (aka Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope), Chewbacca, Harrison Ford, 1977
There’s still some uncertainty about who will be under the furry costume when cameras begin rolling, as veteran Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew might reprise the role in some form (as he’s done for every film in which Chewbacca appeared). However, it’s more likely that actor Joonas Suotamo — who served as Mayhew’s body double in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens — will take on the majority of on-screen duties.
He’s going to kill her or begin to like her
Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa are one of the big screen’s most memorable couples, but the future Rebel leader from Alderaan certainly wasn’t the only lady to love — or hate — the famous scoundrel.
There are still quite a few mysteries surrounding the studio’s casting for the film’s female lead. In October 2016, three actresses were reported to be in the running for the coveted but unidentified role as the film’s featured actress. The trio included Selma and Creed actress Tessa Thompson (pictured above), Power Rangers and Terra Nova actress Naomi Scott, and X-Men: First Class and Mad Max: Fury Road actress Zoe Kravitz.
Although there wasn’t any indication of the role the actresses were vying for, widespread speculation suggested the role was that of Sana Starros, another smuggler introduced in Marvel Comics’ Star Wars comic book series who has crossed paths with Han and often ended up on the wrong side of deals with him.
The story took an interesting turn a month later, though, when Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke was officially confirmed for an unidentified role in the film.
It remains uncertain whether she landed the role that the three aforementioned actresses were vying for, or if Clarke’s character plays a different part in the film.
Update: We added the official plot synopsis for the film.