About the film
While Solo is the second film released as a “Star Wars Story,” it is a brand new story and a new entry point into the frequently expanding Star Wars Universe. Taking place years before Han Solo met Luke Skywalker in the Mos Eisley Cantina, the film follows a young Solo as an ambitious street-thief turned Imperial grunt turned smuggler with his sights set on an ultimate heist. Along the way, his path crosses with ruthless criminals and future allies, including the wookiee Chewbacca and the conman/gambler Lando Calrissian.
Media were invited to the Pasadena Convention Center for the junket and right away we were met with a fantastic display of Solo-related materials and merchandise. Apart from the fantastic retro-style movie posters that have set the tone for the film’s marketing, costumes were on display to give us an up-close look at the intricate form-and-function details given to each character. Photo ops were also available to take pictures in portions of the iconic Millennium Flacon or even pose with Lando Calrissian’s equally iconic capes. Also on display were the lines of merchandise for the film, such as action figures, LEGO sets, and some of the greatest backpacks from Lougefly. Video game demos of Battlefield II and Jedi Challenges were also available, letting us act out every fan’s fantasy of fighting with a real lightsaber!
The cast and crew interviews were moderated by Anthony Carboni, one of the hosts of The Star Wars Show. The lineup of talent included director Ron Howard, Paul Bettany (“Dryden Voss”), Joonas Suotamo (“Chewbacca”), Emilia Clarke (“Qi’ra”), Alden Ehrenreich (“Han Solo”), Donald Glover (“Lando Calrissian”), Woody Harrelson (“Tobias Beckett”), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“L3-37”), Thandie Newton (“Val”), and writers Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan.
As a director with a history of high caliber films, Howard was asked how doing a Star Wars film measured up to the rest of his esteemed oeuvre. According to him, it’s in a league all its own. “The level of anticipation is really unlike anything I’ve done.” Howard compared taking on a Star Wars film to his previous Beatles documentary and to the true-story films he had done in the past. Since he couldn’t be familiar with every piece of Star Wars history and mythology, he took advantage of having technical advisors to fine-tune details and help with the overall cohesiveness of the universe. This approach seems to have paid off, as the film is chock-full of memorable easter eggs just for fans.
As Lando is quite the cape connoisseur in the film, a question was posed to Donald Glover on what his favorite was. After a moment of though, Glover admitted that his favorite was the one he wore at the end of the film, as he described it, a “summer cape.” He went on to describe it as being so short that it lacked all function, to which costar Ehrenreich asked Glover, “What’s the function of a long one?” Glover explained that a long cape’s function is to keep its wearer warm in the cold, while the “summer cape” by contrast, is “making a statement… like, I’m not giving up on this cape thing. While he didn’t get to keep one of Lando’s many capes, Glover said the costume department did make him a pillow out of his gigantic fur cape which he wore in the film.
The panel also took time to discuss the moral ambiguity of the characters in the film, with writer Jonathan Kasden remarking that previous films of Star Wars focused on very strict good vs. evil conflicts, while Solo manages to examine more complicated characters, especially its title character. Glover said the juxtaposition between the societal classes in the film helped to shape what made Han his own character. “You go to an airport and just see immediately who’s rich and who’s poor and why they’re there… I was like, oh, you get to see why Han is so complicated.”
Perhaps the most political character in the film is Lando’s first mate L3-37, voiced and motion-captured by Waller-Bridge. She agreed that L3 is unlike any other droid that’s been seen in a Star Wars film, which she owes to the fact that she’s a “self-made droid” – meaning she has literally cobbled herself together from other droid pieces, explaining to fans why she seems to have body parts of protocol droids (like C-3PO) and astromechs (like R2-D2) alike. She touted being able to play L3 as “a revolutionary” who “has an agenda.” One of her most memorable lines (to Lando’s offer “Can I get you anything?” “Equal rights!”) was written by Waller-Bridge, according to Jonathan Kasdan. “It’s a real treat with everyone on this panel… to be able to sort of 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.”
Howard fielded a question from a reporter regarding if his late entry into the project (Howard replaced the film’s original directing team of Phil Lord & Chris Miller, who had left the film due to creative conflicts) had hampered his ability at all to properly find a role for his brother, Clint Howard. With a laugh, Howard replied, “It was pretty damn easy!” Clint did find a cameo as a droid-fight announcer who runs into conflict with L3-37. “He was great,” said Waller-Bridge. “He was just like, hit me harder!”
In a touching anecdote, Newton spoke of her son, who she had brought onto the set on her first day of shooting. Being only two years old, Newton’s son didn’t know anything of Star Wars or its characters. Nevertheless, he found himself awestruck when he came face to face with R2-D2 on set, joining in with droidspeak communication and ending the exchange with a hug to the lovable droid. “My little boy didn’t have anything to do with Star Wars,” Newton said. “But these characters have a kind of magnetism that is unparalleled. I think that it goes so far beyond even us as filmmakers, just the stuff that dreams are made of. Really.”