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Fred Topel Interviews and Movie Reviews

Solo Interview

Ron Howard, Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton


Han Solo has been a fan favorite Star Wars character since the original Star Wars trilogy. As played by Harrison Ford, Han Solo was always the lovable scamp who would come through in a pinch. Now he gets his own movie about his early days.

Alden Ehrenreich plays Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Donald Glover plays Lando Calrissian, whom Han meets for the first time in this film. Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton play Beckett and Val, two galactic smugglers Han meets in battle. Ron Howard stepped in to direct the film after original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller departed over creative differences. DreameGGs was at the Los Angeles press conference to hear Howard and the cast speak about the Star Wars film.

Q: Ron, you’ve made some huge movies. How different was making a Star Wars movie?

RH: Well, it’s its own galaxy far, far away. The level of anticipation is really unlike anything I’ve ever [done before]. It’s a really big title with a lot of fan interest. You fall into it. It’s a little bit, I began to recognize it’s something similar to the Beatles documentary that I had done. I’m at a point in my life where I like experimenting and taking chances. I’m not too worried about the outcome. I want to just have the creative experience. It felt that way jumping into a Star Wars movie but I also felt that way about jumping into the Beatles documentary. I could tell from the moment it was announced, “Ron, don’t f*** this up.” So I immediately felt the same thing related to this. Of course, the fans care and they should care.

Q: How did you combine practical and visual effects?

RH: As great as visual effects and CGI is, all the greatest CGI VFX effects supervisors will tell you in camera is always what you go for first. So with the Millennium Falcon and the great sets and so forth, the approach there was alway to try to get as much in camera as you could. And then, that’s what’s so magical and amazing about ILM and what they can do. They made the experience as palpable and immersive as it possibly could be. It’s a blast. The people around a movie like Solo are so dedicated to not just what’s existed before but what else they could do within that framework, within that universe, that galaxy. Creatively, it’s unbelievably stimulating for a filmmaker.

Q: Alden, how did it feel to step into this role and step onto the Millennium Falcon?

AE: Yeah, it was really wild, really exciting and kind of bigger than you can even wrap your head around. And it’s wonderful, particularly being in the Millennium Falcon is very, very cool. Very much, like being in the cockpit, you get into the cockpit, for me it was two things. One, you get int and you can’t believe you’re in it. It’s so surreal and that’s what everybody you bring to set wants to see and have that experience too. And then a couple months into shooting it, you’re inside of it, you’re flying it. You know where the buttons are. You know how the chair feels. You know the yoke and you feel like okay, this is kind of like my shop. That is deeply gratifying.

Q: Donald, your father was a big Lando fan. Did you ever imagine taking this role on?

DG: I think as much as like any seven-year-old boy does. Of course, you pretend to be him and I had a Darth Saber light saber. I bit it off and gave it to Lando. Then my mom wouldn’t let me have the light saber anymore because she thought I’d choke on it. It was really cool. I never thought I would. When I heard they were making these, I told my agent, if they’re making anything with Lando, I have to be Lando. He was like, “I hear you. I don’t like your odds.” That was exactly what I needed to hear. I auditioned and was like this is the only role I wanted in the world. I’m just really happy to be part of this experience. My dad imprinted me with his Star Wars longing because it does feel like the Bible to me in a lot of ways.

Q: Woody, what appealed to you about the role of Beckett?

WH: Well, I thought it was a really easy character for me to play because he’s a scoundrel and a thief. I think it was really well-written. That’s the thing that you have to be aware of. Larry and Jonathan [Kasdan] really wrote an extraordinary script. Just at the right time, Ron came in and did his magic and then you have all these wonderful characters. So it’s pretty cool to get to be in a Star Wars. It’s also phenomenal.

Q: Did Val and Beckett’s crew have a natural rapport on set like they do in the movie?

TN: We would have fun. We were in extreme situations sometimes. The battle sequences, this room is honestly a quarter of the size of the cavernous spaces we’d completely taken over. The production design was so amazing. So we would feel like they were real battle scenarios with explosions going off and debris and mud in places you didn’t even know you had places. Like, really, a nightmare. And the camaraderie between us was just humor, always was humor. Because obviously we’d been shooting for a long time and some of the stuff that you would share and taking the piss out of each other all the time, because there would be a lot of situations where our helmets come off and got smeared and things would go wrong. A lot going wrong, by the way. So that camaraderie was really felt. We were really going into battle together. Obviously, a sort of fantasy, fun battle but it was still going into battle.

Q: What was the hardest scene to get right and why?

AE: Every day. I mean, every day you’re walking into a new set these craftsmen and designers who work on these films are at the very height of their world. They’re the best in the world and you walk into these incredible environments with 300 different creatures that are actually there, that are actually built. And then you do your scene.

TN: I remember the first day I was on set, I had my son with me. He was two years old and didn’t know anything about Star Wars. He’s two, right? We were in this amazing set, it was extraordinary. I was chatting with the crew and stuff and my kid just started to walk away. I watched where he was going. He was walking towards R2-D2. Everyone kind of moved to the side and my kid just walked over. The guy that was operating R2-D2 by remote control saw my son, knew it was my kid and started to make R2-D2 chat to my kid. But not in language, in R2-D2 speak. And my son would gabble back. R2 gabbled to him 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. What I mean is like this is the stuff that dreams are made of. My little boy didn’t know anything to do with Star Wars but these characters have that magnetism that is unparalleled. For all of us, when we were kids, I was seven when the first movie came out. I’ll never forget it. That scroll of white going into black, John Williams’ music. This stuff imprints on your psyche. I think that it goes so far beyond even us as filmmakers, just the stuff that dreams are made of really.

RH: I think in terms of challenges, for me, I’m very excited about the character relationships because this is a little bit different than the other movies. Really, this is one guy’s adventure story. I feel like in some ways it’s kind of similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark which Larry also wrote. It is a single hero’s journey and there’s a lot of fun in that journey and a lot of twists and turns but really it’s about that character. We had that going with this. So all the different relationships were very important to me because it was all about what impact all of these character are going to have on young Han Solo. So that was interesting.

Q: You directed Warwick Davis in Willow so what was it like directing him in an actual Star Wars movie?

RH: What a great guy. You know, of course, he did Willow and he’s been an Ewok for that. He’s a tradition and another master. The other thing is that he helps out with a lot of the characters, a lot of the droids and things like that. He’ll come in and he goes uncredited. He loves it but, but the company is smart enough to bring him in and only play a character, but also help with coaching and setting up and figuring out some of the behaviors. He’s a really creative guy and an old friend and it’s great to reunite with him.

Q: How did you balance delivering things for the fans but making it your own?

RH: I’m a fan and I’ve always appreciated the movies but I’m not encyclopedic. I don’t know everything. I haven’t seen everything. I haven’t read everything. So I came into this situation and immediately, of course, I had to start working more off of instinct than anything else, and this great screenplay that I really believed in and a cast that I wouldn’t have come onboard if I didn’t love the cast and was excited about working with them. But, I immediately said I’m going to treat this like it’s a true story. I’ve done a lot of true stories and I always have technical advisors around. I sort of go for the heart, I go for the drama, the excitement of the narrative, of the story and I let the technical advisors tell me where else it could go or what I might be overlooking. That’s honestly the way I approached this. So many people around it were those guides for me, but I was just operating off my own imagination and my own sense of what I’d like to see or thread through it. But, they really understood it. Jon in particular stayed throughout the production, he is encyclopedic. He’s awesome in terms of contributing those sort of things and evaluating them.

Photos by Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

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