Disney invited me on an expense-paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the #HanSoloEvent and #ABCTVEvent in exchange for coverage on my blog. No other compensation was provided. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
When I received the invitation to attend the red carpet premiere of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, I didn’t know who we were going to be interviewing, but I had my own little wish list of talent that I was hoping we’d have the chance to sit down with. Ron Howard was at the top of my wish list. Dare I admit it had something to do with growing up watching Happy Days?
I was beyond excited when our interview schedule came through my email, and Ron Howard’s name was there. It was truly a dream come true for me. After meeting him, I have even more respect for him as a director and as a person.
When Ron walked in the room, we broke out into applause…which apparently doesn’t happen often when he walks into an interview, because it totally caught him off guard. He said that we woke him up!
I loved hearing Ron Howard’s version of how he got the job directing Solo: A Star Wars Story. He explained, “It came out of a conversation that I was having with Kathleen Kennedy. It was just a scheduled breakfast appointment that I had with her. I was in London meeting with other writers for Imagine Entertainment projects and working on things. She’s a friend.
“I didn’t know that there was any conflict, any creative differences going on with the project at all. I hadn’t heard any of those rumors. I guess that they were out there, but I just wasn’t paying attention. And at the breakfast she asked if Larry Kasden could come. He was in town. She didn’t tell me why. And I thought, ‘I wonder what they wanna talk about? Was it some other future Star Wars movie, maybe, or something else? It’s not what the conversation was supposed to be about. It was just a hello. And about halfway through, it just sort of came out that they were in this crisis with the young Han Solo movie.
“And he said, ‘Look, would you ever consider coming in and taking over?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s very flattering but I can’t imagine that I would. I don’t think so.’ And, I urged them to reconsider and think about it. And they said they had already made their decision. They knew they were gonna make a change.
“And it went from there. I read the script and I was so compelled by that script. It answered the questions of what a young Han Solo’s life experiences might be that would shape him, form him, push him toward that iconic figure that we would know later. And did it in ways that surprised me. And so it was really satisfying and logical. But it also had these twists and turns that were unexpected.
“I knew what a fantastic cast it was. And sort of over a period of about three days, I began to weigh it and at a certain point, my wife, Cheryl, said, ‘I know you pretty well and I think you’re gonna be disappointed if you don’t do this.’
“I thought she was right, as she most always is.”
Speaking of family, Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, is currently staring in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, coming to theaters in June, just a month after Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters. We wondered if there was any friendly competition at home when family members had “competing” movies (whose movie made more on opening week…whose movie got better ratings and reviews?). I loved Ron’s response.
He said, “It’s hard not to root for your daughter. And, you know, we’re in a very fortunate position. Once we realized that our movies were coming out a month apart or something like that, it was kinda like a gift, I suppose. You work at something that you love. I give 110% to everything that I do. Some things click, some things not as much. And I just love it as a lifestyle, our way of life. And, and I’ve felt very rewarded by this opportunity and I hope fans feel really good about the movie because these movies are made for the fans.”
While Ron Howard knew they were making this movie (and all movies) for the fans, he realized that there was a deep (and almost daunting) sense of responsibility to make sure that they got it “right.” We were curious to hear his thoughts on the challenges of making his first Star Wars movie.
Ron said, “What I did discover is that the reason that these Star Wars movies resonate with us and we see them more than once is because they entertain you in so many different ways. And I didn’t realize that as a fan. But when I was directing the scenes, I realized that’s a real challenge. You’ve got action elements. You’ve got sci-fi elements that are very particular to this galaxy.
“You’ve got this blend of humanity and humor and drama and then these deeper bigger themes that are really classic themes. And it’s like playing three dimensional chess to direct these scenes. And I think that when the harmonics are right, it creates this range of ways that the movies entertain you.
“But it’s a real challenge. So I recognized and respected the movies that came before me all the more when I realized how complicated they were. So it was a challenge but it was fun. And George Lucas had said to me, ‘Just trust your instincts. I think you’re gonna find you’re comfortable in this filmmaking style.’ And he was right.
“I fell into it easily. I loved the cast. Really creative, cool, young, smart cast. And loved working with the Kasdens. I believed in their story. Oh, there’s one thing I just like to remind people of.
“Because I didn’t know it until very late in the process, but it made sense to me when I heard it. And that was that this story was hatched before Disney acquired Lucas Film and came up with this business plan to do more Star Wars movies.
“It was a conversation that Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas had with Larry Kasden, basically picking his brain and saying what beyond the saga movies, what do you think would be interesting for fans and creatively exciting? And Larry and George just instantly felt and agreed that it was young Han Solo.
“So this has been a story that Larry’s been wanting to tell for a while and the studio wanted to initially commit to the saga movies which they did. But Larry, Larry kept saying, you know, well I really do believe in young Han Solo. So that’s really how it happened, before there were any directors involved or anything.
“So this story is the thing that I think everybody involved from the very beginning has wanted to give 110% to because it’s so ripe for the telling and an opportunity we felt for fans.”
He said that the scariest part of taking on a Star Wars movie was the responsibility placed on his own shoulders and the cast. He said, “I knew that there would be a lot of judgement surrounding (Alden) and his performance. But he’s such a cool customer. And he wore the responsibility very well. But I know it was something that really meant a lot to him.
“I had talked to Harrison (Ford) about a week ago. He had seen the movie and I had told Alden that Harrison really loved what he did. He respected it. And, of course, I couldn’t announce that to anybody because no one speaks for Harrison Ford but Harrison Ford.”
Speaking of Harrison Ford, we asked Ron Howard about the process of creating a new, younger version of Han Solo with Alden.
Ron said, “It was all about taking inspiration from from Harrison. I think Alden thought a little bit about the body language and that’s a sort of subtle almost subliminal link you can create for the characters.”
He explained that he has seen this done in various movies, where two actors are playing a young version of a character and an older version of that same character. It’s important for each of the actors to work out some traits or body language choices that show character continuity. Ron was impressed when he met Alden that he had already thought about and started studying that very thing in the older Star Wars movies.
Ron Howard believed that Alden Ehrenreich got Han Solo’s character right, “The phrasing, those rhythms, it was there for Alden to develop. And so that it was not only right for the character but sort of familiar for audiences.”
When asked how Han Solo’s death in THE FORCE AWAKENS affected how he directed this film, Ron said, “Well, I thought it was very powerful in that movie. And it also reflected the kind of complexity, the thematic ideas that I think give the Star Wars movies their lasting value. It’s fun. It’s playful. It’s exciting. But it also has these themes that are complicated and run deep, you know? And in its own playful way, I think Solo asks some of those questions of what’s it like in those moral gray areas?
“And when your survival is at stake and you’re presented with choices that you might not necessarily be proud of. This is a story about young people who are really on a quest for their freedom. And they’re struggling for that. And in very difficult oppressive times. And a really challenging corner of the galaxy.
“So I think knowing the outcome gives the story of young Han Solo even more power and more weight. And I think in many ways makes you even more curious about what might have made him tick.”
I can’t wait for you to see SOLO: A Star Wars Story in theaters on May 25! Come back here and let me know what you think of Ron Howard’s touch in the film.
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