Will the star of Solo: A Star Wars Story be crushed under the weight of the role’s legacy, or can he bring a new spin to our favourite space smuggler?
Words by Camille Hogg
Let’s face it: It was never going to be an easy job finding a new Han Solo. A role defined by the inimitable Harrison Ford and arguably everyone’s favourite Star Wars character ever – something that definitely can’t be said for Jar Jar Binks – it was always going to be a tough act to follow.
With Shia Labeouf and singer Harry Styles among others in contention for the role, it was then, from relative obscurity, that Alden Ehrenreich stepped into the limelight and a simultaneous chorus of ‘who?’ echoed around the world.
As rumours swirled that the actor’s attempts to master the space swashbuckler’s swagger were so bad he required emergency coaching, it seemed that the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story, due for release on 24th May, was doomed from the start.
The second in the franchise’s non-trilogy films, the movie takes place sometime between A New Hope (1977) and the ill-fated prequels, and follows a young Han as he navigates the galaxy’s criminal underworld. Meeting his hairy co-pilot Chewie along the way, as well as gambler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the film charts the beloved character’s rise from smuggler to saviour.
As the trailer dropped and we got our first glimpse at the new Han, it was clear that there was one key thing missing: Harrison Ford.
Look, Alden – it’s not you, it’s us; we simply can’t envision anyone else. Neither could co-star Woody Harrelson – that is until he saw Ehrenreich act.
“He’s taken on this role created by a guy who is about as beloved as it gets,” Harrelson said. “Harrison Ford is a great actor and truly one of the most loved actors ever of all time. So he’s stepping into some big shoes, but I’ve got to say, I could tell right away from just watching him, that this was perfect casting.
“You have to care about him, and Alden’s got something about him that is magical. You really do like him immediately. He’s got that thing that Harrison has too, that smile where you know there’s something else going on underneath what he’s saying. He’s nailing it.”
Glowing praise, indeed. As for Ehrenreich, he knew that the stakes were high with his Star Wars début.
“You can control your decision to say yes, and you can control your own work, the work you put into it,” he told Esquire magazine. “And you can control how you treat people. And that’s about it…In a way, walking a tightrope that’s a lot higher is a great way to learn that lesson more profoundly.”
Time will tell if cinemagoers will accept the young actor, but it seems he already has the stamp of approval from his predecessor, at least.“I just thought it was spectacular, and I thought he was so smart about what he did and how he did it,” Harrison Ford told Entertainment Tonight shortly after jokingly crashing his successor’s interview. “I just couldn’t be happier.”
But, whether you like him or hate him, with reports pointing to the fact that Ehrenreich has officially signed a three-film contract, it seems he’s going to be hanging around the Millennium Falcon a little while longer.
Also starring: Joonas Suotamo, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany, Director: Ron Howard. Rating: PG15. Running time: 135 mins.
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