If you’re one of the few people left on planet Earth that hasn’t seen The Force Awakens then please turn away from your computer right now, march straight to your local multiplex, dig the best Star Wars movie in decades, and come back here. Now. You’re back, right? ‘Cause spoilers ahead. We’re going to talk about Han Solo, Harrison Ford, and what’s going to happen to one of the greatest heroes in American movies, with our big-boy pants on.
So let’s start by pouring one out for the attempted father of the year. Star Wars films like symmetry, and the only thing worse than Vader cutting off his son Luke’s hand in Empire and dropping him down a chute to nowhere was Kylo Ren running his father Han through with a lightsaber and punting him down a chute to the center of an imploding planet. But wipe away those tears, y’all. The standalone Han Solo story — a “solo” movie, if you will — is coming in 2018, riding down the endless pipe of new Star Wars stories. This one will be directed by 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie masterminds Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who along with screenwriters Lawrence and Jon Kasdan will undoubtedly bring their wit and pluck to the new iteration of the iconic character.
But it’s up to the actor portraying the younger Han to deliver the charisma and cocksure charm that Harrison Ford brought to the role for nearly 40 years. Whoever is chosen has to go past pure pastiche; this can’t just be people doing a Ford impression. They’re going to have to make it their own.
Lawrence Kasdan let some details slip that the Han Solo movie will be set 10 years before A New Hope, so the actor will have to at least be aged 25 to 35, Ford’s age when he first took on the role back in 1977. That means two hunky front-runners named Chris Pratt (age 36) and Chris Pine (age 35) are longshots. And before we get into the worthy candidates, here are some names to be struck from the record: Miles Teller (too awkward), Garrett Hedlund (zero charisma), Zac Efron (too Disney Channel), Ryan Gosling (too entrenched), Robert Pattinson (too aloof), Scott Eastwood (too Clint Eastwood), Josh Hutcherson (too squirrelly), Liam Hemsworth (too Australian), Nat Wolff (too annoying), or Anton Yelchin (too neurotic) to play Han Solo.
But here’s our best guesses for who should play the scruffy nerf herder known as Han Solo.
5. Jamie Bell
At the ripe old age of 29, Bell has the perfect seniority and has the right range of acting chops to pull off Han Solo. This is an actor who played a violent sadomasochist in Lars von Trier’s explicit sex epic Nymphomaniac two years after he played the innocent title character in Steven Spielberg’s Tintin. The dude is nothing if not versatile, and was arguably the best part of last year’s sewage-fire Fantastic Four movie. And even then he was playing a gigantic CGI rock monster. He could add the right amount of untapped emotional depth that the Han Solo standalone movie needs to establish the character before he becomes the Solo we already know.
4. Nick Robinson
We’ll tread lightly with Nick Robinson because he played the emptiest part in last summer’s Jurassic World. His entire character was just running, jumping, screaming, and looking mopey while trying and failing to pick up girls. But because the movie made a ton of money he’s in the good graces of Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy, whose husband Frank Marshall produced the last Jurassic movie. At least Robinson has the sensitive, youthful angle going because of his otherwise strong role in 2013’s indie hit The Kings of Summer. Whether or not Robinson will be able to mix vulnerability with magnetism will be the key in figuring out whether he’s worthy enough to eventually pilot the Millennium Falcon.
3. Anthony Ingruber
Another newcomer who gained traction in 2008 when he uploaded a YouTube video of his impression of Harrison Ford above. It may have helped Ingruber when he eventually played a younger version of Harrison Ford when they co-starred in the mushy sci-fi-tinged romance The Age of Adaline last year. But if Ingruber stands a chance he can’t just simply duplicate Ford. He certainly looks and sounds enough like him, but can he embody Han Solo? If he’s not able to break out of obviously gunning for a Ford-like persona he could have a good shot of taking over Ford’s most iconic role.
2. Taron Egerton
Man, who are all these up-and-coming British actors. Hell, Jack O’Connell could have nearly made the list if he weren’t so hard-edged and Kit Harrington could have been a name to look out for if he wasn’t basically married to Game of Thrones for the foreseeable future.
But the guy in the perfect position to break out is Kingsman’s Egerton, who proved he could upstage acting legends like Michael Caine, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Strong in director Matthew Vaughn’s bonkers 2015 spy movie. Egerton’s mercurial blend of vulnerability and confidence makes him a natural match for Han Solo.
1. An Unknown
This might be a cop-out, but it’s the right answer. The lead characters of Star Wars have achieved their iconic status mostly because they were new faces who couldn’t be tied to another franchise or previous acting work. Mark Hamill was always Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher will always be Princess Leia, and now Daisy Ridley will always be Rey, which is great because they’re all fine actors. The only drawback of finding a diamond in the rough is that for every Daisy Ridley you land a Jake Lloyd or a Hayden Christensen. But that’s the risk the filmmakers have got to take. They’ve auditioned over 2,000 actors already, and there’s undoubtedly an actor in that group that will at least make casting directors forget Harrison Ford was ever Han Solo in the first place. And that’s exactly what needs to happen.