Until directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller and screenwriters Lawrence and Jon Kasdan decide to drop some information about their highly anticipated Han Solo standalone movie, fans will be stuck trying to piece together clues themselves. With two years until its planned 2018 release, the filmmakers have more than enough time to take things slow to get it right.
Here’s what we know: Alden Ehrenreich will try to fill the vest of the Corellian smuggler made famous by Harrison Ford for over thirty years. We only know the vaguest information about the solo Solo movie at this point. Disney CEO Bob Iger said the movie will be “an origin story about Han Solo and Chewie,” and reiterated “that’ll come after Star Wars 8 in 2018. And then there will possibly more thereafter.” Last year, Lawrence Kasdan (who also co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back) revealed that the Han Solo movie will be set 10 years before A New Hope.
Any other specifics are simply hearsay, but looking to the past could clue us in to the future: specifically, early story meetings with George Lucas and Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Leigh Brackett from 1977 could offer some clues as to how the new filmmakers will eventually tell Solo’s backstory.
The Force Awakens adopted some old discarded or overlooked concepts that didn’t make it into previous films. Old Ralph McQuarrie designs made their way into The Force Awakens, as did the mindset of trying to make the special effects of the alien worlds as practical as possible. The operative mindset of Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy’s new Star Wars saga has been to honor George Lucas’ own story while leaving enough room to blaze their own trail, so it might behoove Star Wars fans to look back at how Lucas was going to treat the Han Solo character once he knew he was going to make more movies past A New Hope.
The easiest way to channel Lucas’s vision at the moment is to look at author J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, a book known as the definitive look at the making of the second movie in the saga. In the book, Rinzler highlights early story conference meetings from November 38 to December 2, 1977, with Lucas chatting with Brackett only six months after A New Hope first opened in theaters — on what could possibly happen in the potential sequel.
Rinzler’s version of a typed transcript mentions Lucas admitting, “we think maybe there’s going to be a movie about him,” referring to Han Solo before ruminating on a proposed backstory involving Hans stepfather:
“The stepfather would be the head of the transportation union, which means that he controls all the pilots, all the navigators, all the shipping throughout the galaxy. He really controls all nonmilitary transport in the galaxy. His people are really devoted to him. Without commerce in the galaxy, it would strangle the Empire and the Emperor knows this.”
An estranged and powerful stepfather angle would be a perfect inclusion in a standalone Star Wars movie, considering the saga’s reliance on family themes, and could also be the jumping-off point to make Solo go rogue.
Lucas elaborated on wanting to highlight how the stepfather angle made Han meet up with Chewie, which bears a striking resemblance to the origin story mentioned decades later by Iger. Per Rinzler’s transcript of Lucas:
“There is also a whole section about how Han got tied up with Chewie. It has to do with Han being orphaned and landing on the Wookiee planet and being raised by the Wookiees. Han’s stepfather is a Hemingway-esque character. His father was a trader and his fathers father was a trader, and they honed out this trading post empire and pretty soon it became a giant thing. In his trading, he came across Han and took him under his wing for eight or nine years—until they had a falling out at the end and had a bitter fight over something. Han swore he would never talk to him again.”
This all pure speculation, but it fits with the filmmakers behind the Han Solo movie wanting to adhere at least a little to what the plans were for the character even during the advanced pre-production stages of The Empire Strikes Back, especially for Lawrence Kasdan, who had a hand in both movies. It would also make the most sense for the movie to stay classic while also being new. Granted, in those early days of 1977 Lucas was throwing out every idea he had, with most of them not even making it past story meetings. But in this case it seems like something the solo Solo filmmakers should listen to.
Other than a wholly original backstory, there exists one other option: Tapping into a different kind of past.
The Solo character was given a long and elaborate backstory that was told the countless books, comics, and other media that made up the Expanded Universe. Lord and Miller could simply pick and choose from one of the pre-A New Hope storylines from that material and adapt that, because its there for the taking. Any of the three stories from author Brian Daley’s 1979 anthology The Han Solo Adventures — one of the very first Expanded Universe books — could plausibly fit within the one-decade-previous timeline that Kasdan confirmed. But since the Disney takeover labelled all previous Expanded Universe stories simply as unofficial “Legends” it all but confirmed that they wouldn’t simply adapt someone else’s material. If that happened fans would go crazy, and it would only further confuse fans of the Expanded Universe if suddenly one of the stories was canon again.