For fans who think the selection of Ron Howard as the new director of the Han Solo standalone Star Wars movie is weird, consider this: he’s almost directed a Star Wars movie before. Plus, his longtime ties to George Lucas and Lucasfilm in partiuclar mean he’s had a connection with the Force that runs deeper than it might intially seem.

While the firing of Chris Miller and Phil Lord from the directorial chairs of the as-yet untiled Han Solo movie feels unprecedented, there does seem to be some hope at the end of this hyperspace tunnel. Ron Howard isn’t a completely arbitrary choice for a director Instead, he’s on old-school blockbuster filmmaker who probably has more in common with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg than he does with Rian Johnson or Gareth Edwards.

Though intially famous as an actor in George Lucas’s ‘50s nostalgia American Graffiti (and subsequently as a similar character on Happy Days) Ron Howard’s career as a director quickly became his lasting legacy.

Arguably, the first big movie directed by Howard is the George Lucas-produced fantasy-epic Willow in 1988. While not a huge success at the box-office, this Lucasfilm movie set the standard in many ways for mainstream fantasy epics, like Lord of the Rings. Either way you look at it, by 1988, Ron Howard had already worked with George Lucas, twice. And, prior to his work on Willow, Howard directed the romance-fantasy classic Splash, and the sci-fi sleeper-hit Cocoon. For the very young, if you’re wondering what Cocoon was like, just imagine Stranger Things only funnier and with hilarious elderly people instead of little kids.

For fans of movies that involve space travel, it’s hard to argue with the quality of Howard’s based-on-a-true-NASA-story, Apollo 13. While a comparison between the scrappy Jim Lovell and Han Solo isn’t the first thing that springs to mind, both use their wits and moxie to get out of a tight situation, on a spaceship. This kind of nail-bitting action is something Howard is great at implementing in his films. Yes, even in a mainstream DaVinci Code sequel like Inferno.

And then, there’s that little detail that Ron Howard was actually approached to direct a Star Wars movie before. Prior to tackling the duties himself, George Lucas asked Howard to direct what eventually became Star Wars: Episode I— The Phantom Menace. In 2015, Howard explained that Lucas approached numerous directors, including Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis and himself. ““Nobody wanted to follow that act, I don’t think, at that point. That was an honor, but it would’ve been just too daunting,” he said.

Lucas and Howard on the set of 'Willow.'

Having traveled from one end of the cinematic world to the other, Ron Howard has seen a lot of strange stuff. Hopefully, all of that will be enough to help him make the jump to hyperspace back into Han Solo’s past with minimal complications. Which could be a real trick: with the messy departure of Miller and Lord, Howard has his work cut out for him. Luckily he knows a few maneuvers about how these Lucasfilm movies are made.


As of now, the as-yet untiled Han Solo movie will be released on May 25, 2018.

See also: Why Hollywood Should Stop Making Movies “For the Fans”

Photos via Tumblr