Long before Ron Howard took over the director’s chair for Solo: A Star Wars Story from original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, he was “Steve” in George Lucas’s 1973 comedy American Graffiti. In a visit to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Howard revealed when he first heard Lucas’s pitch for Star Wars on the set of American Graffiti, which he thought was “moronically stupid.”
On Friday, the holy Star Wars Day of May 4, Howard paid a visit to Colbert’s late night show to promote Solo. When Colbert brought up Howard’s time as an actor prior to his directing career, Howard recalled when he first heard Lucas’s pitch for Star Wars while shooting American Graffiti.
“We shot all night and it was 3:30 in the morning,” Howard remembered. “We were standing out in front of a drive-in, Mel’s Drive-In, and I said [to George Lucas], ‘Do you know what movie you wanna do next?’”
On Colbert, Howard described Lucas as a “quiet” and “very withdrawn” character with “unbelievable focus.” But upon hearing Lucas’s vague pitch for Star Wars, Howard dismissed it as terrible.
“He said, I kinda wanna make this Buck Rogers, kind of Flash Gordon cliffhanger with Stanley Kubrick 2001 special effects. Only, everything goes really fast and makes a lot of noise. And that was it.”
He added: “If it had been one of those movies with thought bubbles, i would have said, ‘That’s moronically stupid.’ I didn’t get it at all.”
Of course, in 1977, Star Wars was released and changed everything forever. And the eventual Solo director admitted he was blown away by this “stupid” movie. “I went to see the movie when it first came out. I saw it twice the same day.”
It is extremely well known how much pulp science-fiction influenced Star Wars. In fact, Lucas originally wanted to direct an adaptation of the Flash Gordon film serials and comic strips. When the rights holders turned him down, Lucas buckled down and came up with his own science-fiction mythology.
“I liked Flash Gordon as a kid,” Lucas wrote in the 1997 book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays. “It was the only action-adventure thing I came across as a kid that I could remember … I went and actually talked to the people who owned the rights to it. They said they weren’t interested.”
In 1980, Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis and director Mike Hodges finally brought Flash Gordon to the big screen in Flash Gordon. Though the film enjoys cult status as evidenced by Sam Jones’s minor role in the 2012 comedy Ted, it’s nowhere near as big as Star Wars.
Solo: A Star Wars Story will hit theaters on May 25.