Solo photos

Changes

By flipping through the pages of The Art of Solo, a picture begins to form of a much different film. Part of this has to do with early drafts and outlines Lawrence Kasdan made – we can’t even be 100% certain all of this made it into the shooting draft. And yet, this material seems much more interesting than the final film. More unique; more distinct.

Kasdan’s story started with a prologue of Han around age 12, living like Oliver Twist and working for a crime boss. In this draft, Corellia – where we first meet Han – was more like 19th century Dickensian London, complete with industrial factory smoke. There are elements of this in the final film, but it’s muddled, and feels a bit rushed. Also, Han is much older, which seems like a mistake – it would’ve been best to either cast a younger actor, or nix this prologue entirely.

One of the biggest differences in early incarnations of the film and the movie as it is now is Qi’ra, Han’s love interest played by Emilia Clarke. As The Art of Solo reveals, Qi’ra (originally called Kura) was going to be a “beautiful humanoid alien.” Eventually, the production team nixed this idea. “There aren’t many characters in Star Wars that are a mid-ground between an alien and a human,” says Star Wars creature creator Neil Scanlan, reasoning that that belongs to “other franchises” – i.e. Star Trek.

the art of Solo Qi'ra art

But to have Han in a romance with an alien would’ve been incredible, and would also make sense in such the distinct, wide-ranging galaxy that is Star Wars. Before Solo came out, co-write Jon Kasdan made headlines by revealing that Lando Calrissian is pansexual. Pansexuality seems almost to be a given in the Star Wars universe, what with the varied aliens, humans and droids constantly interact. Yet we don’t actually see this in the film. Keeping Qi’ra as an alien would’ve given Star Wars a chance to actually make good on this idea. Instead, they decided to go with another brunette with a British accent.

Qi’ra wasn’t the only potential alien character in Solo. At one point, Dryden Vos, the film’s chief villain played by Paul Bettany, was going to be an alien as well. This is something we know for a fact was originally going to be in Lord and Miller’s film, thanks to actor Michael K. Williams, who was originally cast for the part.

When Ron Howard came on to reshoot the film, Williams’ schedule allegedly prevented him from returning, which required the part to be recast. Williams later spoke about the character, saying his take on Vos was “half mountain lion, half human”:

“He was half mountain lion, half human. He was extremely sophisticated, very rich — like he had been around the world, older guy. And he was in sort of a love triangle between Emilia Clarke’s character Qi’Ra and the young Han Solo. Not where it was overtly a love triangle, but there was definitely a pissing contest going on for the girl’s attention. He’s old and one is younger, so it was that thing also going on, like ‘Young buck, I’ve been around the world.’ But he’s like ‘The young chick wants the young buck.’ So there was a little bit of that energy going on. But the relationship that was on the paper was definitely with Qi’ra and Han Solo. But it there was definitely some energy going on.”

The concept art shows many different alien looks for Vos. At one point, production designers considered making him a Lasat, an alien species introduced in Star Wars Rebels. To hear the Art of Solo tell it, the idea to make Vos human was due to the perceived love-triangle angle going on the film – with Han jealous of Qi’ra’s possible relationship with Vos. The production team say they felt it would be hard to believe that Qi’ra would fall for an alien creature over Han, but again – why? Anything should go in the Star Wars universe, including potential romance between humans and aliens.

I also think this explanation is a cop-out. My guess is that when Howard came on to reshoot, there just wasn’t enough time to turn Vos into an alien. Howard had to get the film shot by October 2017, and the production was already running behind schedule. It made more sense, financially, to just slap some scars on Paul Bettany’s face and call it a day.

And I think that is the prevailing theme in the director shake-up. When Lord and Miller were working on Solo, they had more time. More time to explore, more time to create, more time to create a stunning, different-looking world. When Howard took over, he had to bring the film in with much less time. Corners were cut, and the end result was a film lacking a distinct spark.

Other changes from Kasdan’s early script work on the film, which may or may not have made it somewhere into the shooting script:

  • At some point, Han became a pilot in a fleet resisting the Empire – unlike the final film, in which he joins the Empire. There was going to be a “Top Gun scene” where Han crashed his fighter into a hanger, and was later court-martialed.
  • In still another draft, Han worked in the Imperial factories on Corellia before being imprisoned by the Empire. In prison, he becomes cellmates with Chewbacca.
  • One draft had Chewie and his fellow enslaved Wookiees fighting on the side of the Empire, complete with really cute Stormtrooper costumes.
  • In one early draft of Lawrence Kasdan’s script, Wookiees are enslaved by the Empire on Kessel; the Kessel Run came about from Han rescuing Chewie from Kessel. The enslaved Wookiees on Kessel detail made it into the final film, but the “Han saves Chewie” part did not.
  • In still another draft, Han and Chewie meet on the battlefield, with Chewie saving Han’s life, thus tying the two together forever.

We know from the Kasdans themselves that there’s at least one deleted sequence that may end up on eventual Blu-ray releases. This involves more of Han’s military service. Jonathan Kasdan even had a cameo in the scene. “The reason I decided to do a cameo in that particular scene is we were sure it wouldn’t get cut out,” Kasdan told Indiewire, “and of course it did.”

solo deleted scenes

Was It Worth It?

Does any of Lord and Miller’s influence remain in the final film? At least 30% of the movie is still technically their work – but which 30%? My guess: early scenes, when Han hooks up with his mentor Beckett, and Beckett’s gang.

These scenes are the only moments in the film – save a few scenes near the conclusion – that have a truly Western-vibe, which is ultimately what Lord and Miller seemed to be going for. These are also the only scenes to feature Thandie Newton, and we know from interviews that the bulk of Newton’s work was with Lord and Miller. “Ninety percent of my stuff is with them,” the actress said. “And it certainly wasn’t about, ‘Oh we have to start again and do it all over.’”

Solo train art

Yet even here, the Art of Solo book hints at something greater. Concept art shows Han and company riding horse-like aliens across open plains, with the train they’re chasing stretching overhead as the sun blazes. It looks like something pulled directly from a Western and transported to a galaxy far, far away. The version that shows up in the film, however, is more akin to something from the Bond franchise.

In the end, we’ll never really know what Lord and Miller’s version of Solo would’ve been like vs. what the film is now. I’m sure the footage they shot still exists somewhere, locked away in some vault at Lucasfilm. But we’ll never see it.

There’s no guarantee that what they wanted to make would’ve turned out any better than what Ron Howard crafted. It’s clear that something was going on behind-the-scenes that angered Kathleen Kennedy enough to give Lord and Miller the axe. Maybe their work really wasn’t up to par. Or maybe it really was just too different for this franchise. Different doesn’t always mean better, but it often results in something interesting. And I’d gladly take an interesting failure over a safe movie that’s only marginally successful.

And was it all worth it? Maybe not. Solo is underperforming at the box office.. Everyone worked so hard to make sure the film kept its May 25 release date, and yet the irony is, Solo might have fared better had Disney and Lucasfilm pushed it to December, which seems to be the new, safe home of Star Wars movies.

“It’s very much the movie we sort of hoped it would be,” Jonathan Kasdan said, emphasis mine. Perhaps that’s the answer to the question. Was all this change, all this trouble, all this shifting from something challenging and new to something safe and predictable, worth it?

Sort of.

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