solo facts

Solo: A Star Wars Story is now available on digital, with the Blu-ray following soon. There’s no directors commentary track included with the release, so co-writer Jonathan Kasdan took the time to drop some Solo facts about the making of the film. While a commentary would’ve been great, this is the next best thing. In addition to that, some new Solo concept art reveals the film almost had an Ewok cameo, and more.

A good commentary track on a movie can be like a mini-film school. You can learn insight into the making of the film in question, and the filmmaking process itself. Sadly, commentary tracks seem to be a dying breed these days. If you were hoping for a Solo: A Star Wars Story commentary track, you’re in luck…sort of. Jonathan Kasdan, who co-wrote the film with his father Lawrence Kasdan, hopped onto Twitter to drop some Solo facts. Buckle up, baby, because there’s a lot to take in here.

There’s also a running theme: Kasdan keeps bringing up other films that Solo references. The work of Michael Mann, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman and more all ends up name-checked here.

Kasdan is also refreshingly honest here. Spoiler alert: while I liked Solo, I felt like it had some big missed opportunities. Casting Thandie Newton and then killing her off almost immediately is silly, and Kasdan acknowledges as much, saying “In retrospect, Thandie Newton may actually have been too good and too interesting as Val…Thandie is so compelling to watch that the death of her character feels a little like a cheat.” Kasdan also goes on to defend the surprise appearence of Darth Maul at the end, but is magnanimous enough to admit that some people might not have enjoyed it. “If you felt like it was just a cheap stunt, I suppose that’s fair, but the the truth is Maul was built into the design of Solo in many subtle ways,” he writes. See the full list of facts below.

Jonathan Kasdan 52 Solo Factoids and Tid-bits for Anyone Who’s Interested

1. LK conceived of the notion of a Dickensian-type childhood for Han, and the character of Qi’ra (originally Kura), before I, or anybody else, was involved.

2. The name the White Worms is an homage to a throughly mediocre Bram Stoker novel, The Lair of the White Worm. In the original script they were not worms at all but described as “well-dressed, vampiric albino aliens a la David Bowie in The Hunger.” Once C&P got involved they became actual worms. Mother Proxima’s design evolved through the production. The element that stuck from the very beginning was their sensitivity to light.

3. I always hoped Linda Hunt would voice Mother Proxima because she had done the haunting opening narration (an Edgar Allen Poe quote) for the short-lived and criminally-underrated Shelly Duvall Showtime series Nightmare Classics, which you can find on YouTube. When I told Linda this was why I’d thought of her, she had absolutely no recollection of having recorded that narration and disputed it. But it’s definitely her. Also, Linda is one of the coolest people you’re likely to meet.

4. OF COURSE Han told Leia the story of how he and Qi’ra broke out of the Den of the White Worms and that’s what gave Leia the idea to pull a real thermal detonator when disguised as the bounty hunter Boushh in Jabba’s Palace in ROTJ. And for anyone who feels that maybe that didn’t need to be explained… you’re crazy, it had to be explained!

5. In early drafts of the script there was no speeder chase. This was something C&P conceived and C&P and RH executed, in my opinion, beautifully. They all felt we needed to see Han’s skill “behind the yoke” and that it could it pay off later in the Kessel Run. LK, much more focused on the Dickensian element, was more passionate about the foot-chase and the deleted eel barrel scene which is included in the extras.

6. Han pulling the eel out of his pants is a nod to River Phoenix, who worked with LK on Love You To Death and was the first to attempt the daunting task of playing a younger version of an iconic Harrison Ford character.

7. The Speeder Chase went through many, many iterations and included some cool ideas that didn’t fit in the movie. My favorite of these involved TIE-fighter cockpits, fresh off the assembly line and sans wings, rolling around like giant bowling balls and Han and Moloch dodging them. I wish we’d kept that.

8. The name Moloch is a nod to Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl, which you should read if you haven’t. It’s a good poem.

9. Coronet Spaceport was a name we found on Wookieepedia while looking for spaceports on Corellia. We wanted the sequence to feel like the Ellis Island sequence in Godfather Part 2, to give a sense of how small Han and Qi’ra are in the scheme of things and the cruel, impersonal machine that is the Empire.

10. LK and I fought long and hard for Han’s stint and expulsion from the Imperial Academy. We felt it was crucial to see him train as a pilot. Ultimately though, it was always a hinderance to the flow of the story, which consistently felt like it didn’t really take off until Chewie arrived in the movie.

11. Tag and Bink can be seen on either side of the screen during Han’s hearing at Carida. They ended up as junior officers at the Imperial Academy due to a combination of a clerical error and having fallen asleep in the wrong waiting room. We shot extensive coverage of both Tag and Bink but ultimately RH felt the actors portraying those characters were too attractive and charismatic and might distract from or diminish Alden (who is fantastic in the scene). It also features cameos from our costume designers glyn Dillion and David Crossman, Producer and VFX Supervisor Rob Bredow, the incomparable Cheryl Howard and several other crew members. For a complete rundown of who’s in the hearing and where follow Glyn Dillon on Instagram.

12. We wanted Mimban to evoke Kubrick’s Paths of Glory and put Han into the most hellish-possible war environment. Originally, there was a fourth member of Beckett’s crew, KORSO, and in some shots you can even see him. His performance was great but, given the hectic environment, it became confusing to introduce that character we were going to immediately kill of. The orginal logic for Korso, who was a rather large man, was that Beckett had lost his muscle and Chewie is a useful replacement.

13. C&P had the idea that Chewie would be “the beast,” a punishment for disobedient soldiers (and I suppose droids) on Mimban. They also had the brilliant idea to have Han, at the crucial moment, speak Shyriiwook. The mud pit is pure C&P and, for my money, it’s one of the best scenes in the movie.

14. One action sequence that was never filmed but survived several drafts fairly deep into production involved Beckett’s crew leaving WITHOUT Han and Chewie, forcing Han and Chewie to steal an Imperial garbage ship on which they could escape. At one point, they dump the garbage onto several Stormtroopers who are chasing them. Writing this now, I’m relieved we didn’t actually shoot that. It would’ve cost a fortune and NEVER would’ve made the cut.

15. We Kasdan spent many a Christmas, while I was growing up, in the Rocky Mountains of Southern Colorado which is only odd when you consider that NONE of us ski. The environment of Vandor 1 was always meant to evoke that beautiful landscape. It also made sense for the space-Western feeling we were trying to invoke.

16. The Conveyex Job was in every draft of the script. It was something we conceived very early on that people were consistently responded to. Originally, the cargo was not Coaxium but rather an extremely-dangerous criminal en-route to a maximum security prison. Our idea was that Beckett’s crew was hired to bust this guy out by members of his gang. The criminal and his gang wordlessly departed after the job and wouldn’t return until some unspecified sequel where they would rescue Han at some crucial moment.

17. In retrospect, Thandie Newton may actually have been too good and too interesting as Val. It was always in the design of the story that Beckett would lose his trusted crew members during the Conveyex Job-gone-wrong and be forced to rely on newbies, Han and Chewie, and this would also open the door for Lando, Qi’ra and L3 to join the crew, but Thandie is so compelling to watch that the death of her character feels a little like a cheat. It’s an odd and unexpected problem that comes with working with such amazing, compelling actors in the Star Wars universe. You just want more of them

18. Dryden Vos’s base of operation was originally not a ship but an island fortress like Mont-Saint Michel but with an elaborate system of canals. In the third act Lando drove a Star Wars-version of a go-fast boat through the canals. It was pretty cool stuff but ultimately impossible to execute and incredibly time-consuming.

19. Qi’ra casually references an lthorian antiquities dealer named Dok-Ondar. Remember that name. You’ll see it again someday.

20. There was debate surrounding how exactly Dryden would dispose of that unfortunate regional governor. Some of us really wanted him decapitated and we actually shot a version where a head rolls across the floor. Others felt that was a little too rough for Star Wars.

21. Paul Bettany is a man-god. If you ever get the chance to work with him, or even just hang out with him, seize it. He’s one of the coolest people I know and not too shabby at acting. If you find yourself needing more Bettany after watching Solo, I highly recommend revisiting Master & Commander: Far Side of the World, one of my favorite of his countless brilliant performances.

22. One of the inspirations for Dryden Vos was Robert Prosky’s character Leo in Michael Mann’s Thief. Robert Prosky worked with RH on Far and Away. Another influence was Don Draper. We wanted this character to be, physically, the antithesis of that other Star Wars crime boss. Ya know, the one with the weight problem.

23. The scene in Dryden’s study in which the Kessel Heist is first proposed is one of my personal favorites in the movie. It’s where Han really becomes Han in a lot of ways. The way he improvises to save their skin in that scene felt true to the man he eventually becomea. “We’ll get the ship, we’ve already got the pilot.” felt like pure Han.

24. The Lodge at Fort ypso was something that came from C&P. They were inspired by Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller and really wanted to have that dark, wintery mountain lodge-feeling in the movie. Bradford’s work on that particular set is especially beautiful and was an anchor point for the look and feel of the whole movie.

25. At this point it goes without saying, but Donald was born to play Lando. I remember the thrill of seeing his screen test. Then the thrill of watching Bob Iger and Alan Horn watch his screen test, all of us knowing how much fun that was going to be and that he would steal each and every scene he was in. This was before Atlanta or Awaken My Love but after Community. In my opinion, Donald NEEDS to don the cape again and the sooner the better.

26. L3 was a character conceived in conversations between C&P, LK and myself. It’s interesting to see how divisive she’s been in these extremely divisive and politically-charged times. If you’re interested in that particular conversation, there was a great piece by Spencer Kornhaber in the Atlantic and another by Kate Gardner on The Mary Sue that illustrate differing points of view and the passion people feel about Star Wars. The truth is, she actually evolved out of CM’s astute observation that it was funny that the bartender at Mos Eisley objected to Threepio, considering droids seem to be the least rambunctious folk in the galaxy.

27. “You couldn’t get from here to Black Spire without me.” Black Spire… coming soon to a theme park near you.

28. The night we shot the scene where Han sees the Falcon for the first time was one of the most fun nights of our shoot. I vividly remember the cast sitting around listening to RH tell stories about growing up in the business and his experiences. Ron is a world-class storyteller and almost no one alive has worked more consistently, since they were five, than he has.

29. The scene where Han and Lando discuss their parents was, in part, inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born To Run (which I can’t recommend enough). Since so many characters in SW are orphans or the product of some great tragedy, we wanted the story of Han’s parentage to hint at something more complex and less romantic. His father led a working-class life, full of disappointment, and he had a complicated, difficult relationship with his son. Han eventually ran away from that relationship. I like to think Han’s father was still out there somewhere, drinking himself to death.

30. Lando’s cape closet, another great idea that’s pure C&P. That scene was always meant to parallel the scene between Leia and Han in the avionics closet in Empire. We liked the idea of seeing Han in a similar situation, with a similar type of banter, but a very different partner, one who maybe teaches him a thing or two. The relationship between Han and Qi’ra was never intended to be concluded at the end of this movie. It’s a story I hope we get to tell more of someday ’cause I like their diverging paths.

31. The scene between Beckett and Han in the lounge really demonstrates the Michael Mann influence on the movie. We wanted Beckett to be cut from same cloth as Neal McCauley. We wanted Beckett embody a moral cynicism that Han would, later in his life, outwardly project but never really posses. This kind of scene Woody does without a single false note. There was no take of his performance in this scene we couldn’t have used. Some actors, they say it and you just believe it. Woody is one of those guys and every moment you spend with him, whether on set or in a restaurant, is pure fun. Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t recommend his movie Lost In London enough. It’s truly sort of a marvel of filmmaking.

32. The Maelstrom. This is another idea that stuck from the first draft. Trying to solve the problem of how to make the Kessel Run visually exciting, inventive and, at least somewhat logical, weighed heavily on all of us throughout the process. It was something we discussed endlessly and knew would never satisfy everyone, and specifically never satisfy Neil Degrasse Tyson. We wanted a Jules Verne flavor and we loved the idea of a storm in space, what that might look like. The Hubble image of The Pillars of Creation was a huge influence on this concept. ILM did tests in which they blow up canisters of different colored powder and photographed the explosion in slo-mo. Those test were fun to watch.

33. “Carbonbergs, the size of planets, crashing into each other.” We knew this was something we wanted to see Han fly through.

34. Is Qi’ra made-up job title, “Assistant to the Vice Admiral of Trade Route Allocation and Monetization” a good-natured poke at some of the more confusing bits of exposition in previous SW adventures? Of course not, we take all this shit very seriously.

35. While figuring out the Kessel Heist, we kept revisiting the Mission Impossible movies because we wanted the sequence to have the kind of momentum and feeling of coordinated effort that the best sequences in those movies always have. Ultimately though, Han’s personality is very different from Ethan Hunt. He’s much more… laid back, and things tend to go best for him when he just sorta bullshits his way though… which is why Han Solo is the patron saint of screenwriters.

36. To this point, both LK and my favorite Han Solo line is “We’re all fine here now. Thank you. How are you?” To both of us, that moment IS what makes Han our favorite character in SW (right behind Bossis).

37. Would the movie have made more money if it had just been two hours of Lando dictating his memoirs into his holorecorder? Perhaps. You live and learn.

38. The idea I most regret not shooting involved a creature C&P conceived called a WAPOTA, an elephant-like beast of burden, fitted with an enormous burrowing drill over its face for tunneling, that breaks loose of its restraints during the Kessel revolt and ends up chasing Han, Chewie and Sagwa as their escaping with the Coaxium. It was an incredibly slow chase that had some great banter between Han and Chewie but the sequence was cut in pre-production ’cause of its cost. I fought long and hard to bring it back but to no avail.

39. I wish there was a special feature where you see Beckett toss aside the Tantel Armor and Gondar-tusk mask he uses as a disguise on Kessel, then just settle into a time-lapse shot of that gear lying in a closet in the Falcon for like, fifteen years… until Lando picks it up and wears it as a disguise himself for Jabba’s Palace. And if you’re wondering why or objecting to how interconnected the movie is with the others, it’s ’cause that’s kind of nonsense I think about.

40. When I was growing up, there was a stack of Star Wars Marvel comics in my grandparents house in Michigan that, I assume, belonged to my brother. It remained there, in exactly the same spot, for twenty-five years. I really wanted the shoot-out on the landing pad at Kessel to evoke the feeling of those wonderful Marvel comic covers from the 80s, Han and Lando, their blasters blazing. I think RH achieved that and then some. Seeing those three guys beneath the Falcon is the absolute realization of that particular childhood fantasies. Thank you RH and GL

41. Does the movie work? I’m not the person to ask. But here’s what I think DOES work: the moment when Han jumps into pilot’s seat of the Falcon for the first time. It’s directed beautifully, Alden nails every movement and look, and unless you’re actively resisting it, John Powell’s perfect cue will make your heart swell. That moment is as good as this movie gets in my opinion.

42. An Imperial Blockade was something we wanted to see the burgeoning smuggler deal with. We went through many iterations of that bit as well. For a long time, the idea was that the Falcon got stuck in a tractor beam and Han has the idea to disrupt it by removing a small amount of Coaxium, putting it into Lando’s mini-ship and launching the mini-ship at the destroyer. We even filmed this version but it was incredibly time-consuming and the Kessel Run hadn’t even started yet.

43. Love it, hate it or indifferent, watch the Kessel Run on the best screen with the best sound you can find. It’s truly a technical marvel of visual effects and sound design that really represents the state of that art form at this moment. I’d put that sequence up against any visual effects in movie history. Rob Bredow knocked out of the park. It’s simply gorgeous. It’s also a testament to Chris Rouse, the brilliant writer and editor who came in and helped us streamline the Kessel Run sequence and the Conveyex Job.

44. SUMMA-VERMINOTH, the creature the falcon encounters in the Maelstrom had a long road to the screen. In the earliest drafts, the Kessel Run was interrupted with a forced pit stop on a spooky Ridley Scott-type planet. On that Nameless Planet, Beckett’s crew encounters enormous Lovecraftian monsters that claim one of their number. When C&P got involved, they determined (correctly) that that pit-stop would kill the momentum of the Kessel Run. Later, when working on the sequence with RH, the notion of a Lovecraftian monster returned (as we are both huge Lovecraft fans). I remember KK would go into her office and google images Frilled Sharks and giant squids for reference. She loves that stuff. One thing we stumbled across while working on this was a fantastic short film/teaser directed Ruairi Robinson called The Leviathan. You can find it on YouTube and Vimeo. It has been long-rumored to be turned into a feature and I sincerely hope it will be. The name Summa-verminoth is another Cthulhu mythos homage to Robert Bloch’s fictional tome, De Vermis Mysteriis.

45. In the script, the area of Savareen where the refinery is located is identified as the Pnakotic Dunes, another Lovecraft nod. Where we shot it, on Fuerteventura, was an incredibly remote and punishing location. You’d return to the hotel at the end of the day, chapped everywhere and with your boots full of sand. But there were moments when you’d be standing on that set, and look off in a certain direction, away from the crew, at Neil Lamont’s incredible set and the hundreds of costumed extras, and you would swear you really were IN another galaxy.

46. Erin Kellyman was a discovery of Nina Gold and C&P that exceeded our wildest hopes for Efts Nest. She has a face made for the movies and is, I believe, busy shooting a new version of Les Miserables as I write this. Personally, I’d love to see more of Enfys Nest.

47. In many drafts of the script Erifys’ #2 was the mercenary Bossk who abandoned her at the end of the movie, as he is truly a soldier of fortune. This was another thing I fought long and hard to keep but was ultimately overruled.

48. While shooting in Fuerteventura I had another dream-fulfillment experience, getting to know and hang out with Warwick Davis. Maybe it was partly the way Bradford photographed him, but that guy just seems to get handsomer and cooler as he gets older. He’s playing the same character he played in Phantom Menace, Weazel, but I think maybe it’s time RH and I worked with Warwick to bring back another legacy character he once played. I don’t know, what do you think?

49. Whether or not you were surprised by Beckett’s betrayal, it had a thematic inevitability to it. This moment was meant to rhyme with the moment in A New Hope when Han returns and saves Luke during the assault on the Death Star. In both movies, the older, cynical character reluctantly departs and then suddenly returns. With Beckett it’s a betrayal, with Han it reveals his heroic nature.

50. Qi’ra’s betrayal/departure was also in the DNA of Solo from the very beginIng. She was always intended to be more complicated and ambiguous than Han, at least at this point in their lives. This was a tricky thing to pull off as you’re constantly weighing how invested you want the audience to be in that relationship with properly setting up the choice she makes in the end. Again, this was always intended to be just the first and second acts of their story. The third act, the resolution of Han and Qi’ra, has yet to be told.

51. If you felt like it was just a cheap stunt, I suppose that’s fair, but the the truth is Maul was built into the design of Solo in many subtle ways, including the name Crimson Dawn, the artifacts in Dryden’s study, and gi’la:s use of Teras Kasi. Maul is my favorite character from the prequel trilogy. I love that Dave Eijoni brought him back and expanded on his story in Clone Wars and Rebels. I love that there is at least some continuity between the shows and the movies. For me, Maul was destined to pass through Solo as the ultimate SW Keyser 50.49.

52. Will there ever be a sequel ’cause it really seems like you guys were setting one up? To be honest, I think the challenge has much more to do with the foreign box office than the U.S. Personally, I think there are great Star Wars movies to be made that don’t need to cost quite so much. Hopefully that will be the trend in the years to come, and maybe, just maybe that trend will allow us, one way or another, to tell more stories with Alden, Joorjas, gwila and Donald. With those actors and RH, I would jump at the opportunity. Given the way Hollywood, and the culture at large, seem to run from anything labeled a disappointment, the odds seem like they’re against it happening anytime soon. But, I suppose, Han wouldn’t have it any other way.

Solo Ewok

Solo Concept Art

In addition to all these Solo tidbits, some concept art is now available for your viewing pleasure. Most of the art here is of landscapes (or I guess starscapes is more accurate), but one interesting image reveals that we came very close to seeing an Ewok in Solo.

Concept art doesn’t always reflect what ends up in the final film, so there’s a good chance this Ewok never made it beyond this drawing. Still, we can dream. The rest of the art can be seen below.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is now available on digital, and hits Blu-ray September 25, 2018.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: