No thank you, Disney. You can make a dozen Marvel movies a year, announce never-ending trilogies of “Star Wars” films and trot Indiana Jones out for adventures that go into the disco era — but when it comes to a young Han Solo movie? That’s where I draw the line. I can’t get on board with it. If every superfan has one justifiable “Defy All Logic With Indignation” card, I gladly play mine here.
My ire over this subject was kicked up again yesterday when it was reported that Disney has narrowed their “American Idol”-in-its-heyday-level search for a new Han Solo down to just three actors: Alden Ehrenreich, Jack Reynor and Taron Egerton. This news quickly followed the official announcement from Disney that they’re bringing Harrison Ford’s other most iconic character, Indiana Jones, back for a fifth movie. That I’m fine with, even after the so-bad-I’ve-never-actually-seen-it “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” But another actor playing Han Solo? I swear, I lose my mind. I’m seeing red.
I know that my anger about this solves nothing. I know Disney’s going to go ahead and make this movie even though I’m firmly against it. I’m writing a whole column entry about this, Disney! That’s how upset I am! I also know that it will most likely be really good. There’s too much snap-judge/jury/executioner when it comes to big franchises like this online, so I’m actually trying to be careful about my fiery feels. I trust directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, since they turned a surface-level cash grab film like “The LEGO Movie” into a nuanced meditation on the nature of conformity and modern social structures (with great jokes, too!). And if there’s a screenwriter I want involved on a Han Solo movie, it’s Lawrence Kasdan. The guy wrote the two best Han Solo movies: “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Force Awakens.” This is a creative team that I actually do firmly believe in. They’ve earned my respect and, theoretically, my unbridled enthusiasm.
But, also, I swear, Disney, don’t make this movie.
Even with my logic-brain telling me to trust in Lord, Miller and the Kasdans (Lawrence is co-writing with his son, Jon), I can’t turn off the visceral way I respond to Han Solo. I wrote one of my more personal entries on my 25+ year relationship with the character. The seemingly hyperbolic claim that Han Solo is my favorite character in all of fiction ever actually feels, to me, like an understatement. I can’t be impartial about the character that, for better or worse, has left a massive dent on the entire way I carry and view myself. In addition to just being an incredibly nuanced character brought to life by one of the most charismatic performances I’ve ever witnessed, Han Solo feels like a part of me — so stop trying to put an anthology film starring a hipper and younger version of my right arm on the big screen, Disney!
These Han Solo feelings I have, I have for no one but myself. Disney doesn’t care; they see a massively popular character perfectly suited for their aggressive “Star Wars” slate that demands a new movie every year. I honestly don’t know who wants a young Han Solo movie, but they know that everyone — definitely including myself — will see it. I also know myself well; if the trailers and buzz beforehand are strong, I’ll probably even dress up as Han Solo for a Thursday night show. I’m that Han-crazy and persuadable. I’m also aware that this is partly why Disney’s making a young Han Solo movie; they know that if a guy wearing a “Star Wars” t-shirt looking at his Han Solo desktop background will go back on all of his objections in order to be first in the theater for a young Han Solo movie, so will the majority of fans.
But I still have my reservations, and even if I end up loving this movie (which is still two years away!), I can’t imagine a future wherein my brain is fine sliding in Hot Young Hollywood Hunk in alongside Harrison Ford as a valid depiction of Han Solo. But then again, I couldn’t have imagined a lot of things happening in 2016 — and here we are. But the casting really is my main gripe. I know the movie will be directed well and I know that Han Solo will sound like Han Solo. But he won’t be Han Solo to me because Han Solo is Harrison Ford. There’s no way around that as far as I’m concerned.
As part of this piece’s running gag, I now acknowledge that I know this is a crazy concern. At this point, it’s kinda shortsighted and narrow-minded and maybe a bit selfish of me to claim that Han Solo is the one character we can’t recast. Look at how many actors have played James Bond, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Elektra, Punisher, the Doctor, Sherlock Holmes — I could keep going forever. They even recast the entire original “Star Trek” crew, and it’s hard to find actors as synonymous with roles as William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are to Kirk and Spock. No character is above being recast at this point, and for me to say that no, my guy is more untouchable than Spock seems, yeah, selfish.
So it’s at this point that I apologize to any mega-fans out there whose anger about the recasting of their personal hero I didn’t fully grasp. I get it now.
I can’t even front like I’ve genuinely reached a place of zen maturity when it comes to someone other than Harrison Ford playing Han Solo. I know that a new actor doesn’t negate Harrison’s performance, and I understand why it’s being done, and I actually expect the film to be decent, and I know that pop culture matters like these are but a molehill in the world’s mountain range of problems. But I’m still mad. I’m mad because I don’t want Han Solo to be like all other fictional characters. I don’t want there to be a line of Han Solo merchandise with not-Harrison-Ford’s face on them. I don’t want to have to start adding caveats to mentions of my favorite character (“…and I mean the real Han Solo!”). My relationship with my favorite character, one that I know I don’t own or have any real power over, is going to change in a subtle way because of young Han Solo — and, surprise, I get weird about change!
Fundamentally, I don’t want him to become a generic handsome and cocky scoundrel whose defining character traits are dulled down to the average of a number of different interpretations. Right now, he’s Harrison Ford — and Ford infused Han with a very specific mix of self-confidence and self-loathing. There’s a duality to Ford’s performance, with so much insecurity boiling just under the surface level cool. And, more importantly, I view Ford’s fantastic performance as the work of an immensely talented actor — that didn’t want to be there. Ford was already done with acting by 1976; he’d gone back to being a carpenter and only agreed to help his pal George Lucas out by reading with people auditioning for the other lead “Star Wars” roles. Ford kinda reluctantly agreed to this weird space opera movie, and it shows in “Star Wars” — and it works. That weird, foot-out-the-door energy got filtered through Ford’s fantastic talent and effortless charm, and it helped that he was playing a weary, irascible and skeptical guy. Han Solo is the result of a done-with-it actor playing a character that felt the same way, with Lucas being the stand-in for Luke, begging him to get involved in “Star Wars'” rebellion.
That’s not the case this time around. There’s no way that Disney is going to go after the actor that doesn’t want to play Han Solo. The character’s a massive icon; his runaway popularity negates the very circumstances (tired indifference) that I think were integral to Harrison Ford initially creating the Han Solo character. Any new actor is going to mimic Ford’s portrayal, but also — as they’ll say in thousands of interviews over the next two years — “make it my own.” I’m stuck in my ways. Han Solo’s my favorite. I don’t want any other actor to “make it their own.”
We’re still two years away from the “Untitled Han Solo Anthology Movie” hitting theaters. Maybe the new actor will be able to win me over, or at least ease me into the idea of Han Solo being larger than Harrison Ford. Right now, though, my hackles are raised. I really don’t like being this negative and dismissive, but when Han Solo is the reason for a dual between rational thought and emotions, my emotions shoot first.
Brett White is a writer and comedian living in New York City. He made videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1 and writes for the podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).
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