When Star Wars debuted in theaters back in 1977, it knocked the socks off audiences. Nobody had ever seen anything quite like it before and in almost no time at all, the movie became a worldwide phenomenon. After Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi did the impossible and shot the franchise even further onwards and upwards. It’s created pop culture icons that live with us to this day, broken tons of records, and is recognizable to seemingly everyone you’ve ever met. Star Wars has become a franchise unlike any other. From action figures, lunchboxes, and books detailing the expanded universe, whole generations of people worship at the alter that is Star Wars.
Despite the franchise’s intrinsic greatness, the movies wouldn’t have the resonance without memorable characters. Introducing the world to one of fiction’s greatest villains, Darth Vader, Star Wars also introduced us to an unlikely and incredibly popular hero too. No, it wasn’t the Jedi Luke Skywalker, but rather the interstellar outlaw Han Solo. Together with his companion Chewbacca, the star-faring cowboy and his Millennium Falcon won the hearts of millions. Here at CBR we’re looking at 15 things you likely never new about Han Solo.
15 HAN WAS KILLED BY NATIVE AMERICANS
Before Disney acquired Marvel Comics, it was pretty much anything goes when it came to Star Wars comics; the Wild West as it were. Though Dark Horse published numerous Star Wars-related series, none of them became canon. Even so, with writers coming up with all manner of stories, one particular story comes to mind: Into the Great Unknown.
In the story, Han and Chewie make a out-of-control hyperspace jump that takes them to Earth of all places. The Millennium Falcon crashes in the Pacific Northwest and Native Americans unfortunately kill Han. Chewbacca goes on a rampage and ignites the myth about the Sasquatch. Over a century later, who comes across the bones of Han Solo? Why, Indiana Jones of course, mentioning how the whole affair seems eerily familiar.
14 HE'S BASED ON FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA
It’s not terribly uncommon for fictional characters to find themselves based off real life people. This is also the case with Han Solo. Some of his underlying and most recognizable traits are his wit and arrogance, but none of that came from Harrison Ford. Rather, the character was actually based on filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. George Lucas had been friends with him for years before they worked together on Coppola's Apocalypse Now.
Throughout production on Coppola’s movie, Lucas was concurrently working on Star Wars and he found Coppola's swagger and charisma fascinating; enough so that it is said to have fed into Han's personality. As a showing of gratitude, Coppola named a character in Apocalypse Now Colonel G. Lucas, after his friend. The surprise twist was that Harrison Ford ended up playing that character too!
13 HAN SOLO'S WIELDED LIGHTSABERS MULTIPLE TIMES
Using a lightsaber is no easy feat. It requires the combined strength and focus of a Force wielder’s abilities. To have a regular Joe use such the weapon in any capacity, without slicing their limbs off, is pretty remarkable. Before Finn and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Han Solo was the only non-force sensitive person to wield a lightsaber. It’s a pretty big deal, as the honor is generally reserved for either Jedi or Sith.
As it turns out, Han using a lightsaber on a dead Tauntan wasn’t the first time he’s used a lightsaber. In the current Star Wars comics, Luke is being held captive in an interstellar gladiatorial ring, only to have Leia, Han, and Chewie rescue him. Taking up whatever weapons they can find, the little group all get their hands on a lightsaber and save the day.
12 MULTIPLE ACTORS WERE CONSIDERED FOR THE ROLE
You might expect for there to be competition where a role like Han Solo is concerned and you’d be right! Harrison Ford was not the first choice when it came to casting the interstellar outlaw, nor was he even the second or third choice. Originally, George Lucas contemplated having Billy Dee Williams play the part, but scrapped the idea and instead made him Lando Calrissian. From there, there was a crop of many other familiar faces who auditioned.
Christopher Walken, Kurt Russell and even Nick Nolte auditioned, but none of them were quite right. Even actors like Sylvester Stallone were considered, and boy, that would’ve been an interesting sight to see. At the end of the day it was Harrison Ford, who was helping actors run through their lines that got the part. The rest, as they say, is history.
11 HE HAS A WIFE THAT ISN'T LEIA
Ever since Disney bought Marvel Comics, there haven’t been many noticeable changes, except that they’ve promoted their Star Wars comics line like never before. Now considered official canon, these stories fill in the missing time gaps between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a period of time that’s easy to overlook, but there are a ton of revelations throughout.
You have Luke meeting and fighting both Darth Vader and later Boba Fett before their cinematic encounters, yet one of the biggest additions to the mythos was Han Solo’s wife Sana. Yes, Leia meets her and yes, it goes exactly as you’d expect. Even though Han only married Sana as a cover-up for a con he was pulling, he is legally married to her.
10 HE RESCUED CHEWBACCA FROM SLAVERY
The relationship between Han Solo and the mighty Chewbacca is one of the best bromances in film history. The two love each other dearly and are the other’s best friend. It’s hard to think of one without the other and one of the many reasons why Han’s death in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was so tragic. Still, fans of the Star Wars franchise have continually sought answers about how the wookie and the smuggler became friends.
Star Wars aficionados aren’t unaccustomed to the Expanded Universe stories of Star Wars and more particularly, Legends. Here it was explained that Han Solo was a member of the Imperial Navy who saved Chewbacca from enslavement when the Empire occupied the wookiee home planet Kashyyyk. On account of this, Chewie felt he owed Han a life debt, and stayed by his side forever after.
9 THE MILLENNIUM FALCON WASN'T ALWAYS HIS
The Millennium Falcon’s history is a complex thing. Though the epic ship is often associated with Han Solo, The Millennium Falcon has undergone many changes in ownership over the years. Lando Calrissian owned the ship before Han, but only because Lando won the ship in a game of Sabacc, a galactic card game. Flash forward a couple years later and Lando would experience piercing irony when he wagered his prized ship during a game of Sabacc with Han.
Lando lost the ship back to Han and handed over ownership. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s revealed the ship went through several changes of hands as Han lost possession of it and everyone since couldn’t keep ahold of it. Eventually it fell into possession of Rey and Finn who then reunited it with its proper owner, Han Solo.
8 FORD WANTED SOLO TO DIE
Despite the success the role of Han Solo brought him, or perhaps in spite of it, one thing became clear: Harrison Ford wanted to leave Star Wars. Ford was being thrown plenty of opportunities left and right; everybody wanted him for their movies. Ford even tried leaving after Empire Strikes Back. Lucas became rather frustrated by this, as he needed one of the very biggest characters, i.e. Han Solo, in the third movie of the trilogy.
Ford compromised, offering up the idea that Han Solo should die in the beginning of Return of the Jedi. Even though Lucas wouldn’t budge on the suggestion, he countered by saying Han could die at the end of the movie, in order to give it more significance and depth. Of course Lucas didn’t let it happen, and the character lived on.
7 HE'S FROM CORELLIA
Everyone was born somewhere, and that includes interstellar space cowboys. Initially, Han Solo’s background was something of a mystery, which wasn’t necessarily a problem as that only fueled the mystique that made him so popular. In later years however, Star Wars fans finally learned where he was born.
Turns out, Han comes from the planet Corellia, which is also the home to some of the greatest people and objects in the franchise. To start off with, the planet is where ace Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles is from, but it’s also where the Millennium Falcon was made. All in all, Corellia ended up becoming an indispensible planet for the Rebels, as without it and everything they offered to the galaxy, the Empire would surely have won.
6 HAN'S FAMOUS LINE WAS IMPROVISED
The Star Wars movies are chock full of memorable lines; many of which have become staples of pop culture in their own right. However, for all the awesome dialogue Darth Vader drops, Han Solo’s reply to Princess Leia declaring her love for him is one of the greatest lines ever. Turns out, it was also improvised.
In the original script to The Empire Strikes Back, Han was going to say “I love you, too,” right before he’s frozen in carbonite and Leia says she loves him. Harrison Ford didn’t like the line, thinking it wasn’t in character with Han Solo’s loveable roguish personality. Director Irvin Kershner then said Ford could improvise and do whatever he wanted with the line, and Han delivered his iconic “I know,” response.
5 HE ALMOST WASN'T IN RETURN OF THE JEDI
After Star Wars, Harrison Ford’s career went through the roof. Selecting his roles carefully, though he signed on to do Empire Strikes Back, he initially didn’t want to be in Return of the Jedi; he was getting tired of the character. Ford nearly didn't sign up for third Star Wars movie. In fact, the original ending of The Empire Strikes Back saw Han getting away scot free, going off in search of his step-father and promising to someday return to Leia.
And though Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had already agreed to a third film, Ford was more reserved. Because of the uncertainty, the end of Empire was rewritten to cut Han out of the franchise which birthed idea of freezing him in carbonite. By the time however, Ford agreed to do Return of the Jedi.
4 HARRISON FORD WAS PAID LITTLE FOR STAR WARS
It’s challenging to imagine a world without the cinematic superstar that is Harrison Ford. He’s been a part of pop culture for decades and in some of the biggest movies of all time. It’s easy to forget he wasn’t always an A-list actor. In fact, before Star Wars, Ford had some minor parts in a couple movies and in George Lucas’s American Graffiti. It was almost sheer luck he received the role of Han Solo in Star Wars. Thankfully he did and became one of the biggest sensations the world has ever seen.
Yet when Star Wars was moving into production, nobody knew it would become a massive success; they didn’t have the universe’s largest budget. To that end, many of the actors, especially the relatively unknown Ford, weren’t paid highly. In fact, Harrison Ford was only paid $10,000, which is just a little over $33,000 in today’s money.
3 HARRISON FORD DOESN'T CARE "WHO SHOT FIRST"
One of the biggest points of contention among Star Wars fans is the infamous cantina scene where Han Solo squares off against the alien bounty hunter Greedo. Over the years, there have been multiple edits and different editions and special editions, each showing events portrayed slightly differently. It’s up to debate about who shot first, though many fans relish the idea that it was Han who shot first.
George Lucas has even tried to clarify the matter, saying it was Greedo who shot first, but this only added more fuel to the proverbial fire. Finally, someone got to asking Harrison Ford himself about the scene, hoping the actor might have further insight. When asked, Ford is quoted for saying, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” That probably wasn’t the answer fans were hoping to receive.
2 FORD NARRATED THE ORIGINAL EMPIRE STRIKES BACK TRAILER
Trailers are a big way to whet the appetites of fans for upcoming movies. Where big blockbusters are concerned, the effect is even greater. Following Star Wars and the spectacle that it became, it must have seemed like a godsend upon realizing there would be even more movies coming.
The Empire Strikes Back is considered one of the greatest movie sequels of all time; it set the bar for the middle film in trilogies and all other cinematic franchises are held to its standard. Harrison Ford also arguably stole the show, well, he and Darth Vader, but Han Solo’s role in Empire was the stuff dreams are made of. However, Ford’s contribution to the movie wasn’t just acting part, but he also narrated the original Empire Strikes Back trailer. Narrating the trailer not as Han Solo, but as himself, not many people caught on to who they were listening to.
1 HE WAS A GREEN-SKINNED ALIEN
Without Harrison Ford playing Han Solo in Star Wars, the franchise would have been drastically different. It’s impossible to know whether the movies would have been better or worse without him, but one thing is for certain, they would have been stranger had the films gone with George Lucas’ original idea for the character.
In the early days of Star Wars, Lucas wanted Han to be a green-skinned alien Jedi, sporting gills instead of a nose. Over time however, Lucas would come to change his mind. Truth be told, there were plenty of bizarre ideas that went into the initial conception of Star Wars. Yet perhaps it was for the best that many of them, including Han Solo being an alien fish-man, didn’t make it to the final cut.
Which of these facts is the most surprising? Let us know in the comments!