Orange County School of the Arts

Six things we learned at the ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Press Conference

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” elicited whoops and cheers from the audience at the press  screening–for the first time, hardcore fans got to see iconic moments come to life on screen. The atmosphere was similar at the next day’s press conference as the actors walked onto the stage. Though the majority of the cast is new to the “Star Wars” universe, it felt as if in some ways, audiences had known them forever — after all, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian are household names.

Read on for more insights into Lucasfilm’s latest press conference, including actors’ experiences on set and how the story behind the cosmos’s greatest pilot came together.

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Photo by of Cassandra Hsiao

1) Alden Enrenreich Shared What It’s Like To Be Han Solo

Though he doesn’t show it with his collected cool, Enrenreich was under a lot of pressure the moment the world learned he was going to play young Harrison Ford. He had the role for a long time before shooting began. This turned out to be the perfect opportunity for him to study Ford’s mannerisms: his famous smolder, cheeky grin, delivery of iconic lines.

“The way I went about it pretty much was to watch the original movies very early on, and just kind of absorb as much as I could both the character [and] how the character is operating in the world,” he said. “Then move into working on the part and kind of put all that aside and forget about it and, and play this guy where he is now in his life, because it’s most important that it feels like a real person.”

At the screening, when Han and Chewie sat down in the cockpit for the first time, the whole theater cheered. The experience was just as unforgettable for Enrenreich as it was for us. After a couple months into shooting, however, Enrenreich had an even greater moment: the realization that flying the Millenium Falcon had become second nature.

You know where the buttons are. You know how the chair feels, you know the yoke and you feel like, okay, this is kind of like my ship now,” he said with a grin.

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Photo by of Cassandra Hsiao

2) Donald Glover Really Wanted to Play Lando

From a young age, Glover looked up to Lando Calrissian (played by Billy Dee Williams), one of the few black characters in mainstream pop culture. He not only pretended to be Lando, but also treated his Lando figurine better than the rest of his action figures. Glover even bit off Darth Vader’s lightsaber and gave it to Lando (his mom took away the lightsaber, fearing he would choke).

When the actor and musical artist (stage name Childish Gambino) heard rumors of a Solo movie in the works, he told his agent, “I have to be Lando.” According to Glover, his agent replied, “I hear you. I don’t like your odds.”

“That was exactly what I needed to hear,” reflected Glover. “I really did audition like it was like the only role I wanted in the world.  I’m just really happy to be part of this experience of it. My dad kind of imprinted me with this kind of ‘Star Wars’ longing. Because it does feel like the Bible to me in a lot of ways.”

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Courtesy of Cassandra Hsiao

3) Paul Bettany Plays The Villain, and He Loved It

Paul Bettany, most known for his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Vision, relished playing the role of Solo’s antagonist. His character Dryden Vos is terrifying in his lack of a moral compass and mercurial temperament. Bettany loved every second of it.

It was just lovely to play somebody, having, you know, come from ‘Avengers’ where Vision is fundamentally good, somebody who’s just deliciously bad. I’m really okay with it,” he said. “No neurosis. No guilt. Just super happy about being evil.”

But even Bettany couldn’t resist an iconic Star Wars moment for anyone who has walked on set. In shooting his first scene, Bettany claims he messed up by turning a scripted handshake with Chewbacca into a hug.

“I went in for a cuddle and, um… and then it was like…” Bettany mimed a hug. Luckily, the cast and crew went with it, reassuring him that this isn’t the first time an unscripted Chewie hug has happened. “I think everybody was really relaxed about it and, you know, people were saying everybody does that.”

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm.

4) Star Wars is Timeless

Thandie Newton, who plays Val, the first major black female character in the ‘Star Wars’ universe, spoke about the magic of the franchise — a fascination that has lasted for 41 years and is still going strong. Newton recounted bringing her toddler son to her first day on set, and how he wandered away to talk to R2-D2.

“My kid just walked over and the guide was operating R2-D2, the remote control saw my son, knew it was my kid, and started to make R2-D2 chat to my kid, not in language, in R2-D2 speak,” recalled Newton. “And my son would kind of gabble back and R2 gabbled to him and it ended, I kid you not, with my son hugging R2-D2. And that was the first impression my son has had of that character, of ‘Star Wars.’ This is the stuff that dreams are made of. My little boy didn’t have anything to do with ‘Star Wars’ — but these characters have a kind of magnetism that is unparalleled.”

Newton still remembers the first time she saw “Star Wars” in theaters as a kid.

“I’ll never forget it. That scroll of white going into black, John Williams’ music — this stuff imprints on your psyche,” she said. “I think that it goes so far beyond even us as filmmakers, just the stuff that dreams are made of. Really.”

It also helped that the quality of the sets and production design was immensely high, helping to immerse actors into an otherworldly universe. Sometimes, action scenes felt so real and intense that the actors had no choice but to bond with each other to keep their spirits high.

“We would feel like we were in real sort of battle scenarios with explosions going off and debris and mud in places you didn’t even know you had places. You know what I mean?” she laughed. “Like really, it’s like a nightmare. And the camaraderie between us was just humor, always was humor. There would be a lot of situations where helmets would come off and got smeared and things would go wrong — a lot going wrong, [but] that camaraderie was really felt. We were really going into battle together.”

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Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

5) Lawrence Kasdan, Who Wrote “Star Wars” V & VI, Wrote “Solo” With His Son

Kasdan’s son Jonathan jokingly wondered if his father asked him to co-write “Solo” because he matched Han Solo’s personality as described by Kasdan: “a character who’s reckless, who’s cynical, who doesn’t trust anybody, a little bit stupid.” Perhaps that was true — but Jonathan suspects that he got the gig because he and his father would make the perfect pair.

“I shared a deep love of this and I came at it from a totally different place than Larry did.  I had grown up with ‘Star Wars’; I’d grown up playing with the toys,” Jonathan said. “We thought that somehow between our two dynamics, between me as a fan and him as an older Jedi master, we could figure out some sort of dynamic where we could forge a story that felt both sort of contemporary and true to the spirit of Solo.”

They faced the challenge of writing a “Star Wars” movie fit for 2018. With Han Solo’s moral conflicts presented in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, the Kasdans found that exploring his backstory would give contemporary audiences a morally murkier tale than the main Star Wars series, emblematic of good versus evil.

“I think that we’re swimming in [moral ambiguousness] every day. What seems like a fantasy now, and is not as interesting to me, is a vision that doesn’t take in how complicated people are.  The fact that people we admire can do things we don’t admire; that we’re driven by forces that we may not be proud of,” Lawrence Kasdan reflected. “And then sometimes we rise to the occasion and do the right thing. It can’t be counted on that it’s going to happen, but you hope that it might happen. So that world is, for me, the world that we live in.”

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” flies into theaters May 25.

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