Hang on. A Han Solo spin-off?
Yes. A Han Solo spin-off. After Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, they announced – alongside their plans to resurrect the episodic Skywalker saga – a number of spin-offs and standalone films set within the Star Wars universe. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, released in 2016, was the first official spin-off under the new arrangement, and the Han Solo spin-off will be the second – an origins story delving into the early years of the silver-tongued smuggler originally played by Harrison Ford.
What’s it called?
At the moment, IMDb lists the film as Untitled Han Solo Star Wars Anthology Film. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? There’s been no official announcement yet, title-wise, but it would make sense to conform to the format of the last spin-off and go with something like Han Solo: A Star Wars Story.
During filming, the production has had the working title Star Wars: Red Cup, which is a jokey reference to a famous red cup manufacturer going by the name of The Solo Cup Company.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller are the directing team behind the whole thing. The duo are responsible for 21 Jump Street and its sequel, 22 Jump Street, plus adventures in animation like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and The Lego Movie. Their background in comedy seems a decent fit for Han’s rakish wit, and perhaps gives some clue as to the tone of the movie.
“This is the first film we’ve worked on that seems like a good idea to begin with,” the pair said in a statement. “This is a dream come true for us. And not the kind of dream where you’re late for work and all your clothes are made of pudding, but the kind of dream where you get to make a film with some of the greatest characters ever, in a film franchise you’ve loved since before you can remember having dreams at all.”
Who’s written the script?
Lawrence Kasdan – the man behind legendary Star Wars fare like Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and more recently The Force Awakens – has teamed up with his son and co-writer, Joe Kasdan, to write the screenplay. After more than thirty years, this is the senior Kasdan’s swansong effort with the franchise.
Who is playing Han Solo?
Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo. Stepping into Harrison Ford’s not inconsiderable shoes to play the scruffy-lookin’ nerf herder, Ehrenreich is not widely known to mainstream audiences – though that’s about to change soon, of course – instead having skulked in scene-stealing roles for films like Hail, Caesar!, Stoker and Blue Jasmine. Ehrenreich was confirmed in the role on stage at Star Wars Celebration 2016, where it was revealed he was the first actor of thousands to audition. Will we see his fateful completion of the Kessel run in under twelve parsecs?
Who else is in the cast?
Donald Glover is Lando Calrissian. This was a casting announcement that had Star Wars fans collectively raise an eyebrow and mutter to themselves, “Hello, what have we here?” Glover – a modern-day polymath, known for his work in Community, Atlanta, 30 Rock, and a successful music career as alter ego Childish Gambino – was a much-touted fan favourite for the role, and there’s already chatter about whether we’ll see that infamous game of sabacc in which Lando loses the Millennium Falcon to Han.
Woody Harrelson is Beckett. After father figure work to Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games franchise, the veteran Texan actor looks set to take on a similar role here. “I play a guy named Beckett, who’s kind of a criminal and a mentor to Han,” Harrelson told Jimmy Fallon during a recent interview on the Tonight Show. “That’s all I can say.”
Joonas Suotamo is filling the large furry shoes of Chewbacca, Han's trusty wookiee companion. Suotamo doubled for Peter Mayhew – the original Chewbacca, forced to retire for health reasons – for certain scenes in The Force Awakens, and is expected to also appear in The Last Jedi. “I aspire to make Peter proud and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love,” Suotamo said in a recent interview.
What’s it about?
Understandably, as of yet, Disney are keeping their cards close to their chest on details. We know it will focus on how Han became the man who definitely shot first, set before the events of A New Hope, perhaps around ten years or so. (Alden Ehrenreich is 27; Harrison Ford was 33 when filming began on the first Star Wars film.)
“This moves closer to a heist or Western-type feel,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told Variety back in November. “We’ve talked about (Frederic) Remington and those primary colors that are used in his paintings defining the look and feel of the film.”
Where is the film being shot?
In keeping with a Star Wars tradition that stretches right back to 1977 and A New Hope, the Han Solo spin-off is being shot just outside of London, meaning a galaxy far, far away is actually not that far away for a lot of us Brits. Filming officially commenced in January at Pinewood Studios, and will include location shooting too – will we finally see Han’s home planet of Corellia?
When will it be released?
May 25, 2018 is the current release date.
That’s quite a long time away. What do I do in the meantime?
Fear not: your unquenchable appetite for Star Wars-related material will not go unsated. As part of Disney’s plan to release a new movie in the universe every year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is currently set to arrive on December 15, 2017. Here’s everything you need to know about The Last Jedi.