The last day of this year’s Star Wars Celebration closed out on Sunday afternoon in London with the much-anticipated Future Filmmakers panel, centered (appropriately enough) on the future of the “Star Wars” franchise as guided by Lucasfilm leaders Kathleen Kennedy and Kiri Hart.
The forward-focused panel promised to deliver all kinds of goods about the franchise’s still-untitled “Episode VIII” and their Han Solo standalone film, featuring appearances from “Episode VIII” director Rian Johnson and Han Solo helmers Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Johnson, who recently wrapped his very first “Star Wars” film, offered few updates to the eager crowd, and while the expectation might be that Lord and Miller, who are just about to enter production on their own film, would provide even less, the chatty duo had plenty to say.
Oh, and they introduced the “Star Wars” world to its newest star: Young Han Solo himself, Alden Ehrenreich.
Lord and Miller are still working on the script for their film alongside “Star Wars” vet Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon (and both identify as huge Kasdan fans from the jump), though they’ve recently moved to London in preparation for filming at the famed Pinewood Studios.
For Miller, Han Solo is “one of the most iconic characters of all time.” He even joked about spending his childhood playtime pretending to be the galaxy’s most well-loved rogue (alongside his sisters, who amusingly played at being Leia and her totally made-up sister Margo in order for equanimity’s sake).
The “LEGO Movie” helmers also had a laugh over the fact that, because the current iteration of the franchise holds that all “Star Wars”-related movies are now canon, their minifig-centric feature is, too. Such a claim wouldn’t be complete without an illustrative clip, and the auditorium’s lights soon went down to show off a clip from their animated film featuring Han and Chewie briefly showing up in the Millennium Falcon during a battle sequence, only to sweep off with a party-ready Batman.
So, yes, this Han Solo movie is going to be funny.
The pair then shared a behind-the-scenes picture of them in costume for “Rogue One” as a pair of oddly solemn-looking background characters, robes and all. Don’t look too hard for the directors when Gareth Edwards’ film arrives later this year, though, as they didn’t actually get the chance to film their parts. (Johnson, however, will appear in “Rogue One” as his own background character, while Edwards will pop up in “Episode VIII.”)
Talk soon turned to casting the iconic character, a process Lord and Miller admitted was no easy feat.
“It was the hardest casting challenge of all time,” Miller said. “We did a very, very exhaustive search. We saw almost 3,000 people for the part.”
Turns out, though, that search was a waste of money, because as Lord told it, they actually cast the very first actor who walked in the door – rising star Alden Ehrenreich. Consider that the perfect cue to bring out Ehrenreich in his Star Wars Celebration debut. The newly minted star hit the stage to riotous applause, the kind of adoration that probably makes even the most arduous auditioning process worth it.
When asked about his experience trying out for the role, Ehrenreich was nothing but positive. “The coolest part of that audition process was, I went on the Falcon,” he said. “It’s pretty unbelievable.”
Although Ehrenreich’s casting has been widely known for months, the actor told the crowd that the one person he officially told about his new part was his mother, who reacted with the kind of abject shock she’s never displayed over his work before.
Weeks later, while moving house, Ehrenreich’s mother found a box of his old “Star Wars” toys – including a vintage Han Solo and Bossk – whose existence the actor proved to the crowd with a picture of the well-loved pair. Maybe he’s been a part of this particular family all along.
The untitled Han Solo standalone film will open on May 25, 2018.