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‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’: Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Original Film Was Going to Be ‘Gritty’ and Would Not ‘Just Service Fans’

Rumors have long swirled that the directing duo were aiming for a funnier Han Solo film, but a new story sheds a different light on their initial aims.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Lucasfilm

There may be no “Lord and Miller cut” of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” but a new Variety cover story sheds further light on what such a feature would have looked like. When the prequel’s original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, unexpectedly left the Han Solo-centric feature last summer with just weeks left on its shooting schedule, it seemed like the kind of production upheaval that would be hard for any film to overcome, let alone a multi-million dollar tentpole with a release date less than a year off. And yet Lucasfilm pulled it off, hiring on Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard to replace the pair, with the director delivering a $250M feature in time for its Memorial Day release date.

Howard reportedly filmed 70% of the final feature – enough to earn him the film’s sole directing credit, with Lord and Miller noted as executive producers – though Variety adds that the director’s original mandate was for “85% of Lord and Miller’s “Solo” be reshot, including second unit material.” Howard’s time on the production extended filming another four months.

“Well, it was excruciating,” Jonathan Kasdan told IndieWire in a recent interview about the decision to replace Lord and Miller. “It was painful for everyone involved, and it was really the last thing I think anyone wanted. There was no one involved in this movie who was hoping that this would go down this way.”

Last June, we wondered what a Lord-and-Miller-directed Han Solo feature would have looked like, musing that it “would have been funny, and they likely delighted in the opportunity to brighten up the ‘Star Wars’ universe with their own unique polish. It’s easy to picture their take on the roguish Solo, with his macho sarcasm and derring-do, considering the characters they’ve handled in the past. They know their way around male bonding, so Han and Chewbacca surely would have had some amusing moments together as they began cementing their friendship…Other inhabitants of a very big universe? Throwbacks and wacky creatures all. But it would also have been very different in look and feel than the rest of the franchise.”

The Variety story sheds further light on the film Lord and Miller were imagining, building on initial reports that “suggested Lord and Miller had gone overboard with improvisation, moving farther and farther away from what was on the page.” While one anonymous crew member told the outlet that “Lord and Miller drew [producer and Lucasfilm head Kathleen] Kennedy’s ire for stretching days out with experimentation,” their vision went beyond just comedic improvisation.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Lucasfilm

Star Emilia Clarke told Variety that she got the sense the pair “were figuring it out” even during production. “We were all still very much in a collaborative place of ‘Where does this want to go?,'” she said.

Another anonymous source told the outlet that “in their minds, Phil and Chris were hired to make a movie that was unexpected and would take a risk, not something that would just service the fans. They wanted it to be fresh, new, emotional, surprising and unique.” The source added, “These guys looked at Han as a maverick, so they wanted to make a movie about a maverick. But at every turn, when they went to take a risk, it was met with a no.”

Lord and Miller’s original film also had an entirely different actor on board to play the film’s central villain, Dryden Voss. Michael K. Williams was initially set to play the baddie, but he “could not return for a full overhaul of his villainous character due to another commitment.” Howard opted to cast his frequent collaborator, Paul Bettany.

On a technical level, “Lord and Miller had conjured a gritty, grimy palette reflective of the seedy underbelly of conniving crooks, battle-weary war deserters and ruthless criminal syndicates on display,” one that should have been reflected in the work of their lauded cinematographer Bradford Young.

But, as the anonymous crew member noted, “Howard was inseparable from Young. You can totally see the love affair because Howard seemed super invested in how the film looked. Lord and Miller didn’t seem too fussed with that aspect, really.”

Howard was ultimately brought on board the production just days after Lord and Miller departed, though Variety details a turning point breakfast meeting with Howard, Kennedy, and both Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan in which Kennedy confined their troubles and asked Howard to consider taking on the gig.

“When Ron showed up and was willing to do it, it was really a godsend, because there was no one more up to that task, I think, on the planet,” Jonathan Kasdan told IndieWire of Howard’s hiring. “Just in terms of filmmaking, and in terms of personality, to step into what was a really difficult situation and to do it with such grace, and joy, and enthusiasm. By day three, he had put everyone to ease, and the thing was moving like a freight train.”

You can read the full Variety story right here.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” will be released in theaters on May 25.

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