Lawrence Kasdan first worked with the character Han Solo 38 years ago as the screenwriter of “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back,” and he’s gotten the chance to continue telling the character’s story over the years.
He returned again to writing the Harrison Ford character with “Return of the Jedi” in 1983 and then in 2015, he got the chance to once again chronicle the scruffy-looking nerf herder as a gray-haired old man in “The Force Awakens.” He also worked on another key Ford character, having penned the screenplay for “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
On Friday, along with his son and co-screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan, he gets to take a stab about another era of Han with “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” a spinoff prequel directed by Ron Howard, which gives the origin of the character, how he met his loyal Wookie partner Chewbacca and, of course, his bragging achievement of how he made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.
“That was the character that got me excited,” Lawrence Kasdan says. “Before I was involved with anything with George — whether it was the ‘Raiders’ or ‘Empire’ — I was totally turned on by Han and his character and how Bogart-like he was, and how reckless he was. You know, I made two Westerns — and I love Westerns — and he is the ultimate gunfighter.”
The two Westerns he’s referring to are “Silverado” from 1985 and “Wyatt Earp” from 1984, two films in Lawrence Kasdan’s storied career, which has landed him a quartet of Oscar nominations for films such as “Grand Canyon,” “The Big Chill” and “The Accidental Tourist.”
While Jonathan Kasdan has worked with his father as an actor in some of his films, this is the first film that they wrote together. But unlike Han and his son Kylo Ren from “Force Awakens,” there were no daddy issues here.
“I’d say it was a pleasure,” Jonathan Kasdan says. “He and I sat in a room in the house that I grew up in, in a room I played with toys in when I was a little kid. And we sat behind a computer and we would switch places. And one of us would write a little and then we’d talk about it a little and the other one would write a little.”
Eight months later there was a first draft, then a second, and then back and forth with Jonathan in New York and Lawrence out in Los Angeles.
“As Ron came into the process,” Jonathan Kasdan says, “I think he made it richer and more fun.”
In terms of the story, Jonathan Kasdan says that when his dad brought him on board to write the film, “one of the logics of it, for both of us, was how could we use this character that we both adore and make a kind of movie that we love, which is a Western and a crime movie.”
The movie certainly fits those parameters.
The film, starring Alden Ehrenreich as the young scoundrel, follows Han Solo from his days on his home planet of Corellia with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), dreaming of escaping the trappings of his gang-controlled environment. He sets forth on a universe-spanning adventure alongside Woody Harrelson’s Beckett and later on, his familiar furry friend Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and the debonair cardsharp Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) as they set forth on a challenging mission that can only succeed if they all work together.
Which is not unlike the film, which had the two Kasdans, as well as director Ron Howard working to get this film out after original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller left the project in 2017 due to “creative differences.”
For Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, working with Howard was a joy.
“I’ve known Ron for years, but I never got the pleasure of working with him,” Lawrence Kasdan says. “He came into a situation that would be difficult for anyone, and he handled it with amazing grace. Got up and running in an unbelievably short time. … He did it with elegance, with an incredible sense of how the story should be told. He was so collaborative with us and with everybody to make the thing happen. I’ve never seen a more pleasant, inclusive, elegant takeover of anything. He’s a great director that I admire and I love him.”
The younger Kasdan adds, “It takes your breath away to meet a man that lovely and generous. And a filmmaker that talented in the same body.”