Han Solo headlines are fun, or the problem with casting ‘short lists’

First and foremost, I trust Chris Miller and Philip Lord.

After all, they have made a habit of announcing projects that sound absolutely terrible, then making movies out of them that are delightful. There is no reasonable way I should love 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, or The LEGO Movie, but sure enough… I do. And the lesson I've taken from that run (as well as their work on plenty of other projects like Clone High and The Last Man On Earth) is that I trust Miller and Lord.

So while there's a part of me that winces each and every time someone mentions a young Han Solo movie as part of the Star Wars Stories series, all I have to do is think about Lawrence Kasdan and his son writing it and Miller and Lord directing, and I relax.

Does the short list rumored by today's Variety article make me itch all over? Yes. Yes, it does. I'll be honest and say that I don't see any of the names they listed, like Miles Teller, Dave Franco, Ansel Elgort, Scott Eastwood, Logan Lerman, or Emory Cohen, as the right person to play the part. But if there's anything I'd say was clear in The Force Awakens, it is that Lucasfilm takes the casting process seriously, and they found the right balance between recognizable working actors and discoveries. Daisy Ridley's been embraced by audiences around the world, and that's great. But it was a gamble by Disney and Lucasfilm, and it could easily have gone the other way if they'd picked the wrong person. It's not even about good actor or bad actor; it's about the right choice for the role, and there's only one way the filmmakers are going to know who that is: screen tests.

What I'm having trouble believing from the Variety report is the hint that Solo might show up in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story when it hits theaters in December. Aside from the fact that it seems incredibly stupid to have Solo cross paths with the Death Star plans in any way based on what we saw of his reaction to the base in A New Hope, it sounds like a speculative jump that shows more about how fans imagine things than how filmmakers do. There were reports that The Force Awakens was going to have a post-credits scene, a la the Marvel films, and then JJ Abrams had to specifically comment on that, saying there would be no post-credits scene. Those reports seemed to be founded on nothing more firm than “Wouldn't it be cool if Star Wars did it the same way Marvel did?”, and my conversations with people close to the films say that was never a plan or a serious discussion. I don't know Variety's sources, obviously, but nothing I've heard about Rogue One would support that possibility. Yes, Spider-Man will be introduced in Civil War, before his own film, just like Black Panther, but that doesn't mean that Star Wars is going to do the same thing with young Han Solo. The timeline doesn't really work, anyway. If they're telling the story about the stealing of the Death Star plans, why would it feature a Han Solo that would be significantly younger than the one in A New Hope? Did someone steal those plans, then just hang onto them for about a decade? They say the timeline makes the idea age appropriate, but I think I disagree. Maybe I'm not getting the point of a Young Han Solo film if they're making him the same age as he was in the original movie.

I suspect there are names in the mix that weren't in the Variety piece, and we'll see if any of the ones being bandied about today end up with the role. People who are already angry about any particular name on the list (or, conversely, overly invested in any of those names) are jumping the gun. Shorts lists are just lists, and until they hire someone, there's no real story.

Let's see if this year we can focus the conversation back onto actual news and less onto this sort of claim-staking flag-planting premature rush to be the first one to vaguely connect a name to a role in print. Let's see if we can talk more about films and less about hypotheticals that simply serve to keep people in this state of tumescent hype for big brands. That means me, as well. I've certainly played this game as much as anyone, but what I hear from all of you when I have the chance to speak to you via e-mail or face-to-face or anywhere, frankly, is that you want to see more substance and less of this sort of constant barrage of background noise.

Disney and Lucasfilm will no doubt announce their young Han Solo the split second they close a deal, which seems to be the way they do things now. Until they actually issue a press release about something being official, you should presume that they haven't signed actual deals yet. Disney's smart about issuing press releases the moment something is official to head off anyone being able to break it. So for now, today's conversation is more about the idea that there will be a Young Han Solo and it's likely he'll be someone with a few films already under his belt than it is about who will actually play the part.

In other words, same conversation it's been since they first announced the project, but with a few more tangible possibilities. That's all.

So knowing how much we don't know, I revert to my original point. I trust Chris Miller and Philip Lord. See you at the theater.

Untitled Young Han Solo Film: A Star Wars Story will be in theaters May 25, 2018.

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