For the life of me, I’ve been trying to think of a more iconic movie character, one who has appeared in multiple movies and who is more closely associated with its actor than Han Solo is with Harrison Ford. The only other one I could come up with is (yeah, you probably guessed it) Indiana Jones and Harrison Ford. (Or maybe William Shatner and Chris Pine as Kirk, but since that started as a television show it didn’t 100 percent fit the parameters.) Ford has appeared as Solo in four proper Star Wars movies – and the Star Wars Holiday Special – over the course of 38 years. Even though four movies isn’t that many, that’s a really long time for people to get the idea ingrained in their heads that Harrison Ford is Han Solo. It’s just the way it is. But now it’s not.
My point is, when we all finally see Solo: A Star Wars Story, there are going to be a contingent of people who, unfairly, probably won’t give Alden Ehrenreich a chance because he’s not Harrison Ford and I’m starting to worry I might be one of those people, even though I hate being “that person.” And I really like Ehrenreich as an actor. He was great in Hail, Caesar! I also liked him quite a bit in The Yellow Birds, which played at Sundance in 2017. He’s a good actor!
Personally, I need to come to grips with the fact that Han Solo is not being played by Harrison Ford anymore and not judge Ehrenreich, or the film itself, on the basis of, “Well, he’s not Harrison.” And I have a little over four months to train myself for this. Yeah, Ehrenreich is quite a bit shorter and, yes, the pitch of his voice is a little bit higher – but we’ve all been through this before with different actors playing a character we love, why is this one so difficult?
Again, I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with a comparison. Sean Connery played James Bond six times (seven if you count Never Say Never Again) and, yes, from what I understand it was quite a shock to the system when George Lazenby showed up as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But then Lazenby turned down a multi-film deal and the series went back to Connery for one more movie. (Could you imagine this happening today? If Ehrenreich was just like, “nah,” then Lucasfilm brought Ford back again. What a strange thing.) But the big difference is that the James Bond movies aren’t really a continuing story. There are arcs within a few of them, but it’s not like Moonraker has anything to do with Skyfall. No one is coming up to Daniel Craig’s Bond and saying, “Hey, remember when you had that laser battle in space?” So this is a big difference.
We’ve gone through this in Star Wars before with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Before the prequels came out, the biggest question was who would take over the part of young Ben Kenobi. And those early days of the internet exploded with message board suggestions and rumors. (Kenneth Branagh was always on the list of possible young Obi-Wans.) Going from memory, Ewan McGregor remains, to this day, the only person the internet pretty much agreed upon as, “Okay, that’s good casting.” And when people finally got their first glimpse of McGregor as Obi-Wan, he looked and sounded like what we all thought a young Obi-Wan would be like. To this day, everyone seems pretty unanimous that McGregor was one of the best things about the prequels. But, again, there are some differences. Alec Guinness only really played Ben Kenobi for one full movie, then had a couple of cameos in the next two. We weren’t quite as invested. We didn’t know that much about him, which is why learning more was exciting. Also, this was an Obi-Wan who was much younger than what we had seen, so there was more room for differences. This version of Han Solo is only a few years younger than Harrison Ford’s version in the original Star Wars. And we already know quite a bit about Han Solo. A lot, actually.
Look, this is on me. And I’m just writing about it out loud. I honestly don’t even know if I like the character of Han Solo all that so much as I just love watching Harrison Ford play Han Solo. The comics never quite get him right. The books never quite get him right. Only Harrison Ford seems to know how to play Han. I’ll repeat this until my last day on Earth: The reason Han Solo works so well is because he’s played by an actor who thinks the whole thing is stupid. That is lightning in a bottle and that isn’t coming back.
But it’s also not fair to have my brain just dismiss Alden Ehrenreich as Han. So, I’m trying my best. Though, I was kind of expecting for that first trailer to come out big with Ehrenreich as Solo. To have him speak in a way that kind of sounded like the Han we are used to, in a, “Whoa, Alden really is nailing the voice,” kind of way. But that’s not what’s happening. This is for sure something different. And, somehow, I have to separate the two. I need to embrace Alden as my George Lazenby, or something like that. And maybe for a lot of people, Alden Ehrenreich will become their Han. I hope that’s true. As Han Solo himself famously said, “I thought we were in trouble there for a second, but we’re fine. It’s fine.” (Oh, man, this is really going to take some time to get used to.)
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.