In the last month, Paul Bettany will have co-starred in two of the biggest movies of the year and probably of all time, as Vision in Avengers: Infinity War and now as crime lord Dryden Voss in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Bettany was a late addition to Solo, coming on board after the Phil Lord and Chris Miller filmmaking duo left the project and were replaced by Ron Howard. In Lord and Miller’s version, Dryden Voss was played by Michael K. Williams, who had described the character as “half lion.” Williams’ schedule wouldn’t allow him to be available for the reshoots, but by the time Bettany replaced him, the whole half lion had been dropped and now this galactic gangster, who Han Solo and company have to eventually answer to, has a more human appearance.
But how did Bettany get the role in the first place? Well, basically, Bettany sent a late night “U up?” text message to Ron Howard asking if he could be in a Star Wars movie and Howard responded with — and this is real — “LOL” before telling Bettany he’d see what he could do. So I guess the moral of this story is that sometimes random, out of the blue text messages asking for work can actually work.
What is your relationship with Star Wars? Were you a fan? Or was this just something that sounded fun?
No, I am a big fan. I was a big fan from six years old. I was in London in the ’70s and it was gray and miserable – as the ’70s were in London – and I was whisked away and transported to a different galaxy by A New Hope. And it was pretty instrumental in making me want to become an actor, I think, as a young kid.
With Solo, was it then a combination of you liking Star Wars and working with Ron Howard before?
Well, it was hearing that Ron was doing it and then I texted him asking to be in it, and he said, “Let me see what I can do.” And then he got back to me with a job. I was super thrilled when he came back and said, “Yeah, we’ve got something for you to do.”
So you text him, “I want to be in this,” and he comes back and says, “Turns out you can be the main bad guy”?
That had to be more than you were expecting?
Well, that’s pretty great…
Yeah, totally, and that’s exactly how it happened. And, in fact, I texted him exactly this. [Pulls out phone] I said, “Hey, Ron, have you ever spent long winter evenings like I have wondering why I’m not in the Star Wars franchise?”
What did write back?
Then he texted me back, “LOL. Let me get back to you.”
What if he had just written, “LOL,” without the “get back to you” part?
I would have been teary.
Would you have followed up? Like, “Hey, I’m serious.”
Totally. Totally, I wanted to be in the Star Wars series.
How long until he got back to you with something concrete?
I was flying in two weeks.
I was flying to London to start shooting.