After the success of the original Star Wars, George Lucas commissioned noted science fiction writer Leigh Brackett to write its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. That first draft was a long way from what Empire would eventually become, but unfortunately Brackett passed away before any more work could be done. Without a screenwriter, George Lucas did a heavy rewrite of the script himself (and this is where Vader became Luke’s father) before hiring a 29-year-old screenwriter named Lawrence Kasdan, who had just finished a script called Raiders of the Lost Ark, to write the final drafts. After the success of Empire and Raiders, Kasdan would go on to write Return of the Jedi and direct The Big Chill.
Then, after 30 plus years away from Star Wars, he returned to co-write The Force Awakens. Which brings us to now, where he and his son – screenwriter and director Jonathan Kasdan – have co-written a standalone film for the character that Lawrence Kasdan helped flesh out way back in The Empire Strikes Back … Han Solo.
It’s been, to say the least, an unusual production. With reports that Solo: A Star Wars Story was nearing completion, a shockwave was sent through the Force when the original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were dismissed and then quickly replaced by Ron Howard. Could the film recover from such a drastic situation? Reviews so far have been mostly positive and everyone involved seems to have a, “whew, can you believe we pulled this off?” attitude. But this was not an easy shoot, to say the least.
We will have more from the Kasdans as the week goes on (as we get into more spoilery subjects later), but we start with Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan explaining why the change of directors happened and how Lord and Miller’s voices are still very much a part of the film. Also, they explain why they are very much in the “Han shot first” camp and why they want to make that extremely clear in Solo.
Lawrence Kasdan: Before we start, what does Uproxx mean?
So many people ask that. The easy answer is “I don’t know.”
Jonathan Kasdan: Okay, we were both curious.
I do have to say to you that The Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I saw in theaters when I was five years old…
Lawrence Kasdan: Oh my God.
And you scarred me for life. So thank you for that.
Lawrence Kasdan: You were five?
Lawrence Kasdan: [Laughs] Well I was 12 then.
Jonathan Kasdan: Sure.
I interviewed Irvin Kershner shortly before he passed away in 2010 and told him the same thing, so my life is now complete.
Lawrence Kasdan: He was a great guy, too.
Solo got an unusual amount of media attention, even for a Star Wars movie.
Lawrence Kasdan: It was different. But, I’ve thought about it the way I’ve always thought about these things. Which is, the movie does all the work. And everything that’s said about it before people see the movie doesn’t really matter. And if people don’t like the movie, then they don’t like the movie. And if the movie works, everything is forgotten five minutes in. So, that’s really all I’m looking for. You can’t control any of that stuff anyway.
There’s a scene in this movie that very much feels like a statement on the whole “Han shot first” debate.
Jonathan Kasdan: It couldn’t have been more deliberate.
Lawrence Kasdan: Yeah. It was very important to me, like top of the list.
Jonathan Kasdan: To both of us. We are firmly in the camp. In the script, the description literally says, “There can be no doubt Han shot first.”
Before the director change, was there a specific scene you could point to and say, “This is not going the way we want this to go and something has to change”?
Lawrence Kasdan: You know, there was a parting of visions.
Jonathan Kasdan: It was a hard shoot. These movies are incredibly challenging to make and to keep moving along and keep getting everything you need. And along that road, it gets harder and harder. And when a difficult situation exists, it’s amplified by the pressures.
Lawrence Kasdan: When you come to work in the morning, there are not 200 people or 300 like in a big movie. With this there are a thousand people waiting for you. And everything you do affects what they do. And you have to be incredibly incisive and decisive. It’s not an easy job.
Jonathan Kasdan: What I will say also, I have enormous affection and love and respect for Chris and Phil. And they brought a tremendous amount to this movie. And it’s in the movie. It’s in the movie deeply: their sense of humor, their visual inventiveness, it’s all part of what happened. And it’s the last thing on Earth you’d ever want to happen. But the truth is, we’ve now had the benefits of three brilliant filmmakers putting their hands on this movie.
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