'I’d never acted with a Wookiee,' new Han Solo says of audition

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LONDON – The directors of the upcoming Han Solo spinoff movie searched the entire galaxy – or at least a good chunk of planet Earth – looking for just the right actor to play a young version of the beloved Star Wars smuggler.

Turns out he’d been right in front of them all along.

Alden Ehrenreich, who will portray the iconic character in the 2018 standalone film directed by The Lego Movie’s Chris Miller and Phil Lord, was “literally the first person to walk in the door,” Lord said Sunday at Star Wars Celebration Europe, the massive Star Wars fan convention held at the ExCel Center in London.

In addition to considering a slew of up-and-coming Hollywood actors, Miller said the production scoured acting schools across the U.S. and U.K. for just the perfect person to take on the role made famous by Harrison Ford.

“We saw over 3,000 people,” said Miller.

“Turns out that was a total waste of money,” Lord said. “Because the person who got the part was the first person to audition.”

Far from a household name – until now, at least – Ehrenreich, 26, is best known for the 2013 drama Beautiful Creatures and this year’s Coen brothers movie Hail, Caesar! His screen test with the directors had him on the Millennium Falcon set, wielding Han Solo’s famous blaster pistol and performing a scene with Han’s furry friend, Chewbacca.


“I’d never acted with a Wookiee, so that’s a whole different thing. It’s pretty amazing,” Ehrenreich told a packed auditorium at the Future Filmmaker Discussion panel that closed out Star Wars Celebration Europe’s final day.

The screen test “was more exciting than it was nerve-wracking,” Ehrenreich said. “Actually being on the Falcon after having seen it for so long – you just kind of immediately go, ‘All right, all right. Cool.’ ”

John Boyega, who plays Finn in The Force Awakens and appeared as a surprise guest at the panel, reassured his fellow Star Wars newbie that everything will be OK.

“You’re going to be fine,” Boyega said to Ehrenreich. “You’ve got that charm stuff down, don’t you. He’s smiling just like Han!"


“It’s going to be fun, a very, very good experience. Obviously you’ve got a great head on you, so you enjoy the ride,” said Boyega. Then, in a stage whisper to Miller and Lord, he hissed: “Take care of him!”

Filming on the as-yet untitled Han Solo movie is set to begin in late January or early February of next year, with the script still being worked on by The Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and his son, Jon. Meanwhile, Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic crews will spend the next six months designing and building the sets, characters, droids and creatures that will inhabit Han Solo’s universe.

“There’s a lot of prep work that goes into a movie like this,” said Miller. “You can’t just show up and go, ‘Oh, we’ll shoot it in a Starbucks.’ ”

But the pair, whose directing resume includes the Jump Street movies and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, couldn’t be more excited, or more in love with the character.

“I sort of relate to him,” said Lord. “He doesn’t want to do anything he’s told, and when you tell him not to something that makes him want to do it more. He’s very sarcastic, but at the end of the day he’s unreasonably optimistic. I think that’s why we fall for the guy.”

Rian Johnson, who is just finishing principal photography on next year’s Star Wars: Episode VIII, told Miller and Lord that he’s jealous of the journey they’re embarking on.

“I feel like I’m coming out of a ride and seeing you guys in line about to go into it,” Johnson said.