Galaxy Best
Empire Australasia|September 2018
HAN SOLO

It’s official: the ballsy bootlegger is Star Wars’ coolest character. But he’s also a Corellian of surprising complexity

Ian Freer

BY FAR THE funniest moment in (500) Days Of Summer, a likeable romcom which spins through key dates in the relationship between everyday guy Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and music-loving Manic Pixie Dream Girl Summer (Zooey Deschanel), is when Tom, bouncing down the street high on Summer, checks his appearance in a car window. Looking back at him as his reflection is Han Solo from A New Hope. Han winks at him — it’s the wink he gives Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) when he is receiving his medal for his role in blowing up the Death Star — and it makes Tom happy. Apart from the surprising thrill of seeing a familiar character in another movie (both were Fox properties), the joy of it is that everyone — man, woman, Princess, Wookiee — wants a Han Solo wink of approval. It’s the epitome of achievement unlocked.

This is one of the reasons Han Solo tops our list of Greatest Star Wars Characters: he is ineffably cool. He has wit, charm, street smarts, can understand Shyriiwook, woo ladies and jumpstart his spaceship just by smacking it. When, in Spaced, Simon Pegg’s Tim Bisley bagsies ‘Han’ as his codename for a daring dog rescue, he is doing what kids in playgrounds across the planet have done since 25 May 1977 — wanting to be Han Solo. Even if no-one knows the correct way to pronounce it.

“George Lucas is a ‘Han’ man,” says Alden Ehrenreich, who plays the younger Han in Solo: A Star Wars Story. “Leia has said Han and ‘Hahn’, but Harrison says Hahn. You wonder how that stuff went on in the original movies. I guess there was no-one monitoring it. They had other things to worry about.”

However you say it, few characters have provided a more popular template for cocky insouciance. Dirk Benedict’s Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica and George Peppard’s Space Cowboy in Battle Beyond The Stars were the first wannabes. Since then, movies have given us variations on a Solo theme, from Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan (Willow) to Nathan Fillion’s Mal Reynolds (Firefly) to Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk (Star Trek) to Dane DeHaan’s Valerian (Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets). Between Peter Quill (Guardians Of The Galaxy) and Owen Grady (Jurassic World), Chris Pratt owes his blockbuster career to Mr Solo.

It’s not just movies. Games characters The Prince (The Prince Of Persia), Balthier (Final Fantasy XII) and Nathan Drake (Uncharted) all share Solo DNA. And this is not to mention Star Wars’ ability to cannibalise (or Hannibalise) Han: Expanded Universe characters like Dash Rendar, Kyle Katarn, Corran Horn, Talon Karrde, Atton Rand and, of course, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron are all cut from the same Solo cloth, looking to recapture that effortless charisma.

But if cool were the only criteria, then Boba Fett, Lando Calrissian or Darth Maul could also be king. There’s more in play with Solo than just sheer magnetism. Something that might not have been apparent from his inauspicious beginnings.

It’s a key tenet of Star Wars ‘making of’ lore that everyone’s favourite space smuggler started life as a green-skinned alien — an Ureallian — with no nose and enormous gills. In this incarnation, he wasn’t even a smuggler but a “Jedi-Bendu” and an old buddy of General Skywalker (more Obi-Wan than Luke in this version). In the second draft, Solo is now a Corellian space pirate, a few years older than Luke, but burly, bearded, handsome and dressed in flamboyant clothes (forget Corellia; he belongs in Brunswick). The model here seems to be Francis Ford Coppola, Lucas’ mentor, another fast-talking deal-maker who loved to gamble. In this draft, Han takes Luke to his home — a seedy slum dwelling — where he is shacked up with a female “Boma” named Oeeta, described as a five-foot-high cross between “a bear and a guinea pig” who communicates in baboon-like calls. Surely there couldn’t have been enough money in Hollywood to pay even a pre-stardom Harrison Ford to play this.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM EMPIRE AUSTRALASIAView All

Out Of The Cage

From the ashes of Suicide Squad has risen something fresh, bold and exciting: birds of prey. Inside the first-ever female-ensemble superhero film

9 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

The Master Of Suspense

With a string of dazzling, high-concept thrillers, bong joon ho has drawn comparisons to hitchcock. But his films also have a strong social message, and his latest, parasite, is no exception

10 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

Wonder Woman Swings Into The '80s

Director Patty Jenkins on setting Diana Prince loose in the era of excess

3 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

The Many Parts Of Martin Lawrence

As the comedian makes a bigscreen comeback, he talks us through his greatest roles

4 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

HIS NUMBER'S UP

AFTER 14 YEARS, THE LONGEST TENURE OF ANY BOND, DANIEL CRAIG IS ABOUT TO HANG UP HIS MARTINI GLASS AND WALTHER PPK. EMPIRE TRACKS 007 ACROSS THE GLOBE, FROM LONDON TO JAMAICA AND NEW YORK, TO BRING YOU THE ULTIMATE INTEL ON NO TIME TO DIE. AND HIS EMOTIONAL FAREWELL...

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

THE FALL GUYS

In 2011, Zack Stentz and Ashley Edward Miller were the hottest new screenwriting team in Hollywood. Then they disappeared. Eight years later, they tell EMPIRE their cautionary tale; revealing the tough reality of a writer's life Hollywood

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

Buddy Hell

The last blockbuster to be released in the 1980s, Tango & Cash seemed like a no-brainer: a buddy-cop team-up for two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But it didn’t take long for the wheels to spectacularly come off

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

BLAZING a TRAIL

Queen & Slim IS A ROAD MOVIE, A TENDER ROMANCE AND AN UNFLINCHING LOOK AT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BLACK IN 21ST CENTURY AMERICA. EMPIRE ASSEMBLES ITS WRITER, DIRECTOR AND TWO STARS FOR A FRANK, FREEWHEELING CONVERSATION ABOUT WHY IT NEEDED TO BE MADE

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

BATTLE PLANS

HOW SAM MENDES AND TEAM TURNED WORLD WAR I DRAMA 1917INTO A REAL-TIME, ONE-TAKE WONDER

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

An Oscar-winning director. The world's biggest pop star. A classic West End musical. Judi Dench with a tail. The biggest gamble of the year

Ever since the trailer dropped the world has been mesmerized by Cats. We journey deep inside the maddest, milkiest film of 2019

10 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020