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