In just a few months, live-action Lando Calrissian will return for the first time since 1983, this time as a younger version played by Community star and Atlanta creator Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Glover — a self-professed nerd who appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming, voiced Miles Morales in Ultimate Spider-Man, and is developing a Deadpool animated series for FXX — was praised as a perfect casting choice by many Star Wars fans, and his appearance draped in fur in the film's first trailer is perhaps the best and most viral thing about Solo so far. It's safe to say that the internet can't wait to see Glover's full performance as the iconic character.
That being said, there's another side to making a Star Wars movie, particularly in the Disney era in which everything about the intellectual property is part of a corporate machine geared toward branding integration and, ultimately, profit. That doesn't mean the films can't be fun pieces of very good art, but it's the reality of megafranchise filmmaking. Glover, who's spent much of his recent career (in film, television, and music as Childish Gambino) focusing on art that he controls, is well aware of the tradeoff.
During a compelling and wide-ranging interview with The New Yorker recently, Glover discussed how he's learned to balance his need for control over his creative and personal lives with being a part of Hollywood (however tenuously at times). The subject of how to be charming on talk shows without really saying anything came up, as did his concerns about people using him simply for his notoriety. Then, in the middle of that discussion, Glover dropped this detail about his Star Wars work.
“I’m scanned into Star Wars now, my face and body,” he told writer Tad Friend. “Who’s to say that at some point they won’t take that scan and say, ‘Let’s make another movie with Donald. He’s been dead for fifteen years, but we can do whatever we want with him.’"
Glover didn't elaborate further, so it's not entirely clear if he means a literal scan was taken or if Disney and Lucasfilm just have enough footage of him now that they could recreate him. Given that his character's likeness will also be used for all manner of consumer products, though, a literal scan of his face and body is not a crazy idea (and it's not like it hasn't been done many times before). That aside, Glover's concern — however fleeting it may or may not be — is warranted, because there's a very real precedent for this in Star Wars now.
Rogue One famously revived the late Peter Cushing to recreate his New Hope-era likeness with the permission of his estate, and recreated a young princess Leia with the permission of Carrie Fisher. After Fisher died in December 2016, the same month Rogue One was released, rumors began to circulate that Lucasfilm might digitally recreate her older General Leia character for use in future Star Wars films. Lucasfilm publicly denied those reports, but it's not like the technology doesn't exist if they ever did want to do such a thing. Fisher used to joke that, because George Lucas owned her likeness rights, she had to write him a check every time she looked in the mirror. When it comes to Star Wars, a character's image can and has — lived on well beyond the actor who originally brought it to life.
So, could we see young Lando resurface long after Glover is gone? Perhaps. The same is true of Han Solo or Luke Skywalker or dozens of other characters with seemingly infinite profit possibilities portrayed by actors with finite lifespans. Glover obviously doesn't know, but for an actor famous for maintaining a certain level of privacy, finding the balance between control and giving himself over to big franchises obviously remains a struggle.
Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters May 25.