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How the Kessel Run was designed (and redesigned) for Solo

Contributed by
May 31, 2018, 2:00 PM EDT (Updated)

Star Wars fans have been debating just how the Millennium Falcon made that storied flight through the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs ever since Han Solo first made the boast in that seedy Tatooine cantina. How did he do it? Was it Han that actually made the record-setting run? Did it ever actually happen?

After over 40 years of debate, Solo: A Star Wars Story answers all of those pressing questions. It only took over a year of work and experimenting in various stages of production to actually figure out what those answers would look like.

"The basic elements of the Kessel Run were there, it's the structure that changed," the film's editor Pietro Scalia tells SYFY WIRE. "When they encounter the Imperial blockade, where does the dialogue happen, before or after? What is the actual dialogue exchange? How do they evade the TIE fighters? How do they go into the Maw? What happens into the Maw? What is the TIE chase, how does it happen?"

Pre-production on the sequence stretched into when the movie began formally shooting. It was decided early on that there would be extreme weather in the Maw, as production designer James Clyner told The collision with carbon-bergs and other flying objects would cause major damage to the Falcon — remember when Luke called it a piece of junk? — but there was something still missing when director Ron Howard took over and brought his team aboard.

Pietro came on to the film eight weeks into production, and at that point, they were still in the pre-viz stage, with all kinds of options bandied about for some new fundamental elements and the timing of the smaller ones. Most central was the decision to give Han and company an extra obstacle during their already physics-defying trip.

"At one point, there was no space creature attacking them," Scalia revealed. "There was only a Maw that they had struggle with. They just had to figure out different ways to evade the Maw, how to get out. The essence of the scene is how Han and Chewie become great pilots and how they bond when he finally flies the Falcon. And then around that, how everybody around them in the team came together and helped out."

Because it was actually impossible to make the Kessel Run straight through in less than 12 parsecs — a measure of distance, not time — it ultimately became clear that along with avoiding a new creature, the Falcon would have to take some shortcuts. That became another set of decisions, which meant actual work on the sequence spanned a very long amount of time.

Scalia had his work cut out for him in general, given the movie's stop-and-restart production, which meant that he had to bring in other editors, including Cheryl Potter and Chris Rouse, to help piece it together. Potter helped with the storyboard and pre-viz, while Rouse came a bit later on. Once they all came together, and new shots were created, it became one of the movie's two main set pieces.

"It's a very difficult and expensive process, especially when you change pre-viz and you can change storyline," Scalia said. "But at a certain point, you have to decide to shoot, and you have to make it actually work."

It may have taken a long time, but they ultimately found the right shortcut to history.