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Solo: A Star Wars Story: How a virtual reality headset helped the big Conveyex heist

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Dec 17, 2018, 8:00 PM EST (Updated)

**SPOILER WARNING: From this point on, there will be SPOILERS for Solo: A Star Wars Story. If you have not seen the film and do not want to be spoiled, turn your ship around.**

The scene that really kicks Solo: A Star Wars Story into high gear is the entire sequence where Han (Alden Ehrenreich), Chewie, Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Val (Thandie Newton), and Rio (Jon Favreau) attempt to steal a train car full of coaxium (valuable starship hyperfuel) from an Imperial locomotive called the Conveyex.

Their failure to procure the precious substance is what drives them into the great debt of Crimson Dawn gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and leads Han to reunite with Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) and come up with the idea of stealing unrefined coaxium from the spice mines on Kessel, and hence his getting to make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

All of it can be traced back to the western-inspired Conveyex heist, which made a big leap forward in the film's development stage thanks to one nifty virtual reality headset. Speaking to, Lucasfilm Design Supervisor James Clyne described the process of figuring out whether Han, Chewie, and Beckett would be able to naturally jump between the fast-moving train cars. 

“You put the goggles on and you’re standing on a train car 60 feet up,” Clyne stated. The gear was set up in a relatively small office space. “Could I run and try to jump?” he recalls asking. “They were like, ‘Well, we’ve never done that. We usually just have people slowly walking around the room.’”

With another person holding on to the cables of the headset, Clyne took a leap of faith. 

“I just put my back against the one wall and I ran," he said, recalling good-naturedly that he almost fell over. “But I was able to do it! And I went back and reported back to production, the directors — I, normal Joe, can jump over that!”

Clyne, who is heavily featured in The Art of Solo: a Star Wars Story, revealed that in the script, the Coneyex was written as "‘Imperial train,’ much in the vein of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." The screenplay also called for the vehicle to be on a laser-beam-like track, but that was eventually replaced with a "chain drive." Nevertheless, Clyne wanted the Empire's transport of valuable objects to be more than just a person's conventional notion of a boring old train in our own galaxy. 

“I’ve never seen an Imperial train! I’ve seen a walker; I’ve seen a Star Destroyer. [The train] was described as possibly being on a laser beam initially, but one thing I had proposed early on was I don’t want it to feel just like a normal train," he said. "In true Star Wars fashion, you take something that’s very iconic and you know what it is and then you just kind of flip it on its head.”

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