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Jules Verne's influence on the Kessel Run and more fun tidbits from the Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray

Contributed by
Sep 18, 2018

Calling all scruffy-looking nerf herders! Solo: A Star Wars Story is almost out on DVD/Blu-ray, which offers a coaxium canister full of special features that go behind the making of Lucasfilm's second Star Wars anthology project. 

As always, we took the liberty of watching ALL of the extra Blu-ray goodies and have extracted the greatest tidbits about the journey of Han's origin story to the big screen.

For instance, did you know that a famous 19th-century writer influenced the eventual look of the Kessel Run, or that one of the main characters is based on the mother of the actress who plays her? No? Good thing we got here when we did, then. 

In the words of Lando Calrissian, "You might wanna buckle up, baby."

We're about to jump to l̶u̶d̶a̶c̶r̶i̶s̶ (sorry) lightspeed. 

20,000 leagues under the spice mines on Kessel

The writings of Jules Verne have sparked the imaginations of science fiction writers for over a hundred years. They also helped give birth to the genre known as "steampunk," but that's a discussion for another time. 

Verne is well-known for several pieces of iconic fiction, but Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is perhaps his most iconic. An intrepid sea adventure, giant mysterious tentacles, and a Captain named Nemo continue to remain the standard in seafaring entertainment.

Trade the vastness of the sea for the vastness of outer space and not much changes. That's why the screenwriters, Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, repeatedly broached Verne's name during production, particularly for the Kessel Run sequence. 

"Jules Verne was the term the Kasdans often used as it related to the Kessel Run and the obstacles that they were facing," says director Ron Howard in the "Into The Maelstrom: The Kessel Run" featurette on the Blu-ray. "We wanted mystery, we wanted surprises."

In the world of Star Wars, though, you can't just have a giant squid. It's gotta be a gargantuan, many-eyed, tentacled beast that can breathe outside in the vacuum of space: the summa-verminoth.

Full Sabacc

We finally got see Han (Alden Ehrenreich) win the Falcon from Lando (Donald Glover) in a game of Sabacc. What we didn't know is that Calrissian cheated the first time around.

When it comes to the complicated card game, the goal is to get as close to zero as possible, almost like the Israeli game known as Yaniv in which players attempt to get the lowest score possible at the end of each round. 

For Solo, the production team actually worked out the full rules and game mechanics of Sabacc, which meant they had to teach it not only to the cast, but also to the card-playing extras on the Fort Ypso set. 

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Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

"This is the first time we've seen Sabacc. It's gone through a larger amount of development, coming up with the actual methodology of the game," says production designer Neil Lamont in the featurette "Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso."

There was even a designated "Sabacc Trainer" on site in the form of consultant Steven Bridges, a real-world magician. He also played the Sabacc dealer during Han and Lando's initial game. 

Burt Reynolds' "influence" on the Millennium Falcon

While figuring out what the Falcon would have looked like under Lando's care, the production design team toyed around with a few ideas. They tried flames and even the phoenix-like decal on the car that Burt Reynolds drives in Smokey and the Bandit.

However, designer supervisor James Clyne characterizes the latter test design as "tongue-in-cheek."

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Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

L3's self-improvement journey

When we meet L3 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Lando's co-pilot, in Solo, we learn that she's unlike any other droid we've ever met in this universe. Rather than being docile and subservient, she's sassy, independent-thinking, and in favor of the liberation of her kind. While watching the Blu-ray's documentary on her character ("Becoming A Droid: L3-37"), you'll learn that she's even more of a bootstrapper than you originally thought. 

"Once upon a time, she was actually an R2-type droid, and she modified herself and [gave] herself legs and arms and continued to evolve," reveals producer Simon Emanuel. 

Warwick Davis's secret cameo

It's common knowledge that Davis plays Weazel, a member of Enfys Nest's crew. What's not well-known is that the Willow actor has a secret role as one of the aliens roaming behind Han at the Fort Ypso Sabacc table. This character resembles a mix of an Ewok, a Mogwai, and a bunny rabbit. 

Check it out below:

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Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

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Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

The story behind Thandie Newton's vivacious Val

During a roundtable with the main cast and director Ron Howard, Thandie Newton (newly minted Emmy winner for Westworld) talked about how her mother influenced the character of Val, Beckett's criminal associate and lover. 

"I was thinking about who had inspired me most," Newton says. "There was a woman, who grew up in Zimbabwe in the colonial era and who, in the '70s when Star Wars began, she had this dope afro, she was part of the independent struggle in Zimbabwe. She left because members of her friendship group had been assassinated because of the struggles. She found herself in England, where she was in a really difficult, sometimes racist, environment. She struggled through that, she raised a family, and that's my mum. I wanted to honor her and she kinda looks like Val... I'm kinda putting her stamp on the Star Wars brand."

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Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

Alden Ehrenreich's barking puppet

During the aforementioned roundtable, Ehrenreich revealed that he had to audition six times before he got the role of Han. In his second audition, they couldn't tell him that he was trying out for Solo, but needed to test him out with something approximating Chewbacca. To achieve this, they put him in a room with a dog puppet that would bark. Ehrenreich, however, wasn't fooled. 

"I had this whole scene with me looking at this puppet and it's pretty obvious at that point what they're doing," he says. "But yeah, that was the second test for me."

Keep on truckin'

Before he became the modern-day king of the entertainment industry, Steven Spielberg was just an upstart television director. In 1971, he directed the first mainstream episode of Columbo and a made-for-TV movie that would have a bearing on the making of Jaws four years later.

The film, of course, was Duel, the story of a man (played by Dennis Weaver) who pisses off the wrong truck driver and is then pursued across the highways of America by the unseen driver, represented only by their imposing, grime-covered tanker. 

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Credit: Universal Pictures

The crew behind Solo wanted to emulate the commanding nature of this truck while designing Moloch's speeder, which we see during the opening chase scene through the streets of Corellia. 

"Whereas Han's [speeder] is modeled on a sports car, [Moloch's] was more like a big truck," says senior art director Gary Tomkins in the "Escape From Corellia" featurette. "Think along the lines of the film Duel, where the guy is going along in his car and there's this this huge truck in his rear-view mirror, and it's a very ominous presence following him." 

Currently available on digital platforms, Solo: A Star Wars Story arrives on DVD/Blu-ray Sep. 25. 


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