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Credit: Lucasfilm 

The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story: Tobias Beckett's crew almost had a 'squid-monkey' and more fun factoids

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May 29, 2018

After trouble behind the scenes and months of anticipation, Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters. While it's underperformed at the box office so far, the second Star Wars anthology movie builds up the mythos of the galaxy far, far away whether you like it or not. How did Han get his surname? What type of fuel powers starships? In what way did Solo make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs?

All of these questions and more are answered by the movie, which stars Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) in the title role, alongside Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Jon Favreau.

But the answers don't just stop with the feature presentation. Thanks to The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story from Abrams Books, we now know a ton of information about the film's production, from initial character designs to the inspirations for the various Corellian vehicles driven by Han and Moloch. With over 200 pages of beautiful images and insights from the creative crew behind Solo, you'd be hard-pressed to find something more valuable outside a train car full of coaxium.

We looked through the entire volume, written by Philip Szostak, and picked out the most interesting tidbits, which we now present for your enjoyment. 

Solo Cover

Credit: Lucasfilm 

**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story below*

The original codename for Solo and the Kinberg connection:

Shortly after Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012, Lawrence Kasdan was invited to Skywalker Ranch by Lucasfilm's new president, Kathleen Kennedy. There, Kennedy revealed that George Lucas had, before handing over his company, outlined certain Star Wars spinoff movies, one of which focused on a young Han Solo. At the time, the codename for the project was Harry and the Boy

It is very common for Hollywood to avoid spoilers by naming an upcoming film, especially a big and expensive one, under a false name; this method throws the public off the scent so-to-speak. Why "Harry and the Boy" was chosen is anyone's guess, but you might be surprised to know that Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Dark Phoenix) was also tapped to write an anthology film at the same time as Kasdan.

Corellia's speeders were influenced by real-world muscle cars:

Before he became the legend that he is today, George Lucas was a big street racer while growing in Modesto, California in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His fast-paced experiences in muscle cars later served as the inspiration for his coming-of-age film  American Graffiti in 1973, which starred a young Ron Howard, who would go on to direct Solo almost 50 years later. 

According to Lucasfilm design supervisor James Clyne, the Corellian speeders we see at the beginning of the movie were modeled after muscle cars of the 1960s. Han's vehicle is based on the Dodge Charger (most likely the 1966 model) the Chevy Malibus (most likely the 1964 model), both of which had that elongated grille in the '60s. "We liked the idea that Han steals the coolest car on Corellia," says Clyne in the book. 

During the opening chase, Han and Qi'ra (Clarke) are purused by Lady Proxima's henchman, Moloch, who drives a vehicle that has a direct connection to Harrison Ford's character, Bob Falfa, in American Graffiti

"The boxy, radiused look grew out of a design where I was referencing the '55 Chevy that Harrison Ford's character drives in American Graffiti, as well as that '51 Merucy," says concept artist Thom Tenery. 


Credit: Lucasfilm 

Here's the name of the planet where Han meets Chewie:

After Han escapes Corellia and joins the Empire at the start of Solo, we fast forward to three years later, when he's a foot soldier fighting a pointless battle on some godforesaken mud planet. It's not a total loss, however, because this is where he meets Chewbacca (Suotamo) for the first time after the Wookie tries to kill and eat him. Based on the information in the book, the mud planet is called Mimban and is meant to be a direct reference to the dirt and death-filled trenches of WWI as well as films like Lewis Milestone's 1930 adaptation of Hemingway's All Quiet on the Western Front and Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory.

"Above ground, it was always going to be Somme-like: the battlefields of France and Belgium, pitted with craters and the detritus of battle," says art director Ashley Lamont. 

Fun fact: Mimban first showed up in a manuscript for the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye in 1978, written by Alan Dean Foster. Set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, Lucas would have adapted the book into a low-budget follow-up to Episode IV had the film been a flop.

The idea was obviously scrapped when the first Star Wars became a massive phenomenon. Another scrapped idea of Foster's was the concept of the Kyber crystals, the power source of the Jedis' lightsabers, which would later play a major role in films like Rogue One, where they are used to create the destructive power of the Death Star. 

Maz Kanata had a bearing on an important location:

The Star Wars universe is so big that if one really cool idea can't be crammed into a certain project, it can always be shelved for later. For example, one piece of 2013 concept art done by Iain McCaig for The Force Awakens included a droid fighting ring for Maz Kanata's canteen on Takodana. The concept went unused until Solo, where it was included in the canteen at Fort Ypso, the setting where Han first meets Lando (Glover) and L3-37 (Waller-Bridge). 

"We wanted two roids that, with the adition of weapons, had been repurposed for fighting: an imposing super-gladiator against an apparently weaker foe," recalled creature concept designer Jake Lunt Davies. 

The droid fight to the death is an important moment of character development for L3, a droid that fights for equal rights of other droids. She feels so strongly about this crusade, that she nearly kills the fighting director (played by director Ron Howard's brother, Clint). 

Qi'ra was almost an alien:

"We explored Qi'ra being an alien in the early days," states creature and droid effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan. "When you look at all of the characters that we have created over the years ... you learn you don't want to cover the actor or actresses's beauty or emotional range." 

The creative team also played around with the idea of shaving Qi'ra's head or giving her a more retro hairstyle. They didn't end up pursuing these avenues, but you can check out some exclusive artwork below, which showcases those unused ideas.


Credit: Lucasfilm 


Credit: Lucasfilm 

Dryden Vos war nearly a feathery reptile:

If you thought Qi'ra being an alien was weird, then this next one will blow your lid. Solo's main villain is the Crimson Dawn gangster known as Dryden Vos and he is an alien. Those red lines on his face aren't scars, but regular facial features of Vos's species that turn a deep crimson whenever they become angry. That being said, Dros was going to be even more of an otherworldy presence when he was originally drawn as a feathery reptile. 

"Dryden Vos was both a dinosaur and a bird at one time," says Scanlan. This was scrapped when they decided to make Qi'ra human, feeling it would be weird for her to have sex with such a strange creature. "The 'love triangle' in Han's mind, that Qi'ra might have feelings for Dryden or that they may have had a relationship, started to inform the designs," he continues. "The idea of her going to bed with a reptilian bird [laughs] started to cross the line." 

Vos morphed into a sort of mountain lion-esque humanoid when Michael Kenneth Williams was set to play the creature under directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, but ultimately settled on the more human-looking form of Paul Bettany after Ron Howard took over. 


Credit: Lucasfilm 

Tobias Beckett employed a squid monkey:

Han enters the criminal world after hooking up with Tobias Beckett (Harrelson) and his crew of Val (Newton) and Rio Durant. Rio (voiced by Favreau), a four-armed Ardennian, is Beckett's crackshot pilot, who takes notice of Solo's chutzpah and flying skills. Originally, he wasn't the crew's only alien resident. In early drafts of the script, there was a multi-limbed "squid-monkey" named "Zapf." Rio was "a gruff humanoid alien with multiple eyes, based on actor Wilfred Brimley," writes the book. "Rio was an ace pilot with the natural advantage of seeing more than the average aviator."

Rio eventually became a combination of himself and Zapf, only to be killed off during Enfys Nest's assault on the Conveyex. Even so, the crew wanted to make him pop while he was onscreen, hoping to portray his four-arms in the most natural way possible. They achieved a beautiful practical effect by using a real person in a costume, circus performer Katy "Kartwheel" Coleman; she also did creature and droid performances for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi

"You might cut to our performer ... in a suit, grabbing the top of a switch. Cut to Katy's feet catching the side of another switch. Cut back to this thing in reverse ... You end up with this frenetic, dynamic character," Scanlan says. 

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