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Why George Lucas almost didn't cast Harrison Ford and more insights from Star Wars Icons: Han Solo

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Nov 27, 2018, 4:37 PM EST

Smuggler.Cowboy.Rogue.Cowboy.Lothario.Scoundrel.Rebel.Hero. Any number of words could be used to describe Han Solo (Harrison Ford and now, Alden Ehrenreich), the Corellian street rat who eventually helped bring down the entire Empire. Not a bad thing to put on a resume, right? It's the true story of whatever the equivalent of the American Dream is in the galaxy far, far away of Star Wars

However, Han (at least as we all know him) didn't just pop into existence, ready to shoot aliens in cantinas and sweet talk slug-like mobsters. The tale of his creation and enduring legacy is a riveting one that's been begging to be told for the last 4+ decades. Enter Insight Editions and writer Gina McIntyre, who have spun a definitive and exhaustive history of Han Solo with the 224-page Star Wars Icons: Han Solo.

Featuring quotes from George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Peter MayhewRon Howard, J.J. Abrams, and more, the massive book starts in the 1970s and ends in 2018 with the recent theatrical release of Solo: A Star Wars Story. It's packed (packed, we tell you!) with a ton of behind-the-scenes information about our favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder.

Fortunately, we got an advance copy and learned quite a few Solo-related things we didn't know before. For your reading pleasure, we've included them below...

Baboon-ing around:

George Lucas' second draft of the first Star Wars had a furry friend in Han's life...other than Chewbacca, that is. Han was originally going to be romantically involved with Oeeta, a five-foot Boma, a specie of five-foot tall aliens that resemble guinea pigs and brown bears. Oh, and they have strange baboon-like cries. Kinky?

Conflict of interest:

By the time production had kicked off on Star Wars in the late 1970s, Lucas had already collaborated with Harrison Ford on his 1973 coming-of-age dramedy, American Graffiti. Since that movie had already become a hit in its own right, Lucas did not want people to feel that it was similar to Star Wars in terms of casting.

That's why he set out to find all-new actors for his space-faring epic, avoiding anyone who had worked on Graffiti, including Ford. While doing some capentry work for Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, Ford and Lucas had a chance to catch up, convincing the latter to give the young actor a chance to try out for Star Wars. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Denim by Solo:

In an early piece of concept art from costume designer John Mollo, Han had "blue brushed denim, with pockets." Lucas rejected the idea and we can't blame him. Somehow, it's just hard to picture a pile of Levis at the galactic mall. In the end, the look of Ford's character in terms of costuming was a mixture of cowboy with just a hint of "nineteenth-century military styling."

Han shot first (and before the weekend):

When Lucas remastered the original trilogy in the 1990s, he altered the cantina scene between Han and Greedo, so that Greedo shot first, prompting Han to kill the Rodian. This irked a lot of fans, who still assert that it was Han who shot first. Hell, even the dude who played Greedo, Paul Blake, feels that way. 

"I loved that [Han] shot first, and I thought that was the way it should stay," he says in the book.

Interestingly, the iconic scene was filmed on a Friday afternoon when everyone just wanted to go home, Blake revealed. 

Late to the punch:

When it came to designing Han's iconic starship, the Millennium Falcon, the second time was the charm. It was going to be a much longer shape, but a similar ship appeared on the British TV show Space: 1999 (1975-1977) while Star Wars was still in pre-production. As a result, Lucas and his creative team were sent back to the ol' drawing board. Part of the crew was future Joe Johnston (Jumanji), who helped come up with the Falcon's unique "hamburger"-like shape. 

"I know"

At the end of Empire Strikes Back, our heroes are in a less-than-desirable place. Luke has his hand lopped off and learns that one of the most evil people in the galaxy is his biological old man. Meanwhile, Han's betrayed by his old friend, Lando Calrissian, on Cloud City, handed over to Boba Fett, frozen in Carbonite, and placed in the basement of Jabba the Hutt's palace on Tatooine. 

Fans now come to associate the Carbonite freezing scene with the short exchange between Leia and Han. She says "I love you" and he responds with "I know." Originally, the script called for Solo to say "Just remember that, 'cause I'll be back." Ford didn't feel that Lawrence Kasdan's dialogue fit the character and decided for a more "badass" approach to the scene. 

The funniest bit is that they didn't check with Lucas, who was angry when he found out about the change. Luckily, the moment was never reshot or redubbed later in production, leading to an iconic bit of cinema history. 

The Jeff Bridges/Coen Bros. connection:

As we said earlier, the main influence behind Han Solo was this romantic idea of a quick-witted gunslinger in the Old West. That concept carried over when it came time to bring the older version of the character back for The Force Awakens. He was still a cowboy, but a much more grizzled one, based heavily on Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers' remake of the John Wayne classic, True Grit.

Indeed, concept artist Ian McCaig did some early sketches of Harrison Ford grey hair and beard, which director J.J. Abrams nixed in favor of something that recalled the original trilogy. This didn't go unused, though. Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker got the long mane of grey hair and beard. 

Let's be clear once more...Han did shoot first:

While penning the script for Solo: A Star Wars Story, father son team of Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan were well aware of the "Han shot first" controversy. To clear things up once and for all, they made a specific note of him firing his blaster first in the final standoff with Woody Harrelson's Beckett on Savareen.

"So that the actors knew, and so everyone involved knew, it was explicity written in the description: 'There can be no question that Han shoots first,'" Jonathan says in the book. 

It's canon. You all heard it!

Star Wars Icons: Han Solo hits shelves and digital marketplaces on April 2, 2019. If you can't wait, you can pre-order a copy from Sideshow here and have it ship before the end of the year.