INTERVIEW: “Solo: A Star Wars Story” screenwriters Jon and Lawrence Kasdan on the need for a Han Solo origin story

in Entertainment, Movies, Movies & TV, Star Wars

Lawrence Kasdan, Jon Kasdan, and George Lucas at the "Solo: A Star Wars Story" World Premiere

Filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan‘s first screenwriting credit is for the renowned “Star Wars” sequel “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980, and after that he went on to write and/or direct a number of contemporary American motion picture classics such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Big Chill,” and “Silverado.” He returned to Lucasfilm in 2015 with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and this month’s new standalone spinoff movie “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

Kasdan’s son Jonathan is an accomplished television actor, screenwriter, and director in his own right, having contributed to Judd Apatow’s acclaimed cult series “Freaks and Geeks,” the 90s teen soap opera “Dawson’s Creek,” and Showtime’s dramedy “Californication.”

At this past weekend’s press junket for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Lawrence and Jonathan to discuss their teamwork in delivering the origin story for one of the most iconic characters in the ‘Star Wars’ universe.

WATCH “SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY” PRESS CONFERENCE:

Mike Celestino, Inside the Magic:  I’ve been looking forward to this film for quite a while, but some fans have expressed that they’re not sure why we need a Han Solo origin story. What is your response to that?

Jonathan Kasdan:  We don’t. [laughs]

Lawrence Kasdan:  I’m mystified by that one question. I feel I can answer almost any other question. But, ‘Why do we need…?’ I feel that you can say that about any movie that was ever made.

Jonathan:  I think we need it almost exactly as much as we needed ‘Iron Man 2’… or 3. For that matter, ‘Batman Begins.’ I mean, I am a huge fan of the [Christopher] Nolan Batman cycle, but let’s be honest, there had been five Batman movies. And never in any of the Batman movies, even as they continue, has there been any danger that he was going to die. So the handicaps on this movie that I think have caused people to ask that question are a little baffling, simply because it’s such a hallmark of the culture now to revisit characters we adore.

Lawrence:  You find out more than you knew before. ‘Godfather [Part] II’ was not necessary, but I’m so glad that Francis [Ford Coppola] made it. I wanted to know more about that.

Jonathan:  And then there’s the further element of it, which is that we never thought of this as a movie that was going to answer questions. Because we weren’t really asking questions either. We weren’t saying, ‘You’ve got to see the scene where he wins the Falcon.’ We were saying, ‘How can we make a really fun heist/crime movie with a character we absolutely adore, and pepper it with moments that are delightful and fun, and they give you a little kick?’

And I gotta say, seeing it with an audience for the first time two days ago, I think that was Larry’s initial impulse, and I think he totally was right on the money. There is something so primal about seeing Han and Chewie see each other for the first time, and that connection between them evolve. It’s powerful. It’s what movies do best. I’m excited.

ITM:  Lawrence, you helped originate the relationship between Han and Lando in ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ How do you feel that relationship is different when they first meet each other in this movie?

Lawrence:  Well, it’s the seeds of that relationship. And what’s fun is that neither man is [fully] formed. They’re both at an early stage, and you can see where it’s headed, but Lando is not the Lando we meet in Cloud City, and Han is certainly not the Han that lands at Cloud City and is suspicious of Lando. They have to learn to suspect each other. They have to learn to be competitive with each other, and that’s what happens in this movie. They recognize that this is a kindred spirit: someone who’s reckless and out for himself, will say anything, do anything. You don’t know if what he says is true. That’s all a fun way to make a relationship.

Jonathan:  I was constantly saying to Larry that one of our inspirations for Lando had to be those beer commercials with The Most Interesting Man in the World. [laughs] I thought, ‘Lando is that guy.’ He’s gonna tell you all this stuff and you’re just gonna think, ‘Is that true or isn’t it true?’

ITM:  Jonathan, you mentioned on Twitter that the Corellian Hounds were inspired by the Death Dogs in Ron Howard’s Lucasfilm movie ‘Willow.’

Jonathan:  It’s an incredible coincidence, because it was one of these things that, from the very first [time] Larry had started working on the script, before I got involved, he had wanted [it] to open with a very Dickensian, Oliver Twist-ish feeling. These kids are going to be on the run. And I said, ‘What I want to see more than anything is something like this thing that terrified me when I was nine years old in Willow.’ Which were these dogs that felt very real, and would maul you if they could.

We stuck with it all along, we made sure that element stayed in the movie, even as things got embellished and longer. And the dogs that they came up with are the coolest thing ever. To see my six-year-old niece visit us on the set and pet these horrifying creatures was so cool.

ITM:  Prior to the existence of this movie, there had been a rough established origin story for Han Solo in the Expanded Universe. We knew about Sabacc, we knew he grew up on Corellia. How did you decide what to keep from what had already existed?

Lawrence:  I’m lucky because I know nothing about the Expanded Universe. I had never read one of those novels, so for me it was always starting from scratch. And Jon, who’s much more converse in that stuff, would sometimes say to me, ‘But here’s what happened.’ But we never felt limited by it.

Jonathan:  What we took as a golden rule was that if it was mentioned in any of the seven at that point existing movies, it was officially a hard and fast rule. But even after the decision to make certain things canon and other things not, there’s still so much material between ‘Rebels’ and ‘Clone Wars’ and the books and comics they do consider canon, that it’s almost impossible to think of every reference within that world as law. It’s just too big.

Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo

I understand the desire in fans to feel that anything they read in that world, ‘Okay, well this is really what happened.’ But the truth is it’s such an expansive galaxy. And there’s a great guy at the center of this: Pablo Hidalgo, who’s job it is to sort of master all this stuff, and he helped us a lot with things that he thought were hot button. What’s great about Pablo is he’s not the guy who says ‘No, no, no. You can’t do that.’ He’s the guy who says, ‘This could be tricky, and here’s what I would do that might help.’

Lawrence:  And he lets you do that.

ITM:  I don’t want to spoil too much in this interview, but my all-time favorite minor ‘Star Wars’ character– Bossk– gets a brief mention in this movie, and I want to know where that came from.

Jonathan:  [points back and forth between me and himself] My favorite ‘Star Wars’ character too, by a hundred percent! I will say that there was a lot of effort on the part of this guy [points at himself again] to get Bossk into the movie. Desperately trying to, and there was not even resistance exactly. More what it was is that in the process of telling the story and refining the script, he kept falling out. And I kept trying to sneak him back in.

It went back and forth, and there did come a moment early in pre-production where I was like, ‘Guys, why do we keep taking Bossk out?’ And the guys were like, ‘There’s just no place for Bossk.’ And then once we were shooting I was like, ‘Well can we at least indicate [his presence]?’ Because he represents– and here’s why he’s important– because he’s so badass. He is like the Lee Van Cleef character in ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ or something. And you want to believe that these characters live in a world where that guy, and all those bounty hunters lined up along that wall in ‘Empire,’ are moving around and in proximity. That’s really cool.

WATCH “SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY” OFFICIAL TRAILER:

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” will be released into theaters nationwide on Friday, May 25th.