'Solo: A Star Wars Story' Screenwriters Tackle 'Fan Service' and the Kessel Run (Exclusive)
By Ash Crossan
This article contains minor plot spoilers for "Solo: A Star Wars Story."
“It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs”...or is it?
The overly dissected "fib or fact" line from 1977’s Star Wars is addressed head-on in Solo: A Star Wars Story, out now, by screenwriters Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan. ET sat down with the father-son duo to chat about adding an exciting new chapter to the saga, and whether any familiar beats from Han Solo’s backstory are -- dun, dun, dun! -- FAN SERVICE.
Let's back up a parsec.
The idea for a young Han Solo movie came well before 2015's The Force Awakens, and even before Disney announced the deal to acquire Lucasfilm in 2012. When Lawrence Kasdan, the screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, was asked by George Lucas and current Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, if he had any interest in writing another Star Wars film, he replied, "I’m not really in the mood." However, once the two asked, “Would you do something on Han?” his feelings immediately changed.
“[Han] was the magic word because he's my favorite character,” Lawrence tells ET. “Right then, I thought, ‘Well, that’s the only one that sparks anything for me. That's the one that I always wanted to hear talk more. He’s the one that I wondered where he came from when you first see him in the [Mos Eisley] Cantina.’ That was when [A New Hope], for me, just jumped to life.”
Of course, Solo was put on the backburner for a bit when Lawrence ended up contributing to The Force Awakens. But once it came time to sit down and write Solo, Lawrence knew “the only way” he could write a Han Solo movie was with the help -- and many ideas -- of his son and lifelong Star Wars nerd, Jonathan.
The now 38-year-old was too young to see Star Wars when the original trilogy initially hit theaters. (He later watched them, for the first time, on VHS). Still, Jon grew up crafting ideas for Star Wars characters that percolated as early as the '80s, when, Jon says, Lucas himself would gift families of Lucasfilm employees a box “full of actions figures and vehicles” around the holidays.
“It was the beginning of a kind of imaginative thinking that, I think, very directly evolved into the work we do,” Jon says. “[My brother Jake and I] were playing with these toys in our rooms, we sort of divvied them up, and we started thinking about stories in that way.” Interestingly enough, that same Beverly Hills room where Jon and his older brother played with these toys some 30 years earlier, served as the office where Jon and his father penned the script for Solo.
Crafting the backstory of the iconic smuggler was a bit of a balancing act for the Kasdans, who brought in new elements of what shaped young Han Solo, along with the familiar, legendary stories we’ve come to know and, often, imagined in our own headcanon, i.e., the Kessel Run, Han winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando and early interactions with Chewbacca.
“I think there's certain things you sort of want to see and you’re sort of wrestling between two opposing poles,” Jon says. “You don’t want to do exactly what’s expected, and we are aware of voices that are saying, ‘Why does this movie exist?’ and ‘We don’t need a lot of fan service.’ At the same time, I think there’s a deeper and more sort of primal impulse, larger audience that really does want to see how Chewie and Han met and what circumstance that was and what the first sort of interaction with the Falcon was like.”
“I didn’t even know the phrase ‘fan service’ until a few years ago,” Lawrence adds. “But for me, that only meant, always, that there was a tradition here...I don’t think of those things as, ‘Oh, we’re going to hit that button or ring that bell.’ I think of it in terms of, ‘In this long story, there are elements that keep rearing their heads,’ and those are very comforting. They’re fun, you know, they give you this feeling of familiarity that is good.”
One element of familiarity that gets a bit of a facelift -- and here’s where we’re getting into specific plot points, so be warned -- is the Kessel Run. Many fans assume the Kessel Run was a race, one Han likely fibbed about in order to weasel his way onto the mission to Alderaan in exchange for the credits (money) he so desperately owed Jabba the Hutt. That potential fib has festered within the fandom for decades, in part thanks to the the word "parsec" -- a unit of distance, not time -- and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s reaction to the phrasing.
“It’s a sticky thing in the lore of Star Wars,” Jon says, acknowledging Obi-Wan’s immediate suspicion of Han’s potential lie.
“The first four times I saw New Hope, I didn’t get [Obi-Wan’s reaction],” Lawrence adds. “But the fifth or 10th time, I had been pointed toward it. I was thrilled that Alec Guinness is so smart and sees when someone’s full of crap. He instantly has an immediate reaction. Then you say, ‘Well, what is the truth of this? How long did it take? A parsec is not really a measure of time, so what is it?’ And you start getting into those things, which are separate from reality.”
Jon chimes in, “We hit upon something that we both were excited about, which was, ‘Could the movie have a Jules Verne-ian, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea section in it, where you just got to go off the beaten path into a, sort of, pirate adventure where anything was possible for a minute -- and it seemed true to Han’s character, that he would be the pirate who would sail straight into the hurricane, you know? That was in our first draft, and it stuck.”
“Its intrinsic to this issue of, ‘How did he do it?’” Lawrence adds. “Is it possible to do it? And when he does do it and when he survives it...does he still have to lie about how long it took?”