Star Wars

Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in "Solo: A Star Wars Story."

Shortly before Alden Ehrenreich started filming “Solo: A Star Wars Story” more than two years ago, he had lunch with Harrison Ford, who brought the cynical smuggler Han Solo to life in previous “Star Wars” films.

“I wanted to talk to Harrison, just to kind of pay respect, and have him give us the blessing … he was really encouraging and supportive,” Ehrenreich said.

But tackling the iconic character was daunting. Ehrenreich watched the original films to “absorb” what he could of the character and how he was “operating” in the “Star Wars” universe.

“I tried to kind of take in as much of that as I could very early because I had the role for quite a long time before we actually shot,” Ehrenreich said. “And then … move into working on the part and put all that aside and forget about it and play this guy where he is now in his life.”

“Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which opens in theaters this weekend is a prequel to the original “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.” I “Solo,” the young Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and the shifty gambler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), who possess the Millennium Falcon.

“You get in and you can’t believe you’re in it and it’s so surreal,” said Ehrenreich, about getting in the Falcon on set. “That’s what everybody you bring to set wants to see and they have that experience, too. And then, a couple months into shooting in it, you’re inside of it and you’re flying it. You know where the buttons are. You know how the chair feels. You know the yoke and you feel like, okay, this is kind of like my ship now. That is deeply gratifying.”

Director Ron Howard, whose friendship with George Lucas dates back to 1973’s “American Graffiti,” took over the reigns of “Solo” when the original directors were fired for “creative differences.” Howard said the anticipation for this film is “unlike anything I’ve done,” aside from the documentary “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years.”

“I’m at a point in my life where I like experimenting, I like to take some chances,” Howard said. “I’m not too ... too worried about the outcome. I wanted to have the creative experience and … I sort of felt that way about jumping into a 'Star Wars' movie. But I also felt that way about jumping into the Beatles documentary ... from the moment it was announced, 'Ron, don’t f*** this up.'”

When Howard was brought aboard, the film already had its cast. Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” as well as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” had written the script with his son Jonathan.

“This is one guy’s adventure story,” Howard said. “In some ways it’s kind of similar to 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' which Larry also wrote. It is a single hero’s journey and then there’s a lot of fun in that journey and there are a lot of twists and turns, but it’s really about that character … all of the different relationships were very important to me because … all of these characters are going to have (an impact) on this young Han Solo.”

Ehrenreich said Ford gave him some additional support at a recent press event.

“It’s just such a huge deal to have him, really genuinely love it,’ said Ehrenreich of Ford.

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