Cinematographer Bradford Young Teases “Unexpected” and “Dramatic” Young Han Solo Movie
When filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller were announced as the directors of Lucasfilm’s untitled “Young Han Solo” film, the reaction was one of both surprise and elation. Between 21 and 22 Jump Street, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and The LEGO Movie, Lord and Miller have made a career out of turning “bad ideas” into spectacular films, so who better to tackle a movie that presents audiences with the first non-Harrison Ford Han Solo?
While this Han Solo film certainly marks Lord and Miller’s biggest project to date, it sounds like the duo were hired precisely for their knack of subverting expectations and telling stories that are at once cinematically compelling, emotionally engaging, and thematically thought-provoking. I recently got the chance to speak with cinematographer Bradford Young in anticipation of the release of the incredible Denis Villeneuve-directed sci-fi drama Arrival, and seeing as how Young was recently announced as the cinematographer on the Han Solo film, we briefly discussed their tremendously exciting plans for the Star Wars anthology film.
As one of the best cinematographers working today, fresh off stunning work in films like Selma and A Most Violent Year, Young was a thrilling and yet somewhat surprising choice as DP for the Han Solo movie given his drama-heavy resume. Young admitted that he at first thought it a bit of an odd fit for him to team up with Lord and Miller on the Han Solo film, but he quickly realized he and the filmmakers share the same ambitions when it comes to moviemaking:
“It’s funny, here’s the thing about Phil Lord and Chris Miller: don’t let their track record fool you. Don’t put those guys in a box because they have a vision, they know exactly what they want. They have no hidden agenda, but they do have an agenda; they have a way of seeing that’s very special, and their collaboration is genuinely unique. So I have to say I had to get converted into that. I respect their work, I respect them as filmmakers, but I wasn’t quite sure if there would be a good marriage between what I’m trying to pursue and the work that I’m doing and what they’re doing, but they helped make that real clear to me early on by expressing some real interesting story [and] photographic ideas that really resonated with me. So once they started really pulling me into that world, I realized how much these cats have come from the same pedagogy of filmmaking—in the visual sense for sure, and definitely from an approach in terms of how we want to make movies, they come from the same school.”
Young went on to confirm that just as with the Jump Street films and The LEGO Movie, Lord and Miller plan on subverting expectations in their dynamic chronicle of young Han’s adventures:
“These cats are subversive, don’t let it fool you (laughs). They are prepared to say exactly what they wanna say and it’s complex, it’s layered, it’s smart, it’s visual, it’s dramatic, it’s funny, it’s uneasy, it’s unexpected. These cats are—I’m honored to have them in the list of directors I’ve worked with, that’s for sure.”
That is mighty high praise that puts Lord and Miller in the company of Young’s past collaborators like Villeneuve, Ava DuVernay, and David Lowery, and if that mix of tone and subject matter doesn’t make you excited for what they have planned, I don’t know what to tell you.
But seeing as how this is also Young’s biggest film from a studio standpoint, we also discussed that fact that, thus far, Lucasfilm seems interested in allowing filmmakers to express their own unique aesthetic visions, with both J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson bringing along their longtime cinematographers for Force Awakens and Episode VIII respectively. This stands in contrast to how some interconnected franchises/universes are kept in the same visual range from film to film, and Young said he’s been pleasantly surprised with how hands-off Lucasfilm’s approach has been thus far:
“We’re doing our own thing, that’s why we’re there. Phil and Chris are there to bring what they bring to their films, their very unique vision, their perspective on story and they asked me to come bring what I bring, and so just for that it won’t feel like any of the other films. And nobody at Lucasfilm is asking us to betray that, they’re saying ‘We’re in full support of what you do and we wanna make sure that we’re able to help you do it in the best way.’ It’s gonna feel like a Star Wars film, but we’re definitely gonna break some rules, and we’re encouraged to do that. Visually, narratively that’s a good mandate. They really are about, from what I’ve seen so far, supporting up and coming artists, artists who have a strong vision and voice and perspective, and they really wanna permeate the films with those kinds of voices. So it’s interesting, very interesting. Not what I thought it would be, that’s for sure. I’m pleasantly encouraged and pleasantly surprised.”
When it was first announced that Lucasfilm was going to be making a “Young Han Solo” movie, most reacted with heavy skepticism. But every development thus far has only been more encouraging, from the hiring of Lord, Miller, and Young to the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as Solo and Donald Glover as Lando. And now, with Young teasing that the film will be very much in line with the subversive nature of Lord and Miller’s filmmaking and different from any Star Wars movie we’ve seen before, it’s safe to say this “Young Han Solo” movie has since become one of the most promising and exciting films in development right now.
Look for much more from Young in my full interview on Collider soon. The untitled Han Solo film starts filming in early 2017 and will hit theaters on May 25, 2018.