The production of Solo: A Star Wars Story was not easy, to put it lightly. Replacing a director on a project is always something of a big deal, but on this one especially. Right out of the gate, people were skeptical about a Han Solo movie focusing on the character’s origin story, and now to have the added pressure of very public production issues is not ideal. But by all accounts, the transition—while not fun—was a fairly smooth one. And now that the Solo marketing campaign has at long last begun, director Ron Howard is ready to talk about why he agreed to take over the project.
To back up, in the summer of 2017—three weeks before filming on Solo was scheduled to conclude—it was announced that directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were departing Solo: A Star Wars Story over “creative differences.” It was pretty clear the two were fired, to put it bluntly, and given that a lot of people’s interest in Solo was due to the involvement of the innovative 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie filmmakers, this was not good news.
Speaking with EW, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy reiterated that replacing Lord and Miller had nothing to do with their talent levels, but more to do with a difference of opinion on process:
“I think these guys are hilarious, but they come from a background of animation and sketch comedy and when you are making these movies you can do that and there’s plenty of room for improvisation, we do that all the time, but it has to be inside of a highly structured process or you can’t get the work done and you can’t move the armies of people to anticipate and have things ready. So, it literally came down to process. Just getting it done… These are really great guys and you know, nobody wanted this to happen. It was just one of those unfortunate things.”
Kennedy worked quickly, and Lucasfilm announced two days after Lord and Miller left that Ron Howard would be taking over the project. So how did the Oscar-winning Rush and Apollo 13 director react when he was first asked to sign on? Reluctant:
“I know Chris and Phil. They’re incredibly talented guys, and all anyone at Imagine Entertainment wants to do is find a way to work with Chris and Phil, and that’s every bit as much the case today as ever. But when I learned that this change was happening, it just came in a moment where I was working on lots of new projects for Imagine, and I had not planned to direct anything last year. So then this came my way, and I was talking to Kathy, and the now tragically late Alli Shearmur, an old friend. I was reluctant, but I also began to feel that I could help.”
Howard says Lord and Miller’s sensibilities are still present in the film, but in the end he hopes audiences don’t dwell on how the movie was made:
“It’s disappointing that any company ever feels like they have to make a change like that. It’s rough on everybody and disappointing for everybody, and I’ve just tried to come in and — of course, Phil and Chris’s fingerprints are all over the movie, given how much they put into it and the time they put into it. I hope fans won’t even think about how the movie was made. They should just lose themselves in it.”
We know that when Howard came onboard, he didn’t just finish out the three weeks left of filming but extended production for another few months. That would seem to suggest quite a lot of the movie was reshot, but Howard isn’t eager to divulge just how much of the movie is “his”:
“As Han says, ‘Don’t tell me the percentages.’ Never tell me the percentages,” Howard says with a laugh. “I don’t really want to explain it. I don’t really want to be specific about that because, again, I don’t even want that to matter to fans. I could understand why you’d ask, and some might even be curious, but look, everybody who has been involved in this has done nothing but love what this movie could be, and that’s been the vibe around it. I think audiences are gonna feel that love and excitement.”