From Kim Masters’ 6.26 Hollywood Reporter story about the ongoing Han Solo calamity (“Star Wars Firing Reveals a Disturbance in the Franchise“): “Matters were coming to a head in May as the production moved from London to the Canary Islands. Lucasfilm replaced editor Chris Dickens (Macbeth) with Oscar-winner Pietro Scalia, a veteran of Ridley Scott films including Alien: Covenant and The Martian. And, not entirely satisfied with the performance that the directors were eliciting from Rules Don’t Apply star Alden Ehrenreich, Lucasfilm decided to bring in an acting coach. (Hiring a coach is not unusual; hiring one that late in production is.) Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller suggested writer-director Maggie Kiley, who had worked with them on 21 Jump Street.”
Alden Ehrenreich, the anti-Han Solo.
Did I just read this?
Han Solo producer Kathy Kennedy and her creative consigliere, Lawrence Kasdan, could have chosen anyone to play the brave, reckless, somewhat rascally commander of the Millenium Falcon. How many name-brand 20something actors could have easily slipped into the role, guys with the natural insouciance and underlying gravitas of a young Harrison Ford? More than a few, I’m imagining. They had to choose a guy who could be at least faintly believable as a young Ford, which would have meant conveying a certain Hanitude — a mixture of Anglo Saxon cock-of-the-walk confidence, selfish mercenary cunning and shoulder-shrugging heroism.
And yet they chose a mopey, modestly proportioned, beady-eyed guy with the air of a rabbinical student — Alden Ehrenreich. Say hello, Star Wars fans, to the new Solo — a seemingly joyless, small-shouldered guy who lacks a sense of physical dominance (Aldenreich is five inches shorter than the 6’2″ Ford) and whose stock-in-trade is a kind of glum, screwed-down seriousness. A perfect candidate to play a solemn neurotic in one of Woody Allen‘s New York-based dramedies, but as Han Solo, not so much.
You’ll never guess what happened next. After three-plus months of shooting (early February to early May) or more than halfway through principal, it dawned upon Kennedy and Kasdan that Ehrenreich wasn’t working out like they’d hoped. They were presumably expecting that he’d shed his naturally morose manner and magically morph into a devil-may-care adventurer, but, to Kennedy and Kasdan’s astonishment, this didn’t happen.
“I really don’t get it,” Kasdan might have said to Kennedy. “There was absolutely no reason to presume that a frowning Jewish downhead couldn’t easily assume the manner and moxie of a grinning frat-boy scoundrel type.” To which Kennedy might have responded, “Yes, Larry, I know…it’s quite puzzling.” And so, at the suggestion of Han Solo directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, they hired an indie-level female director to try and…what? Instruct Ehrenreich on the basics of big-screen machismo? Teach him a few Harrison Ford mannerisms?
Masters claims that hiring an acting coach “is not unusual.” Really? It’s semi-routine, she’s saying, for lead actors or actresses to be hired for a feature film, and then having to be schooled and Stella Adler-ed about how to give the performance that the producers expected to see in the first place? Whatever happened to the age-old traditions of (a) gifted actors knowing their craft and (b) directors and producers being savvy enough to recognize which actors would be a perfect fit for a given role and which ones might not be? Masters acknowledges that having your marquee-brand actor coached after three-plus months of shooting is unusual. I would certainly think so.
Is Aldenreich-as-Solo the biggest casting calamity of the 21st Century? Perhaps not, but between the acting coach thing and Aldenreich having been fingered as the guy who first sounded the alarm about Lord and Miller, it’s certainly in the running.