I’ve spent some time perusing the web, looking at what other people had to say about who should play a young Han Solo in his inevitable origin story. Needless to say, I think this whole idea of an origin story is an insipid idea. But if it must happen, I’m ready to help with my suggestions.
The most notable trait I discovered amongst the speculating masses is the desire to cast an action star – someone to put on a cool show when the lasers start firing. While understandable in theory, in practice, it would be a serious mistake.
Let’s start by taking a quick look into who Han Solo really is.
Han Solo is not an action star. He’s not even a thug. He’s a scoundrel; a two-bit smuggler, pick-pocketing and self-serving man who has a few friends…and a LOT of enemies. But Solo isn’t overt about himself at all. Yeah, he’s arrogant, but he’s not Darth Vader… or Boba Fett for that matter. He doesn’t dress up in outfits that scream “I AM THE BIGGEST BAMF IN THIS WHOLE GALAXY!!!” He’s not out to prove a point or make any kind of statement other than a “yeah I’m awesome” kind of whisper. He’d be content to quietly slip by with a few trophies stolen from someone who won’t miss them and be on his way. He just happens to also be very good with guns.
I draw from The Wire’s Avon Barksdale. “You need a day in the jackal type motherf**ker to do some sh** like that, not a rumble tumble ni**a like Slim.”
To put it another way, as my friend MovieBob (who was kind enough to give me some insight on this topic), you need the Australian teen heartthrob type to take on Solo’s role; not some jacked up bodybuilder who has looked 32 and in physical prime since the age of 18.
That rules Liam Hemsworth and Arnie Hammer out.
In shooting for a younger Solo, the subtle bad boy charisma has to show with a little more recklessness than the seasoned veteran of the smuggler’s life Solo you know from the movies. In A New Hope, Han Solo was 29 (according to Wookiepedia…yes, I use that). Funnily enough, when he was playing the role, Harrison Ford was 35. That age makes sense given the continuity of The Empire Strikes Back. Solo had to have been around for at least some time to know and be friends with someone like Lando Calrissian. It’s relatively easy to have older actors playing younger roles, but that’s more complicated when you get to far younger levels. So here are a few that come to mind.
A few months ago, I made the case that Garfield, despite starring in one of the worst and most asinine superhero movies I’ve ever seen in my life, is actually a perfectly competent and serviceable actor whom, had he been born just a few years earlier, might have actually been perfect to play the role of Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. He’s six feet tall, only an inch shorter than Ford. Give him a haircut and a clean shave, and you could do a lot worse than him as far as looking the younger part is concerned. He’s handsome enough to attract female viewership, and with enough combat training and chorographical editing (which will presumably be oozing out of the pores of this film) he’ll pull off the action just fine.
Joseph Gordon Levitt
I’m not a fan of going this old, but you can’t deny that JGL really was able to pull off being the super-youthful teenage military-underage son of Abraham Lincoln in Spielberg’s Oscar hit. And considering that his older head-shaven self actually does resemble Bruce Willis (who has managed to look 40 for the past fifteen years), he seems to be aging well enough that you could theoretically pull it off. Audiences are familiar enough with his sly and roguish personalities through some of his previous roles in films like Inception, and he could probably pull off the open-button white shirt under a black half-vest and holster look. JGL has done enough action in his career so that it wouldn’t look too awkward.
Among this list, Jamie Bell is the actor who looks the least like Han Solo. So why is he here? Just one reason; not only is he an exemplary and underrated young actor, but his lack of fame as well as his talents enable him to bring some genuine authenticity to the role of a character whose older version we know almost too well. Bell has starred in some big movies, but the most notable among them was Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong. That, along with playing the role of TinTin puts bell in a greater comfort zone as far as associating and communicating with energetic but potentially savage indigenous creatures (you KNOW Chewbacca is going to appear in this movie). Is that an “I’m sold” kind of point? Probably not, but darken his hair, and give him an audition, and he just might surprise you.
STOP! I know what you’re going to say. Just hear me out for a second. Yes, he was the star of that god-awful Nickelodeon knockoff of Grease. Yes, he has been in a few really bad movies.
But I’m sorry; Zac Efron is actually not a terrible actor. Okay, he’s not amazing but he was good in Me and Orson Welles as well as the Hairspray adaptation. Don’t be so quick to typecast him into a “musical only” category. Speaking of Grease, remember John Travolta? He was once known for dance musicals only like Saturday Night Fever. Then Hollywood found out how awesome he looks with a gun in his hand in Pulp Fiction, and suddenly he became an action star. You know who else went from musicals to films with much greater appeal and charisma? Patrick Swayze – the most iconic dirty dancer of the 1980s also acted in Red Dawn, and then went on to star in The Beast, a gritty crime drama TV series that had critics swooning the way they did as young girls twenty years prior.
Now does Zac Efron have the acting talent that Travolta and Swayze have? No, not even close. As far as looking the part goes, he outshines pretty much everyone everywhere. But if this film really had to exist, you could do a whole lot worse than Zac Efron.
Because Nick says so.
I guess this could work…if the screenplay was adjusted for this origin story to take place pretty much immediately before A New Hope. Gosling is a good actor, but the biggest problem he has it his voice. It doesn’t just seem dissimilar to Ford’s…it seems virtually opposite from it in almost every way.
Someone entirely new
Sorry; I don’t have a sixth choice. This is my ultimate preference. There are thousands of young, ambitious, and talented actors who would kill to get a role like this and it would be a shame to let a role like this go to waste on someone whose career is already established. The choices on this list are generally safe choices, but the truth is…we shouldn’t want a safe choice. This is the same line of reasoning I invoked in the case I made against J.J. Abrams directing Episode VII (which you can read here). When did we become so fixated on the limited crop of actors we know of? When did we become afraid of new visions and new ideas being employed into cinema? Star Wars itself was the impossible product of a fresh talent that had only made two movies prior.
Mark Hamill was unheard of – a struggling nobody doing one-shot acting bits for episodes of TV here and there with the exception of the animated sitcom Jeannie, which he had for about three months. Then he was recruited to play Luke Skywalker and suddenly everyone not only noticed him, but hung posters of him in their rooms for the next thirty+ years. We used to love and admire stories like that; the American dream being fulfilled in Hollywood to the endless joy of all of us. Are we really so terrified of that that we must force ourselves to pick from a list of actors that isn’t even that much fun to pick from?
Think on that.
And just for the hell of it, along with Gosling, here’s Nick’s five other choices:
-Jensen Ackles (he has the gravely voice)