Starting in 1977 with the release of the first Star Wars film (which was later labeled Episode IV: A New Hope), the space opera known as Star Wars became a worldwide phenomenon. The movie, along with its sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, had huge impact on pop culture that lasts until this very day.
With such tremendous popularity, Star Wars has become the second highest-grossing film series, behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following episodes four, five, and six, a trilogy of prequels was released between the years 1999 and 2005, which received mixed reviews from critics and fans of the franchise.
As the franchise never seemed to lose its appeal with its fans, more films were made. Lucasfilm released two sequels in 2015 (The Force Awakens) and 2017 (The Last Jedi), as well as standalone spin-offs like The Clone Wars and Rogue One.
Solo: A Star Wars Story, is another standalone movie in the ever-growing franchise, coming out on May 25th. It tells the story of Han Solo, a smuggler and one of Star Wars’ major characters, who was originally played by Harrison Ford.
With such a huge production in the making, it seems almost impossible for everything to go smoothly and drama-free. And indeed, there were many controversies centering around the production of the film, with directing duo Lord and Miller being replaced, actor Alden Ehrenreich taking over the role of Han Solo. Heck, even the film’s posters were making headlines.
So what were the biggest dramas on the set of perhaps the most anticipated movie of the year? Read on to find out.
There were clashes from day one
Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm’s president, had previously hired directors who were less experienced to direct previous Star Wars films such as Rogue One and The Last Jedi. But for Solo production, the seasoned directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who are responsible for hits like The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, and dozens of other movies, were hired. They were much more experienced, and were thus much less willing to compromise on their way of doing things. Reportedly, there were clashes right from the start between the directors and Kennedy, who was said to be very hands-on in the production. As a source inside the production said, “She didn’t even like the way they folded their socks.”
The heat was on
Everyone responsible for making Solo was feeling the pressure. Since the previous Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, didn’t make as much money at the box office as Lucasfilm had expected, this movie simply couldn’t flop. If they wanted to keep making Star Wars movies, they had to make this movie profitable. So directors Lord and Miller reportedly always had someone breathing down their necks, and clashing with them about how to do things. “They definitely felt the pressure; with one of these movies, there are so many people on top of you all the time,” a source who was on-set told Vulture. With such a huge production, and such a significant franchise, they needed to get it exactly right.
The script question
The script for Solo was written by Lawrence Kasdan, in collaboration with his son, Jon. Kasdan has been writing for Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back, and being extremely familiar with the character of Han Solo, he was probably the best person to know exactly what Solo would be like as a young man. But it was also rumored that the script was “unworkable” and that Alden Ehrenreich was having trouble with his Solo lines.
Not sticking to the script
While filming, Lord and Miller allowed the actors to do a lot of improvisation, sometimes taking more takes to film versions that stuck to the script, as well as versions that deviated from it. The directors felt that it was a good way to bring out the best work from the actors, but some people thought that while that could work with smaller productions, it was less appropriate on such a huge set with hundreds of crew members just waiting around or on hand for the reshoots.
Improvisation was also used to add some comedy to the film, and apparently, executives weren’t too happy about that. While Kathleen Kennedy had said that Lord and Miller’s good eye for comedy was one of the reasons they were chosen to work on the movie, Lucasfilm reportedly only wanted a touch of comedy, and was adamant that Han Solo’s character not be a laugh-out-loud funny one, but rather sarcastic and selfish. As the production went on, there were more and more disagreements over this point.
Some fans wanted it to flop
We all know that the dedicated fans of the Star Wars franchise can be somewhat unforgiving when it comes to messing with it. Since this franchise shaped so many people’s upbringing, it’s understandable why people feel passionately about how the newer films are made. The Last Jedi received criticism from fans about deviating too much from the tone of the original movies, and with all the rumors surrounding the Solo movie, some fans have said they actually want the movie to fail, so Disney might do things differently next time.
Too many takes
Reportedly, directors Lord and Miller didn’t think they were given enough time to shoot each scene, and felt they were under major scheduling constraints. But according to some sources inside the production, the directing duo was taking too long to get things done because they were shooting too many takes for each scene, from too little camera angles. A source told Volture, “After the 25th take, the actors are looking at each other like, ‘This is getting weird.'”
Not enough experience
Despite paying their dues, since Lord and Miller worked on smaller productions in the past, they weren’t used to such huge budget productions. Which means that they were used to doing things differently than what producers felt was necessary for Star Wars. “You have to make decisions much earlier than what they’re used to,” one source said. Another source said the first assistant director had to step in and help them shoot many of the scenes, just to speed things along.
Lord and Miller’s response
However, Lord and Miller have denied these claims. Their spokesperson called the information “completely inaccurate,” but didn’t specify what the inaccuracies were or give any new information to clarify things. Alden Ehrenreich also came out to Lord and Miller’s defense, saying, “From the first screen test on, we played around with it a lot. We tried a lot of different things, rethinking behind the scenes.” He went on to explain, “That was yielding a different movie than the other factions wanted.”
Harrison Ford helped Alden
Han Solo is one of the most central characters of the Star Wars franchise, and it was going to be tricky to portray him in a way that would please his wary fans. Reportedly, the original Han Solo – Harrison Ford – came to Alden’s aid with some tips to help him capture the character. Kathleen Kennedy recalled, “He gave Alden that kind of insight which was invaluable. There were several times in the course of making the movie where Alden would actually recount some of the things that Harrison had pointed out.”
An actor coach was brought in
Another thing that fans weren’t too happy to hear about, was the fact that an acting coach was brought in during filming, to help Alden with his portrayal of Han Solo – which is highly unusual. It was reported that he was having trouble mimicking Harrison Ford’s style of acting, since Lucasfilm was after something very specific. But apparently, the acting coach helped. “You could see his acting becoming more relaxed. He became more Harrison-like,” a source said.
Replacing the editor
Lucasfilm was also looking at other ways to save the film. As the production moved from filming in London to filming in the Canary Islands, they decided to fire editor Chris Dickens, and replace him with an editor who perhaps has more experience and bigger movies under his belt – Oscar-winning editor of The Martian, Pietro Scalia – in the hopes that he could give the movie a better chance at making it big at the box office.
Lord and Miller finally fired
From the get-go, Lucasfilm executives were consistently unhappy with the fact that the filming wasn’t going their way, and they weren’t about to let the movie flop. After all of the delays in production, the problems on set, and the disagreement between the directors and Lucasfilm on how the movie should look like, Lucasfilm decided to take action. They fired directors Lord and Miller and looked to hire someone else to replace them with – which wouldn’t be an easy task in the middle of the film’s production.
The cast found out via the internet
Reportedly, most of the cast and crew were left in the dark about the critical decision. “The actors are at the kids’ table, unless you’re also a producer of the movie. So you’re really kept out of all the backroom dynamics of what was going on,” Alden said in an interview. Another actor, who remained anonymous, said most of the cast found out via online reports. “It was crazy,” he said. “Everyone was texting each other: ‘Did you see the news? Do you think they’re doing reshoots?’ It was messy.”
Not a good feeling
With everything that had happened, the cast and crew’s morale wasn’t very high, to say the least. Alden Ehrenreich said the directors wished him best with the rest of the filming, but he also said it felt pretty emotional, since they had spent so much time together. They were also wondering who would be the new director. “It was this period of going, What if they get somebody that you don’t get along with? What if they get somebody that has a totally different vision?” Alden said. Things were left uncertain.
Little time to finish
Two days after letting Lord and Miller go, award-winning A Beautiful Mind director Ron Howard was brought in to pick up the pieces. Luckily, once he took over, he reportedly gave everyone the feeling that the movie was in good hands. He was good at navigating through the complicated situation, and although he was left with a lot more to film and little time to finish it, he managed to get everyone back on board and excited to keep filming.
When different directors work on a film, it’s always tricky when it comes to who gets the credit for directing. The Director’s Guild of America prefers not to put two names on a project, and three names is almost unacceptable. In this case, Lord and Miller decided to leave the director’s credit exclusively to Ron Howard. “We were really proud of the many contributions we made to that film,” said Miller. “In light of the creative differences, we elected to take an executive producer credit.”
Not the first time
The drama on set of the current Solo movie isn’t unprecedented in the Star Wars franchise. In fact, the first standalone film in the franchise, Rogue One, also had directorial problems. Lucasfilm was reported to have issues with director Gareth Edwards (pictured here, in the middle), and felt it was necessary to do extensive reshoots. While they didn’t go as far as letting him go, it is rumored that screenwriter Tony Gilroy had a big part when it came to directing said reshoots.
Blasting the posters
As if all that wasn’t enough drama, next came another controversy that put the Solo movie back in the headlines. After the Solo posters were released, different posters turned up – which were exactly the same, sans his handheld blaster. Fans were outraged about Disney censoring the posters (while doing a poor photo editing job), but Disney rushed to explain what had happened: apparently, the blast-free posters were specific to Brazil, where Disney is trying to promote the movie as “family friendly,” while the U.S. posters still feature the blaster.
With one poster-mess behind them, Disney is now facing with plagiarism charges, as some of their posters look almost exactly like album cover that French artist Hachim Bahous had designed. “I am flattered that the quality of my work is recognized, but it is still pure and simple forgery,” Bahous wrote on his Facebook page. Looking at the two side-by-side, you can see the resemblance is unmistakable. Disney released a statement, saying, “The posters were created by an outside vendor and it’s something we are currently looking into.”