Following the original trilogy of films, Solo returned to the Star Wars universe in The Force Awakens (2015) only to meet (spoiler alert!) an untimely end at the hand of his own son Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. But in the standalone origin film Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25th), there’s new life for the character, with actor Alden Ehrenreich taking on the role of the younger, pre-Leia, pre-rebellion Han.
Solo takes audiences on a ride back to a time before Han owned and piloted the Millennium Falcon, even before he and Chewbacca the Wookie became a team. While the new movie explores his backstory onscreen, here’s some offscreen facts about Han Solo that you probably didn’t know.
1. He was originally meant to be green. Alien green. In George Lucas’ early drafts of A New Hope, Solo was a green-skinned creature with gills for a nose from the alien race of Ureallians. He was also originally written to be a Jedi! Dark Horse Comics eventually transferred the story – complete with alien-green Han – to comic book artform, but lucky for fans and actor Harrison Ford, Solo on film became the lovable and entirely human scoundrel. And not a Jedi.
2. Solo’s home planet is Corellia. The same place his ship, the Corellian light freighter the Millennium Falcon, is from. Coincidence? Only Lucas knows the answer. Corellia was also the home of rebellion fighter pilot Wedge Antilles.
3. Ford was not Lucas’ first choice to play the character. Other notable actors of the era, including Christopher Walken, Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte, and even Sylvester Stallone, were in audition orbit or being considered for the part. A trained carpenter, Ford was in the right place at the right time when installing a door as a favor to director Francis Ford Coppola and who should walk through it but Lucas, whom Ford had briefly worked with on American Graffiti. They talked, Ford auditioned and the rest is Star Wars history.
4. It’s a fitting story considering the character of Solo was partly based on Coppola. The Godfather director and Star Wars creator were already friends when Lucas took inspiration for Solo’s swagger, charisma, sarcasm, and smooth wit from Coppola.
5. When it comes to smooth talking, Ford often took control on set and improvised some of Solo’s lines, including his most famous one. Prior to descending into the carbonite chamber in The Empire Strikes Back, Solo and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) were originally scripted to have a lengthy verbal exchange. After discussing it with director Irvin Kirshner, when Leia tells Han she loves him Ford ad libbed the simple, yet now instantly recognizable response of “I know.”
6. Que la force soit avec toi! For the release of the original Star Wars movie in France, characters and ships were given more French-sounding names in an effort to make them more understandable and pronounceable to audiences. The Millennium Falcon became Le Millénium Condor, C3PO was Z6PO, Chewbacca was renamed Chiktabba, and Han Solo was given the moniker of Yan Solo.
7. Ford wanted Solo to be killed off in Return of the Jedi. “I thought the best utility of the character would be for him to sacrifice himself to a high ideal and give a little bottom, a little gravitas to the enterprise. Not that there wasn’t some already, but I just wanted in on that part of it,” Ford explained on Conan in 2015.
8. If anyone could breathe a sigh of relief that Ford did not get his way it would be Princess Leia. According to the official Star Wars novel Aftermath: Life Debt, Solo and the princess were married almost immediately after the destruction of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. In the book Leia described the event as “a small ceremony” with only “those we trust” in attendance.
9. Though Solo’s wife and son appeared in the films, his father was also slated to make an appearance. An early draft of The Empire Strikes Back had Solo racing off at the end of the film in search of dear old dad, who supposedly had intel vital to the rebellion. Considering the dramatic father/son dynamic between Han and Ben in The Force Awakens, it’s fair to say fans got lucky when this storyline never got off the launching pad.
10. Solo’s blaster has earthly origins. Diehard fans could tell you the weapon used by the smuggler is a DL-44 laser blaster from a galaxy far, far away. But the gun is based on the German Mauser C96, produced in the early part of the 20th century and a weapon of choice of Winston Churchill.
11. Han Solo shot first! As any kid who sat wide-eyed through the first installment – prior to Lucas’ digital tinkering with the original trilogy – will attest with certainty, Solo shot Guido without provocation in the famous cantina scene.