Star Wars Can’t Recast Classic Characters, Says Kathleen Kennedy
If you want to find a turning point in the world of Star Wars — if you want to understand how one of the biggest movie franchises in history became a series of television shows instead — you should probably look to Solo: A Star Wars Story. Prior to Solo, Disney’s burgeoning Star Wars film series was booming. The early sequels were massive blockbusters, and the first in a planned batch of spinoffs, Rogue One, became a very solid hit as well.
But then Solo came along, and quickly things went so low. (Sorry.) The movie’s original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, left the project in the middle of production due to creative differences with Lucasfilm. The film was finished, but for the first time in Star Wars’ 40 year history, audiences were totally indifferent to something from the galaxy far, far away. Reviews were blah, and box-office receipts were worse. The film earned just $393 million worldwide, the lowest total ever for a live-action Star Wars movie. (The Force Awakens made more than twice that amount in the U.S. alone.)
The next year The Mandalorian debuted on Disney+ and became a smash. And suddenly everything changed. Other spinoff movies were canceled or turned into Disney+ shows, like the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi, which was initially developed as a movie before Lucasfilm serialized it.
Lucasiflm’s Kathleen Kennedy suggests that Solo was indeed a turning point in a new article about the state of Star Wars in Vanity Fair. Placing the blame on the movie’s failure on the idea of attempting to recast a character as iconic as Han Solo with a young actor — with poor Alden Ehrenreich trying to sub in for Harrison Ford — Kennedy said “there should be moments along the way when you learn things. Now it does seem so abundantly clear that we can’t do that.” That meaning recasting legacy characters.
How long that dictum lasts remains to be seen, but it’s an interesting comment for a few reasons. For one thing, even Star Wars’ present series involve recasted actors. Yes, Lucasfilm brought back Mark Hamill (and a bunch of advanced deepfake technology) instead of hiring a lookalike when they wanted to feature Luke Skywalker on The Mandaloran. On the other hand, the company’s next Star Wars show is Obi-Wan Kenobi with Ewan McGregor, who was essentially the Alden Ehrenreich of his day when he replaced Alec Guinness as the young Obi-Wan in the Star Wars prequels.
Of course, people loved McGregor in the role from early on and Ehrenreich’s Han Solo was much less warmly received. But that would seem to be the point; it’s not so much the idea of recasting people objected to as it was who was cast and the project they were in. A different guy in a different Solo — or even the same guy in Lord and Miller’s Solo — might have worked. But we’ll never know.