The most difficult part about making Solo: A Star Wars Story for Alden Ehrenreich wasn't the filming, but the long wait for the movie to get to theatres. It's been two years since it was announced he would take on the iconic role of Han Solo in the tale of the roguish space smuggler's early days.
"It's been tough dealing with all the secrecy, so it feels good that the film is finally getting out. It's a nice thing to be able to give the movie to everyone after all the buildup," Ehrenreich says of the May 24 opening date. "I did my first movie when I was 18 and so I've had about 10 years of slowly, gradually getting used to this side of the business. There's not this part of training in acting school."
During the long period since he was announced in the role of Han Solo, Ehrenreich also had to listen to all the talk about how the original directors – Phil Lord and Chris Miller – were replaced by Ron Howard, or how an acting coach was hired to help Ehrenreich with his performance. His approach to all of the chatter around the film was to focus on the work and remind himself his priority was to do the job.
There's no denying stepping into the Star Wars franchise brings far more attention than the majority of acting roles. Ehrenreich accepted that but concentrated on the one element that remains the same no matter the role. The acting part of the process is all the same.
"That's not totally apparent to everybody," Ehrenreich says. "But, it's really true that at the end of the day, you are with your director, you have your role, you are working with the actor alongside of you and your job is to make the scene work.
"That's true here and that was true in the student films I did in college."
As for the change in directors, Ehrenreich praises Howard for coming in at a tough time and showing a great understanding of how actors work and how to lead the troops. He saw cast and crew find a new energy under the command of Howard.
Dealing with the secrecy has only been magnified because Ehrenreich stepped into the Star Wars universe. All the films in the franchise have been released under close guard to not spoil anything for the legions of fans. His other film work in Blue Jasmine, Hail, Caesar! or Rules Don't Apply has not come with such tight security.
Keeping quiet has been tough, but Ehrenreich completely understands the need for such measures. He has considered himself among the legion of fans since he saw a VHS copy of Star Wars at a friend's house when he was 5.
"I had all the action figures and a green lightsaber. Of all the action figures, I have to say my favorite would have been Luke and Han. I would pretend to be both of them," Ehrenreich says. "I grew up watching the movies and loving the movies and the character in particular. It's a real treat to be invited into that world.
"Life is wonderful. The greatest thing for me is having the opportunity to work on a consistent basis over the last few years. There were many periods where I couldn't work in the kind of things I wanted to do. These opportunities afford me the chance to pursue the career I want. Each film builds upon the last work you did."
Ehrenreich describes the latest production in his career as a biopic about a fictional character as the audience will be given some insight into what made Han Solo the reluctant hero he became. Although there isn't a lot he can say about the film, it will feature how Solo met Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), an Obi-Wan type relationship with Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and the ship Solo made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, the Millennium Falcon.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is very different from past roles for Ehrenreich as it is set in a galaxy far, far away. Those kind of productions often require actors to do a lot of work in front of green screens where people, places and things will be added while the actors sit and wait for the movie to hit theatres.
Ehrenreich had to deal with some of that computer wizardry, but only a limited amount.
"There was a shocking lack of green screens. When we were flying in the ships, we would have a projector projecting all the space we were flying through and showing us what we are flying around," Ehrenreich says. "All the aliens in this world were either puppets or people dressed up inside the alien suits. It felt as real as it possibly could while at the same time trying to wrap your head around the laws of this world and how it works."
The "OMG" moment for Ehrenreich came when he sat down at the controls of the Millennium Falcon because it was then that he fully realised the magnitude of the role. He knew at that moment he had become a part of the history of the space saga, from the continuation of the story to having action figures that look like him. There were no toys for his work in his other feature films. He says being turned into an action figure is one of the coolest parts of being part of the Star Wars universe. He remembers how important the action figures were for him both for play time and as a creative spark for his imagination.
"It's how you engage with the story. You make it your own by coming up with your own tales," Ehrenreich says. "This is one of the parts about being in this film that is so exciting to me. I know what those movies meant to me as a kid and getting to watch them. To create that sense of wonder and possibility in a kid is so special."
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens on Thursday, March 24.
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