Solo: A Star Wars Story may reveal a lot about the backstory of everybody's favorite galactic smuggler, but one big mystery remains as the credits roll: who shot what? If you go by the credits, then Solo is directed by Ron Howard, with Phil Lord & Christopher Miller getting an Executive Producer credit. However, we know that's not what really happened.
Up until June 2017, Lord & Miller were directors of the project. They were fired by Lucasfilm over 80% of the way through filming and replaced a month later by Howard, who restarted production in July and continued through to October. The specifics of why Lord & Miller were fired has been the subject of much, contradictory reporting - the general understanding is they both weren't at home on either a production of this scale and didn't grasp the requirements of Star Wars film, and so were removed before they could claim Director's Cut per DGA rulings - but what's been more important since Howard steadied the ship is how noticeable these reshoots would be.
Reshoots have become a very dirty word in recent film discussions. While pickups are a natural part of the production process on studio films and typically done to fine-tune issues with an assembly cut or fill unexpected gaps, there's recently been greater adjustments. On Justice League, the mid-post departure of Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon-directed reshoots led to a Frankensteined superhero movie, while Suicide Squad not only underwent substantial reshoots but was subjected to multiple edits at Warner Bros. behest. Lucasfilm isn't a stranger to reshoots or director changes either, with the third-act of Gareth Edwards' Rogue One (as well as several running elements) retooled by Tony Gilroy.
The story is more complicated with Solo thanks to Howard not only taking over when his predecessors were 80% of the way through and extending production, but with the estimates of the amount of the finished film he shot going as high as 70%. This means that the lions-share of Solo: A Star Wars Story was shot by Ron Howard, straight-up - and he wasn't changing story as much as tone. Regardless, that still leaves 30% of Lord & Miller's version out there. What was added, what was redone, and what remains?
- This Page: Changes Ron Howard Made To Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Page 2: What Ron Howard Reshot Of Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Page 3: Which Bits Of Solo Were Directed By Lord & Miller?
Everything Dryden Vos Is A Howard Change
When Lord & Miller were first fired, the commonly cited reason was their deviation from the script or otherwise focus on improvisation. Since then, further problems have been reported, but throughout the screenplay - and position of writers Lawrence and Jon Kasdan as Solo: A Star Wars Story's masterminds - has remained. When Howard came on, the line has been that his primary focus was bringing the tone more in-line with the Star Wars franchise. Despite that, we know there were some key changes Howard made to the original plan which allow us to see key elements he influenced.
The most public change Howard made to Solo was the recasting of villain Dryden Vos. Originally Michael K. Williams was in the role as a human-animal hybrid, but due to scheduling conflicts couldn't return to shoot any scenes and so was recast with Paul Bettany as a marked human. This immediately means that any scene featuring Bettany was shot entirely by Howard, which likely extends to everything inside his yacht. Leaked set photos showed the Lord & Miller set for Dryden's base, which has several key divergences from Howard's: there are different museum trinkets (including a stuffed ewok) and an in-floor elevator. This would indicate a set re-do, possibly due to a rebuild, which in turn indicates the majority (if not all) of these scenes here was Howard. It's further possible - but we will stress speculation - that the reason Vos is based in a moving castle is to reduce the amount of sets (and limit Bettany to one location) in reshoots.
This would further indicate that the Darth Maul cameo was also Howard, given the set, although that's hard to know as Ray Park's hologram appearance was presumably a composite. What is known is that the shocking return was part of the very original plan for Solo, with Jon Kasdan wanting it a part of the story from early on, meaning Lord & Miller may have had a version.
Howard Added Several New Actors And Ideas To Solo
One aspect definitively added by Ron Howard is his brother and good luck charm, Clint. He plays the "mean man" fighting droids for money who falls afoul of L3-37 when Han and co. first meet Lando. This obviously means the shots immediately featuring Clint are Howard, and it can be reasoned that the surrounding sequence in the same location would be too, although it's unclear what else was altered beyond casting.
Another actor who only came on board after the change is Jon Favreau, who provided the voice for Rio Durant. The character may have previously existed in some form as part of Lord & Miller's version, but at the very least the vocal performance is new (and we'll come back to bigger suspect changes later).
From interviews, it's also confirmed that George Lucas had an influence on the scene in Lando's closet, with him suggesting Han fling the cloak aside rather than rehanging it, indicating an addition - and indicating Howard's focus on the character moments.
Finally, one late addition to Solo is a shot from Rogue One's Celebration teaser for the introduction of Han and Lando's final Sabacc game, which is likely a result of the production issues. While not definite, this may indicate a location change to broaden Solo's scope, and thus a Howard-added planet.
What Solo Scenes Howard Definitely Reshot
Moving from what was added by Howard, we need to look at what of Lord & Miller's Solo he reshot. Now, given the vast amount of shooting he did (and the distinct possibility the estimates for how much of the movie is his are downplaying to save face), it's easy to surmise he touched every single scene with new footage. We will get into speculation later, but for now we're interested in facts. Fortunately, the director was incredibly open on social media (no doubt to assuage concerns about the project) and so we can easily tell what he directly had a hand in.
During his stint on the production, Howard tweeted out dozens of images that served as vague clues at the time but are now key to our understanding of what was done and when. In order, these are the sets or scenes Howard tweeted out:
- Lando's closet.
- Chewie and Sagwa on Kessel.
- Lando in the Falcon cockpit on Kessel.
- Hyperspace in Falcon cockpit.
- The Sabacc game.
- The Kessel mines control room.
- Dryden's bar.
- The Falcon's docking bay on Vandor.
- Possibly the Vandor crash post train heist.
- The Imperial outpost on Corellia.
- Corellia slums.
- Dryden's bar again (with Bettany in his final scene getup and stills of the fight).
- Lady Proxima's watering hole.
- Han's speeder car from Corellia.
- The Kessel mines.
- Mimban battlefield.
- Clarke's final day, where she had hair seen in the finale (indicating the "good guy" scene).
- The Millennium Falcon interior (with Beckett running, indicating the aftermath of the Kessel mines).
- Corellia slums again.
- Lady Proxima entranceway.
- Tag & Bink.
These are not exhaustive and it is, of course, possible that the photos weren't released in shooting order, while the gaps between photo releases mean not much can be gleaned about the length of time on each set. However, the order immediately gives a rather clear run of production with focus on completing use of sets and actors. In terms of what's there, we have the Falcon cockpit, the Sabacc game, Dryden's bar, Vandor, Kessel, Mimban, Falcon interior and most of Corellia all revisited. That accounts for a high majority of the film, with the main sequences left untouched being the exteriors on Savareen (and those are minimized by interior conversations). The conclusion is that Howard indeed had a hand in the majority of scenes.
The tweets also reveal that Donald Glover wrapped filming on Solo in August, over three months before the production actually finished. Clarke left in late September, just under a month before the premature wrap party. Glover went on record that reshoots didn't affect him too much, and given Lando's role in the movie, it likely wouldn't have: the Sabacc game and a few brief Kessel moments are all we have proper evidence of.
All of this would reaffirm many suggestions throughout the fracas: Lucasfilm wasn't happy with Alden Ehrenreich's performance under Lord & Miller, nor the knockabout tone the directors were going for. The film as existed was essentially reskinned, with Howard bringing it more in line with the rest of Star Wars. This is why the reshoots are so blanket, but also via the franchise's fluidity why it's so hard to pin down details.
What Else In Solo: A Star Wars Story Is Reshoots (With Speculation)
What we've discussed so far comes from strong, factual information that can be cross-referenced with knowledge of the production. However, because of how tight secrecy at Lucasfilm typically is, it's inevitably far from the true story. What else is definitely Howard or Lord & Miller? What follows is going to be more speculatory and should not be taken as resolute fact, but it does have a grounding in snippets of information we've learned.
Let's start with what may be some of the little released yet unused Lord & Miller footage. In the Super Bowl TV spot - the first piece of promotion for Solo: A Star Wars Story - we see Han sitting down with an Imperial recruitment officer, looking over his shoulder as he does so. At this point he's running away from Lady Proxima's henchmen and naturally jittery - that's why he joins up at all - but the finished movie has this entire exchange take place at the officer's desk. Given that this trailer moment is on a big set as opposed to a smaller one that the time-strapped Howard leg would have favored, this may very well be Lord & Miller's, with their version an extended sequence that was trimmed down for brevity.
One sequence we haven't been able to talk much about due to a lack of information is the Conveyex scene on Vandor, mainly because this didn't feature at all in Howard's photos. There are two explanations for this: one, it's mostly Lord & Miller who came through for this setpiece; or, two, due to secrecy or a lot of this portion of the shoot being on greenscreen, it wasn't shared. The latter seems more likely, especially given the scene has some of the more questionable CGI; when Han, Chewie and Beckett look at the coraxium, the sky behind them is an obvious composite, as is everything in Val's sideplot. We know that Thandie Newton was the first actor to work with Howard (via HeyUGuys), and if it was alone it almost has to be in this part. This, along with the late casting of Rio, suggests the sequence was heavily retooled.
Mimban is another topic of interest given the evident large sets Howard was working with and its history. The planet comes from Splinter of the Mind's Eye, a follow-on to the original Star Wars written as a potential blueprint for a big screen sequel should a low budget option be needed. It famously omitted Han due to Harrison Ford not having signed on for more films, but it also set much of the action on a misty swamp planet to keep the sets low. Could Mimban have been reused for a similar purpose here? It's definitely a possibility when you have to create exterior locations on a soundstage.
What's Still Lord & Miller?
And, with Howard's handywork laid bare, we come to the trickiest question here: what is still Lord & Miller's? Given how their footage was - in Howard's own words - usable and there was no way for the film to be entirely redone, there is going to be still a sizeable percentage belonging to the duo. However, as their replacement's task was to fix the film, a job that saw him directly handle nearly every aspect of the movie, it's unlikely any full sequence of their's survived.
The duo's propensity for improvisation has been repeatedly cited - Alden Ehrenreich has talked about a cut snowball fight on Vandor, presumably right after Val's death, which gives a sense of the tonal opposites - and there may be some of that in the more out-there character beats. Lando's journals feels like a Glover improv (although we do have the shot of the cockpit on Kessel to suggest otherwise), as does Beckett's complaint about hurting his thumbs on the Kessel Run.
What seems a more sure-fire bet at having survived is anything shot in an exterior - which is not that much. Most outside locations in Solo are at night, closed-in or green screen suitable, meaning that they can easily be sets: Vandor, Kessel, Mimban. The only exception is Savareen, which has plenty of outside moments that could have come from a soundstage - Han talking to Beckett about his plan and later shooting him, for example, take place in a small, defined area - but also some that are so wide they surely come from the Spain leg of the shoot under Lord & Miller. This would explain why the scenes jump back and forth from interior and exterior so much - that indicates a change in directors - but ultimately indicates that Enfys Nest showdown, as well as several character beats, remain Lord & Miller.
The truth of why Lord & Miller were fired and what really was changed on Solo: A Star Wars Story probably won't be known for a long time. We've only recently had word from Tony Gilroy about his work on Rogue One, and in that situation, there wasn't a high profile departure. For now, let's just be thankful it mostly worked out...