‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ may very well have the most turbulent – some might even say troubled – production history in the entirety of the storied franchise. Easily the most substantial bit of turbulence has been the dismissal of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller following several months of filming, and their subsequent replacement by Ron Howard. Understandably, this more than anything else raised concerns about the state of the film, and Howard has over the last several months spent as much time on damage control as he has actually making the film.
In point of fact, Howard has spent a considerable amount of time at work on ‘Solo’. When Lord and Miller were dismissed, it was after four months of filming. By some accounts, Lord and Miller had completed roughly three-quarters of the film with a further two months of filming scheduled (three weeks of principal photography followed by another five of reshoots). However, Howard only wrapped filming on ‘Solo’ earlier this month, having spent about twice as much time as originally expected.
And now we may know why. According to anonymous “inside sources” cited on the latest episode of Star Wars News Net’s ‘The Resistance Broadcast‘ (the relevant section begins at the 15:50 mark), the reshoots on ‘Solo’ covered “potentially 80% or more” of the film. Not only that, but according to the same source, these reshoots may have caused the movie’s budget to as much as double.
On the one hand, this is a big deal. If true, Howard’s reshoots would scrub much of Lord and Miller’s contributions from the film. But that may not be such a bad thing. Lord and Miller were, after all, fired as a result of creative differences. Now that can mean a lot of things, especially in Hollywood, but in a report published in the wake of their June firing, Entertainment Weekly summed up those “creative differences” as follows: “Lucasfilm and producer Kathleen Kennedy believed Lord and Miller were hired to add a comedic touch; Lord and Miller believed they were hired to make a comedy.” That’s a pretty significant split. Add to that the fact that the directors reportedly clashed with Lucasfilm (and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan in particular) over their tendency to encourage improvisation on set, and you can see why the studio might prefer to simply toss out much of their footage.
The first comparison that comes to mind in a situation like this may be ‘Suicide Squad’, a film that has become infamous not only for its considerable, late in the game reshoots but also for the disjointed tone those changes created. However, given what I’ve laid out above, the more appropriate analogy would seem (hopefully) to be ‘Superman II’. If you’re not familiar with that film’s production history, the short version is that Richard Donner was hired with the intention of making ‘Superman: The Movie’ and ‘Superman II’ back-to-back. Over time, Donner’s relationship with producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind became one of constant conflict, to the point that the Salkinds unceremoniously fired Donner following the release of the first film. Donner had completed (by his estimation) some 75% of ‘Superman II’ prior to his dismissal. However, new director Richard Lester reshot much of Donner’s work, to the extent that only about a quarter of the finished film consists of Donner’s footage. In this case, the reshoots were partly to ensure a consistent feel to the film, partly to iron out continuity issues (there was a production hiatus of nearly two years while ‘Superman: The Movie’ was completed), and to ensure that Lester’s material made up at least 51% of the finished product (as required to receive a full directing credit under Director’s Guild rules). In other words, it seems likely that the main reason for the extensive reshoots on ‘Solo’ was to ensure a consistent feel, bring the film more in line with studio’s expectations, and put to bed any questions regarding directing credit.
In any case, the production of ‘Solo’ should make for a fascinating book in a few years.
‘Solo : A Star Wars Story’ is currently scheduled for release on May 25, 2018. The film stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Joonas Suotamo.