I imagine getting the call telling you you’re cool enough to play a young Han Solo is the kind of moment actors dream of. For Alden Ehrenreich, however, that trip in the Millennium Falcon may have been fun at the time, but it had far-reaching consequences on his career that he’s only just starting to use to his advantage.
Being involved in Star Wars in the modern era isn’t quite the promised land for performers like it was for the original Star Wars cast. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher were catapulted into fame and success after portraying their respective Star Wars characters, but more recently, the likes of Ehrenreich, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley haven’t had it as easy.
The commercial failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story was, in part, pinned on Ehrenreich and his performance as Han Solo. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Ehrenreich opened up about the impact that had on his career: “You just try to navigate, as we all do, caring too much about what other people think of you, and you try to listen to something that’s more important. It’s very, very hard to do.”
After Solo’s perceived shortcomings — a $400 million worldwide gross against a $275 million budget — Ehrenreich did not appear in a film for five years. In 2023, the actor is back on the scene in a big way, having played key roles in the comedy movie Cocaine Bear, the new Christopher Nolan movie, Oppenheimer, and the Netflix hit, Fair Play. Throughout that absence, it was assumed Solo had closed all the doors it was supposed to open for Ehrenreich, but that’s not entirely true.
Discussing the lack of work post-Solo, Ehrenreich explained his more stringent selection process: “I don’t want to do projects on the cut. I don’t want to do things I don’t really love if I can avoid it — and with the cadence now, you kind of have to be doing a certain amount of projects… There are things that I really wanted that I didn’t get. The heartbreaker is when the director goes, ‘You’re who I want, but I can’t cast you because they need to have this guy who came off this thing.’”
Such is the nature of the beast when it comes to acting, I’m sure, that you have to put yourself out there to gain traction and get more roles, but at the same time, you can’t just take on any project otherwise you could land yourself in a career-killing role. In fairness to Ehrenreich, he’s not done a bad job picking this batch of new movies for himself, with Oppenheimer being a particular highlight.
Ultimately, this year Ehrenreich has managed to prove what we already knew: he’s a very talented actor. As for Solo, sure, it isn’t the best science fiction movie you’re ever going to see, but it was damn good fun. Of the criticisms you could throw at the film, Ehrenreich is entirely innocent, in my eyes. Stepping into Harrison Ford’s shoes as one of the most iconic heroes of all time must be a daunting task, but Ehrenreich managed to pay tribute to his predecessor just enough without mimicking, and also added his own, fresh quirks to the character, too.
What makes his situation even more frustrating is the fact that Solo changed quite dramatically during production, with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller exiting halfway through and handing over to Ron Howard. On that process, Ehrenreich said: “I loved the original spirit of how they wanted to make [Solo].” You have to wonder just how much better the end product might have been had the original plan been adhered to, and whether Ehrenreich’s performance might have been given more chance to flourish with Lord and Miller’s style.
Alas, all’s well that ends well. We’ve got Ehrenreich back on our screens and that’s the main thing! So, no need to cry over spilled Bantha milk, but you can rewatch all the Star Wars movies in order again and see if the negativity towards Solo was as unfair as I think it was. You can also dive into the assortment of Star Wars series on offer, or think about the new Star Wars movies on the horizon. Alternatively, if this isn’t the galaxy you’re looking for, you could be more keen on Avatar 3, which we know plenty about, too.