Solo writers on finally bringing the Kessel Run to life

May 25, 2018 Danny Munso

For your reading pleasure, please enjoy this excerpt from Backstory’s Solo: A Star Wars Story interview with scribes Jon and Lawrence Kasdan  from Backstory Issue 32.

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***NOTE: This excerpt is SPOILER HEAVY – please only read if you want SPOILER SPECIFIC insight***

No movie about Han Solo’s early exploits would be complete without the legendary Kessel Run, which Han famously bragged the Millennium Falcon made in “less than 12 parsecs.” Aside from its vague mythical reputation, however, the Kessel Run had no real details to hew to for a writer, so the Kasdans had to figure out how to live up to the legend while making the Kessel Run central to the story. “We thought, How do we have a ticking clock that forces this to be the fastest journey in history?” Jonathan Kasdan says. “And how do we assemble the most fun possible crew for that mission?” The Kasdans were inspired by Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic 1955 film Wages of Fear and William Friedkin’s equally beloved 1977 remake Sorcerer, which tracked a motley crew of outcasts transporting a load of unstable nitroglycerin through the South American jungle. Instead of nitroglycerine, Han and his crew would be hauling unrefined coaxium. The key plot payoff anchoring the Kessel Run’s resolution was always the early chase scene on Corellia, where Han tries to squeeze through the tight space by flipping the stolen speeder sideways and winds up getting stuck. “We knew we wanted it to end with Qi’ra and Han back in that situation and him saying to her, ‘This time it’s gonna work.’ ” He notes that the sequence went through a slew of iterations as the writers tried different ideas, so unsurprisingly the Kessel Run was even longer in early drafts. “Ultimately, what we arrived at feels like a very pure expression of our intentions when we sat down.”

As most people know by now, original directors Christopher Lord and Phil Miller were fired well into production by Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy over conflicting styles between the improvisational Lord and Miller and the more structured Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan. Fortunately, Oscar winner and Lucasfilm friend Ron Howard stepped right in. “Ron’s attitude when he came in was not, ‘I’m going to just shoot these days.’ He’s like, ‘I’m going to make this movie mine, and Jon, you’re going to stay and write this thing with me again and make sure we understand each moment.’ ” This meant many scenes were reshot, but the scribes embraced the opportunity and challenge of it. “Every time you reshoot a scene,” says Lawrence, “you always take advantage of the moment and question everything you’ve done until you say, ‘Well, that stands up. I don’t want to change it.’ ” And Howard, as always, did make his mark. Jonathan points out one specific change to the Kessel Run that resulted from the director’s visual input. “Ron had such a positive experience on [2013 race car drama] Rush, it informed his take on how to approach the driver/flyer aspect of Han’s journey,” he says. “When we got back into the Kessel Run and were really figuring out the nuts and bolts of it, the idea of injecting the coaxium directly into the engine literally came from Ron.” What began as a shot idea quickly turned into a key story element of the Millennium Falcon’s escape from the gravity well and out of the Maelstrom, and this kind of change happened throughout the script.

To read the complete article in Issue 32 of Backstory, click HERE to subscribe or buy it as a single issue.

For more info on the contents of Issue 32, view the Table of Contents.