Alden Ehrenreich thrilled to be Han Solo

Alden Ehrenreich (above) was an unknown who was discovered by Steven Spielberg.
Alden Ehrenreich (above) was an unknown who was discovered by Steven Spielberg.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

WASHINGTON • Unless you are a film buff, the name Alden Ehrenreich might not mean much to you.

Soon, it will - on Sunday, Disney and Lucasfilm officially confirmed that the 26-year-old actor will play young Han Solo in a standalone film about the character's origins.

He has big shoes to fill, but he should not worry. Harrison Ford's name did not carry much recognition either, when he took the role of Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie in 1977.

At that point, Ford had not been in much, a handful of indie films, a couple of episodes of Gunsmoke and a small role in American Graffiti (1973). As the story - which Ford perpetuates - goes, he had given up acting for carpentry, which he viewed as a more stable career.

"I left acting to become a carpenter because our second baby was coming and we like to eat. I wasn't making it as an actor," he said at the time, according to Huffington Post. The role did not make him a star in the way that Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) would, but it set him up to become Indiana Jones. It arguably kept him acting.

Still, Ford, now 74, has always seemed to hold his character and Star Wars as a whole in disdain. As Entertainment Weekly noted, he reportedly turned down hundreds, possibly even thousands, of offers to appear at cast reunions and Star Wars events.

At one event that he did attend, he said of Star Wars: "I don't know that I understood it very well. I'm not sure I understand it yet.

"Three is enough for me," he said in an interview after the final film of the original trilogy, then his tone shifted harshly. "I was glad to see that costume for the last time."

And as recently as 2010, he told ABC that he wanted Han Solo to be killed off. "As a character, he was not so interesting to me," he said.

In fact, when Entertainment Weekly received a tip that he might reprise the character in the new Star Wars franchise, the anonymous source went out of his/her way to say: "He's upbeat about it."

Much like Ford, Han Solo will likely be Ehrenreich's break. Unlike Ford, it seems like he actually wants the part. During the panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe, he seemed genuinely pleased to be part of the new Star Wars universe. At one point, he donned a Stormtrooper mask and wandered around the convention.

When discussing screen-testing for the part, he bubbled over with joy. "I never acted with a Wookie," he said. "It was pretty awesome."

It is probably for the best, as the audition process could not have been without stress.

Ehrenreich was the first person to audition out of 3,000, a process that dragged on for six months.

He is not the only one who seems pleased with the role.

"Thrilled Alden Ehrenreich is confirmed as the new Han Solo," one user tweeted.

"Alden Ehrenreich is an awesome actor. Glad he's going to be Han Solo," tweeted another.

"I'm so proud of Alden Ehren- reich right now. He's one of my fav actors and seeing him grow in his career is just awesome," tweeted a third.

And while his may not be a household name, he has worked with a dream list of the medium's best directors, a list many actors work their whole career to achieve - Francis Ford Coppola and the Coen Brothers, to name a few.

But he had received accolades much earlier in life. Steven Spielberg was attending the bat mitzvah of his daughter's friend when he noticed a 14-year-old Ehrenreich, according to IMDB. Word got around of the young actor and Coppola took him under his wing, casting him in Tetro (2009), Ehrenreich's first feature-length film.

He would appear in another Coppola-directed movie before appearing in Allen's Blue Jasmine (2013). Finally, he has one of the leading roles in Rules Don't Apply, a Warren Beatty film about Howard Hughes, which is set to come out in November.

Given that, there are not many young actors who would be more prepared to handle such a culturally important role.

The untitled Han Solo movie, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of 2014's The Lego Movie and 2012's 21 Jump Street fame), is set to come out in May 2018.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'Alden Ehrenreich thrilled to be Han Solo'. Print Edition | Subscribe