The original Star Wars is a mashup of influences from sci-fi serials and samurai movies, so it makes sense that other installments of the franchise would also take a lot of inspiration from other classic films. That's the case with the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story, which goes back before the events of the first movie to show the early adventures of Han Solo, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian.
Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on the scripts for The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, teamed up with his son Jon for the Solo screenplay, and during their collaboration they looked to favorite movies and books they wanted to evoke with the new Star Wars Story.
Below is a list of these influences, mostly stories of gangsters, pirates and cowboys, as revealed to Entertainment Weekly. The Kasdans also provided commentary about these movies' connection to the young Han Solo chronicles, particularly Han's relationship with his criminal mentor, Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Check out the EW article for more quotes.
Han is sort of a space pirate, a criminal smuggler with a ship that sails freely through the sea of space. One specific story of pirates, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, which has been adapted to the screen numerous times, informed the dynamic between Han and Beckett. Jon Kasdan says of the comparisons to Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver:
We wanted [Solo] to be a boy’s adventure story, but one in which he encounters characters of dubious intent, and that everyone he would encounter would sort of inform his maturation as an adult...We were talking a lot about Long John Silver and his relationship with the kid in Treasure Island.
It's not surprising that another Star Wars movie would borrow from a Western, given all the John Ford influence on both the original and prequel trilogies. For Solo, though, the Kasdans revisited this Oscar-winning revisionist Western by Clint Eastwood. Jon Kasdan says:
There’s a feeling in Unforgiven between the kid and Clint that hits the kind of [apprentice/gunslinger] relationship we were interested in... [Unforgiven] is obviously a much darker movie than [Solo] is.
Han is known for being an outlaw and operating in the seedier parts of the Star Wars Galaxy, so crime films have to be part of the makeup of Solo. Michael Mann's Heat is one of the best of the genre to take as an influence, but just how does it figure into the sci-fi story? Lawrence Kasdan explains:
We talked about the relationship between Val Kilmer and Robert De Niro in Heat, where there’s a sort of older, wiser criminal, and then someone who’s learning the ropes from them. We wanted this movie to have that flavor and that swagger. ... No one is reliable. There’s always a chance of betrayal. And, I wanted to take what is essentially a street smart, but very innocent, young man, and figure out how could we start him on the journey to being the character who comes into the cantina.
Gangster No. 1 and Layer Cake
Han has also dealt with the criminal underworld of the Star Wars Galaxy, mixing up with godfather types like Jabba the Hutt and other nefarious groups and individuals. So, the Kasdans looked to early 2000s British gangster movies such as Paul McGuigan Gangster No. 1 and Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake. As it turns out, Gangster No. 1 stars Paul Bettany, who also wound up in the part of Solo's crime boss Dryden Vox (taking over from Michael K. Williams during reshoots), a character inspired by Bettany's own role in the earlier movie. Jon Kasdan says:
Gangster No. 1 is a wild movie, and Paul is great in it. It’s a combination of class and swagger and real danger, which I think is a fun thing, and he absolutely inhabits it. [Vox is] way deeper in the world than anyone else that we meet in the movie, but again, Woody’s character is a career criminal, too. They’re just in slightly different places, much like a movie like Layer Cake, where you see a [Michael Gambon]-type of character who’s a little more advanced. Within the criminal underworld, there’s no hierarchy. There are some that are in power, and there’s some that are scrambling to stay alive.
Miller's Crossing and The Big Lebowski
Solo is said to be the funniest Star Wars movie yet, and some of that humor might be inspired by the Coen Brothers, whom the Kasdans cite as an influence. They actually name one of the duo's more serious gangster films, Miller's Crossing, along with a comedic take on classic detective fiction, The Big Lebowski. Are Han and Chewbacca modeled after the latter's Dude and Walter? Jon Kasdan says:
Larry and I are both huge Coen brothers fans, and we talk a lot about that [relationship] as a reference...[We were] trying to create a crime movie where our character was entering a crime world where there were already dramas in place and relationships and complications, and we have to see him negotiate a lot more rivalries than he is expecting at the beginning of the story...[Solo] has that flavor of a crime world that has weirdness and surprise and people stumbling into things -- and other people very intentionally getting into [trouble]. The Big Lebowski is a great example because Solo has a more off-kilter tone than you’ve ever seen in [Star Wars].
See exactly how these seven influences show themselves in Solo: A Star Wars Story when the movie hits theaters on May 25.