Actors who almost played Han Solo instead of Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Photo:
Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Photo: /

Even though Harrison Ford is one of the most famous actors of his generation, for many people as soon as they see his face, they immediately associate him with his performance as Han Solo. Though Ford had appeared in a handful of movies already by that point, Han Solo was undoubtedly the role that cemented the actor as a major movie star. It’s almost impossible to think of Han Solo without picturing Harrison Ford in the role, and yet, it almost never happened. Ford famously was not asked to audition for the role but rather to ready the lines for other actors auditioning for other roles. It wasn’t until Ford was in the room, that it became clear he was the best choice to play the roguish smuggler. However, even though Ford wasn’t technically auditioning for the role, that doesn’t mean that plenty of other people didn’t try out for the part. It seems that almost every actor working in the mid 1970s was called in to try out for Han Solo.

One of the biggest names that could have been Han Solo had things gone a different way was Christopher Walken. Of course he wasn’t a big name at the time, having only appeared in a few movies by that point. It seems that at the end of the audition process, director George Lucas had his trio of main characters narrowed down to two different sets of actors. Either Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher would all be cast together, or three entirely different actors would be given the roles. The person picked for Han Solo in that second set was Christopher Walken. While Lucas probably made the right choice given the success of Star Wars with the three actors that he ended up going with, Walken would become a breakout star of his own just a year later with his performance in The Deer Hunter.

Robert Englund, who would eventually be best known for playing Freddy in the Nightmare on Elm Street series was another actor who auditioned for the role of Han Solo. While we don’t know how close Englund ever came to landing the part, his audition ended up being one of the most important auditions in Star Wars history. Englund talked about reading the script and not being sure if he would be a good fit for the character of Han Solo but thinking that a different role would be perfect for his roommate, a young actor by the name of Mark Hamill. Englund took the script home and gave it to Hamill and convinced him to audition for the lead role of Luke Skywalker, which would end up changing both Hamill’s life and Star Wars forever.

As the years have gone on, plenty of actors have talked about having the chance to be in Star Wars, but turning the role down. Both Al Pacino and Burt Reynolds have claimed to have been offered the part of Han Solo, but turned it down, in one of the biggest “what if” choices of their careers. Reynolds claimed that he didn’t feel right for the part, while Pacino said that he didn’t understand the script and felt like he was being offered the role because of his success in The Godfather more than for his acting talents specifically. It’s important to note that Lucas has always talked about wanting unknown actors in the roles, which seems to contradict both Pacino’s and Reynold’s claim of being offered a part as both actors were undisputed stars by the time Star Wars would have been auditioning for roles. Still it’s very possible that while Lucas would have liked relative unknown actors to star in the movie, the movie studio financing the production would have liked a big movie star to attach to the production and if either actor had said yes, to the offer, the studio would have insisted that Lucas go with the bigger name for the part. Lucas did cast Sir Alec Guinness in the movie who was a very famous actor at the time, so it’s not like Lucas would have refused some star power if it had been a possibility to help the movie’s success.

Another actor who auditioned for the role was Glynn Turman, although he didn’t know what exactly he was auditioning for at the time. Turman, a black actor, recalled being pleased about being brought in to audition for the role, as the role didn’t specify a race. According to Turman, every role in those days would specify ‘black actor’, ‘white actor,’ or ‘Hispanic actor’ but the Han Solo part had no such specifications. Truman recalled feeling pleased that he was being called in specifically for his talent.

Of course, the mid 1970s wasn’t the only time that actors were auditioning for the role of Han Solo. When it was announced that Lucasfilm would be making a movie focusing on the origin story of the character, fans started to wildly speculate as to who might be called in to audition for the younger version of Han Solo. Of course this time around the situation wasn’t different. Lucasfilm wasn’t just looking for an actor to bring the character to life. They needed to find somebody who could not only live up to the legacy of the character that Harrison Ford had created, but could create a memorable performance of their own. It turns out that pretty much anybody that you might have guessed, probably got called in for an audition. Almost every young actor even close to the right age range at the time was called in to read for the part. In total, Lucasfilm auditioned more than 2,500 actors looking for the right person to take on the role. Miles Teller, Emory Cohen, Taron Egerton, Jack Reynor, Logan Lerman, Scott Eastwood, and Dave Franco, are just a handful of the names that were called in to possibly try and fill the shoes of Harrison Ford in the role. Many of these actors who didn’t get the part have since gone on to discuss the audition in interviews with some admitting they were secretly glad about being passed over because they would have been intimidated about taking on such an iconic character or they may have simply felt that they were not right for the role. However a few interesting notes on those passed over for the role include Miles Teller mentioning that he hadn’t seen the original Star Wars trilogy at all growing up and only ever got around to watching the movies to prepare for his Han Solo audition. Also Scott Eastwood, son of the famous actor and director Clint Eastwood was a popular pick for fans during the speculation and was actually on the list of eight final choices, but his age is likely what kept him from getting the part in the end. Lucasfilm at the time was looking for an actor who would be able to play Han Solo across multiple movies and Eastwood, at 29 was the oldest actor on the list of eight finalists.

In the end, we’re all lucky that things worked out the way that they did. We not only got what turned out to be the perfect Han Solo, but the success of the movie helped launch Harrison Ford into a career that resulted in many more wonderful performances in many wonderful films. But it will still always be interesting to wonder “what if” and speculate on all the different things that might have been, if someone else had ended up in the role.