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Few characters from the Star Wars mythos are as beloved as scruffy looking nerf herder Han Solo. As the iconic role that helped propel Harrison Ford to stardom, Solo is one of the best on-screen anti-heroes of all time. While both Ford and Solo make a return in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ford has admitted that he fought hard for the character not to survive the events of Return of the Jedi. Here's why.
In an appearance on Conan, the late night host questions Harrison Ford on the possibility of killing Han Solo during the original trilogy. Ford explains that he felt it made perfect sense from a storytelling point of view:
It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… I thought the best utility of the character would be for him to sacrifice himself to a high ideal and give a little bottom, a little gravitas to the enterprise, not that there wasn’t some already but I just wanted in on some part of it. That was at the third occasion of filming the original three.
Allowing Han Solo to die in such a manner would really represent the culmination of the character’s entire story arc. When audiences were first introduced to the Corellian smuggler in A New Hope, he cares for little aside from money and his own well being. While most fans likely were happy to see Solo make it to the end of Return of the Jedi without a scratch on him, Ford definitely has a point. For Solo to willingly give his life for those he cares about in the service of a higher cause would take the character about as far as he could go in terms of development.
He also explains that such a sacrifice would allow the character to lend more "gravitas" to the proceedings than he had usually allowed for. When compared to characters like Luke Skywalker or Leia Organa, Solo was generally always a bit more aloof than his companions, rarely engaging in the more dramatic elements of the Star Wars films. His death would have represented one of the only major sacrifices in the original trilogy, solidifying his legacy as an icon of the franchise forever.
Check out the clip below to check out the rest of the interview between Ford and Conan:
Ultimately, keeping the character around seems to have worked in the favor of the franchise. Han Solo has returned for The Force Awakens, and his involvement seemingly allows for a changing of the guard, handing the franchise over to a new, young cast to carry on his legacy. Had Solo been killed during Return of the Jedi, we would have been robbed of the poignancy his presence has provided The Force Awakens. If you’re a Han Solo fan – and we know you are – be sure to check out The Force Awakens, which is in theaters now.