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A number of people had a number of issues with Solo: A Star Wars Story when it came out last year. It turns out that one of the film's writers may agree with at least one of the criticisms. Overnight, Solo co-writer Jon Kasdan took to Twitter to drop a lot of interesting information about the film, released on Digital today, including the fact that, in his opinion, Thandie Newton really got the shaft in the movie. According to Kasdan...
In retrospect, Thandie Newton may have actually been too good and too interesting as Val. It was always in the design of the story that Beckett would lose his trusted crew members during the Conveyex Job-gone-wrong and be forced to rely on newbies, Han and Chewie, and this would also open the door for Lando, Qi'ra and L3 to join the crew, but Thandie is so compelling to watch that the death of her character feels a little like a cheat. It's an odd and unexpected problem that comes with working with such amazing, compelling actors in the Star Wars universe. You just want more of them.
It can be a tough thing to balance when sometimes you have a character with an important role, but that role is to die at the end of the first act. Jon Kasdan says that it was always in the plan for Beckett's crew to die on the heist and leave him with only Han and Chewbacca, but then the movie went and cast the great Thandie Newton in the role of Val, and so a lot of people took issue with her being killed off.
On the one hand, if people had known going in, it might not have been such a problem, but movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story make sure to keep spoilers locked down, so when we heard Thandie Newton was being cast, everybody assumed it was for an significant role. We had no reason to believe she would die so soon.
Of course, on the other hand, casting a great actress like Thandie Newton is part of the reason the death works so well. Because you don't expect a movie to kill off a great actress like the Westworld star so quickly, you're utterly taken aback when the story blows her up. Thandie Newton's character had her own movie poster alongside the other big stars, which was obviously done specifically to hide what happened, and it worked. If a smaller name was in the role, you're less surprised when they don't survive.
The thing is, while part of the issue was that the Solo: A Star Wars Story blew up Thandie Newton, the other part of the problem was that Solo blew up the second biggest female role in the movie, and the only one being played by a woman of color. Once Val was dead, there was only one major role being played by a woman at all. This would have been an issue in Solo regardless of who was cast in the part. While the Star Wars franchise has been doing a better job with women characters of late, that's only because they started close to zero, and even now the movies can't seem to break away from casting anything other than white brunettes. Thandie Newton was a major exception, so a lot of people were hoping she'd stick around.
From his comments, it sounds like Jon Kasdan may be starting to regret that somebody as "interesting" as Thandie Newton was in that role. If anything, the issue was that Val wasn't interesting enough because the audience didn't get to spend enough time to get to know her.
Sometimes, to tell the story you want to tell, characters have to die, and if you want those deaths to have an impact on the audience they have to care about the character. Casting Thandie Newton helped that work, but it wouldn't be terrible if Star Wars found a place for the actress, and other equally as interesting actresses, in the future.