Why Recasting Star Wars Characters Like Han Solo Is Better Than Using CGI

Alden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo in Solo: A Star Wars Story
(Image credit: Disney)

A lot of people love Star Wars. However, it must be saId that not everybody loves the Star Wars movies that we have seen over the last few years. While the films have, for the most part, made a lot of money, they have also been strongly criticized by fans for a number of reasons. As such, it often seems that even Lucasfilm isn't quite sure what to do with the franchise.

A recent piece in Vanity Fair gave us a sneak peek at what Star Wars is planning going forward. One of the comments that has received a lot of interest from fans comes from Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy who, in reference to the idea of recasting an iconic character like Han Solo, as was done with Alden Ehrenreich for the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, said, “Now it does seem so abundantly clear that we can’t do that”

That's not to say that we won't continue to see legacy characters appearing in future Star Wars projects. As recently as The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+, we've seen CGI technology used to recreate an Original Trilogy-era Luke Skywalker. So it seems that while we will continue to see classic Star Wars characters appearing in brand-new films and TV shows, the plan is to handle them strictly with CGI rather than recasting. This is a bad idea.

Alden Ehrenreich in Solo: A star wars story

(Image credit: Disney)

Solo’s Problem Wasn't Recasting 

The implication from Kathleen Kennedy’s statement about Solo: A Star Wars Story, is that the reason Solo is thus far the least successful new Star Wars movie is because of the decision to cast a new actor in the classic role. The feeling, apparently, is that fans simply could not accept another actor playing Han Solo and that's why the movie was not a hit.

It seems odd to lay Solo’s less-than-stellar box office entirely at the feet of deciding to cast Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo. Solo: A Star Wars Story had one of the most chaotic and wild productions in recent memory. Lucasfilm actually took the nearly unprecedented step of firing the movie’s original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, in the middle of production, and brought in an entirely new director, Ron Howard, to reshoot significant portions of what had already been done to complete the movie. This was done without changing the film's planned release date. That's giving the new director a very hard job to do, and not a lot of time to do it.

While certainly not everybody was a massive fan of Alden Ehrenreich's performance as Han Solo, the movie had other issues that went above and beyond his performance. The reason Solo wasn’t a smash was likely a combination of several reasons, and maybe the casting was one of them, but since we can’t exactly control for the other factors, we can’t really blame that alone. 

Luke and Grogu in The Book of Boba Fett.

(Image credit: Disney+)

The Mandalorian’s Success Wasn’t CGI 

The ability to use digital effects to transform an older actor into a younger version of themselves, or to create the face of an entirely different actor, is incredibly impressive technology. We've watched this tech evolve from the days of Tron: Legacy where, let's be honest, it didn't look great, to The Book of Boba Fett, where its Luke Skywalker looks a lot like the Luke Skywalker from Return of the Jedi.

But the thing is, that's not Mark Hamill. We get to hear his voice and we get to see his face but it's not him and we know it's not him. Even if the CGI looks really good, we know we’re just looking at impressive technology. 

While the fans seem to largely be accepting of using technology to recreate Luke Skywalker, we’ve only had to ingest this in small doses. It seems likely that if we had to watch a whole movie with a main character like this, the slightly-off look would wear down some people over a feature length. If anybody remembers Will Smith Gemini Man, you know what I mean.

CGI Leia in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Bringing Back Original Trilogy Characters Will Always Look Weird 

Star Wars, of course, has a problem due to the fact that it is a film franchise that has been around for over 40 years. The characters that a lot of fans fell in love with back at the beginning were played by actors who are now much older. As the Star Wars universe continues to expand, it's understandable that there would be interest in telling stories during the Original Trilogy era, but bringing back the original actor simply isn't always an option.

So there are two basic choices. One, you can recast the role and simply hire a new actor to play that same character as they did in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Two, you can use cutting-edge digital effects to recreate the face of that younger character on an actor, possibly the original actor, or more likely an entirely new actor. 

At the end of the day, there simply isn't an option that isn't going to be a little weird. While you can cast a new actor, they will never look exactly like the original actor in that role. And as impressive as the CGI technology is for recreating faces, we're still in a place where it is easy to tell when this technology is being used. Perhaps it's not quite the “uncanny valley" anymore, but it is obvious and a little off-putting regardless.

Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story

(Image credit: Disney)

If Things Are Going To Look “Wrong” Either Way, Let Actors Act 

People love the characters they grew up with and are going to want to see them again over time. There’s nothing ultimately wrong with that. The world may not have ever needed a Han Solo origin story movie, but that doesn't mean it's somehow impossible to make a good one. 

Audiences can handle new actors in old roles, and recasting happens all the time for all sorts of reasons. A new actor can always bring something new to a performance that a character has never seen before, and that’s ok. It’s what actors are supposed to do.

Donald Glover's performance in Solo: A Star Wars Story is one of the elements that was broadly praised in the movie, and the reason it worked is not because Lando Calrissian is a less "iconic" character than Han Solo, it's because it was a great performance by a great actor. If CGI had been used to make Glover look more like a young Billy Dee Williams, that performance would have been significantly hampered.

I’m not saying we need a two-hour origin story movie for every popular character, but if we’re going to get those movies, and if they’re good movies with good actors, audiences will accept them.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.