Why The Writer Of Empire Strikes Back Wanted To Address The “Han Shot First” Controversy

Solo: A Star Wars Story‘s many, many Star Wars Easter eggs and references aren’t limited to simple in-universe callbacks. There’s even one moment late in the film that directly calls out, in a very meta way, the most infamous change George Lucas made in his widely despised remasters of the original Star Wars trilogy. We’re talking, of course, about “Han shot first.”

In Solo, Woody Harrelson’s grizzled scoundrel Tobias Beckett repeatedly tells young Han not to trust anyone. After a predictable series of double crosses, the two face one another on the sand, in glorious old West showdown style. And this time, unlike in Lucas’s “updated” version of A New Hope, Han absolutely, unequivocally shoots first.

It’s a great payoff from an in-fiction story perspective. Han has been bright-eyed and bushy-tailed throughout Solo, and his naive optimism gets him into trouble more than once. Fans know that Han is significantly more jaded by the time we catch up with him ten years later in Episode IV. Taking Beckett’s advice to heart and betraying his sort-of-mentor before Beckett can double cross him again is a big step on Han’s path toward becoming the character we know.

But even more than that, the moment felt satisfying on a meta level–reassuring, even. George Lucas’s history-altering change to the cantina scene, in which he added an extra blaster shot so that Han technically shoots Greedo in self defense, was an attempt to sand the rough edge off the character. Sure, he’s a scoundrel and a villain. But he’s not a killer–at least, not anymore.

That doctored scene, blasphemy though it might be, may well be the canonical version of events (depending who you ask). But even if it is, Solo‘s “Han shoots first” scene is a direct rebuttal: This is who Han Solo is. It’s the executives and creatives at Disney acknowledging that the Han Solo fans have always preferred–the one who shoots first–is the real Han Solo, no matter what actor is playing him.

Solo‘s writers, Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, certainly see it that way.

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“That was part of the reason I wanted to do it,” Lawrence Kasdan, who also co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, told GameSpot during a recent interview. “George [Lucas] really wrote that idea, and then he backed off that idea, and it bothered me enormously, since A New Hope is so important to me. And part of what I love about that scene in the cantina, which is one of the greatest scenes ever, was that it was realistic and hardboiled in the way I wanted it to be. So it’s really bothered me.”

The writer mentioned the “movement” among fans who consider Lucas’s re-working of the scene to be “revisionist history,” and he’s definitely in agreement with them. He added that when his son, Jonathan Kasdan, came onboard to co-write Solo: A Star Wars Story with him, they knew it was one of the few things they would have to address.

“We didn’t have a long checklist of things we were going to do,” Lawrence Kasdan explained. “But that’s one we wanted to do.”

Jonathan Kasdan added that the character Tobias Beckett evolved into a perfect fit for that moment in the film.

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“That’s when we arrived on the idea of Beckett,” he said. “It was one of those cathartic moments that you occasionally have when you’re writing, where it gelled that [Han] would have this Long John Silver type relationship, this Neil McCauley [Robert De Niro’s character in the 1995 crime movie Heat] mentor, and that that would be the person who would finally teach him this invaluable lesson that he’d carry with him his whole life. It seemed organic to the story we wanted to tell.”

Say whatever else you want about Solo, but love it or hate it otherwise, this, at least, is awesome.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now. Also check out our history of the Millennium Falcon, where Solo takes place in the Star Wars timeline, whether C-3PO gets his usual cameo, and everything you need to know about the Star Wars card game sabacc. And if you’re not worried about spoilers, we even have a rundown of Solo‘s most shocking cameo.

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