One of the biggest surprises about the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the fact that Harrison Ford agreed to reprise his role as Han Solo. While Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill have stayed active in the Star Wars fan community, Ford had kept his distance for over 30 years.
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy recently shared the surreal memory of Ford’s first day on set for The Force Awakens. And it was a moment that no involved with the film expected.
“The minute Harrison and Chewie walked on board the Millennium Falcon — that was incredible,” recalled Kennedy. “Every single person on the set was stunned. I remember turning around, and there must have been 200 people gathered behind me — completely quiet. I didn’t even know they were there. The whole crew had stopped working, staring at the monitor, because it was so iconic…Harrison was going through his own experience, finding that place for himself again, to return to something that had been so much a part of his identity and acting career. It was his own little personal journey, but once he got there, it was amazing. I mean, he was Han Solo again. That’s why everybody else got so quiet! They were like, ‘Oh my God, he’s back!’”
Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan added, “It was sort of surreal for everybody, and it wasn’t just Han, it wasn’t just Harrison. It was seeing all this stuff. The Millennium Falcon has been a big part of my life, from Empire to Jedi to Force Awakens — and now I’ve written a movie about the young Han. So the Falcon has enormous resonance for me. And I don’t know if you can imagine what it would be like to watch things being shot on that set with those people.”
Ford’s reunion with Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) also took Kennedy by surprise.
“We had a dinner and the whole cast was reunited just before we started shooting,” said Kennedy. “I had no idea how close Peter and Harrison were. And when Harrison came into the room and Peter was sitting down, he just went over and gave him the biggest hug, and you could just see that there had been this incredible relationship between these two.”
Ford’s leg was broken during an accident on the set, and director J.J. Abrams badly injured his back while trying to help Ford. Despite that, Abrams now sees the accident as a “gift” that allowed him and Kasdan to rewrite some scenes they weren’t happy with and reshoot some of the footage.
“It was obviously a horrible experience that I wish had never happened for obvious reasons,” noted Abrams. “But the truth is, once we knew that Harrison was going to be okay, we all realized this was the greatest gift to the movie, and I would think that any filmmaker would say, ‘If I could get a break after a month of shooting, for a few weeks, to recalibrate, I would take it.’”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens launches into theaters on December 18.
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