Packed with hundreds of fantastic images from concept art, paintings, and sketches, The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story provides a behind-the-scenes look into the creative process of the film.
Written by Lucasfilm creative art manager Phil Szostak, author of all the new Art of Star Wars books in the Disney era, this version literally paints a broad picture of the incredible depths the writers and artists took to create this prequel story. Szostak lays out the book similar to the way the movie flows, exploring the development not only of each character and location, but also of the story itself. Throughout the pages, it’s evident that The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story shows the passion and the reverence the creators have for the character of Han Solo.
The story of Han Solo was something many wanted to see ever since his first appearance in A New Hope in 1977. What caused Han to have such a cynical view of the galaxy? How did Han and Chewie meet? These questions and many more had to be addressed in this story and depicted for the first time in concept. Pulling references from the 60s and 70s films and pop culture, the creative team led by James Clyne, were inspired by this retro age. Films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, McCabe & Mrs. Miller and The Driver, were constant references. The title character needed to embody this spirit. Han is a renegade, a cowboy, the hero of his own story. In many ways, the artists approached the look and feel of Solo as a period piece.
Concept artist Iain McCaig first designed a young Solo back in pre-development of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In early drafts of that film, Han appeared on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, in the care of Chewbacca. That scene never made into the final film, so Larry Kasdan and his son, Jon, re-imagined that story. Artist Adam Brockbank took inspiration for a teenage Solo from The Clash and The Outsiders in his concept work.
Qi’ra, also known as Kura in early drafts, is unlike any previous Star Wars heroine. A love interest for Han Solo, she’s not a queen nor a princess. She’s not a poor desert scavenger from nowhere. And, she once was considered to be an alien. In early concept development, the creative team explored this idea. Ultimately, they felt the design became too similar to a Star Trek alien or steampunk-like than Star Wars. Artist Iain McCaig’s depiction of what Qi’ra might have been is stunning.
In designing Lady Proxima, creature effects and creative supervisor Neal Scanlan said, “Proxima is like some sort of plant with roots growing out – all-consuming. Everything is feeding off of everything, including her aides and these tiny pod-like babies that are being spawned off of her.” Concept designers and sculptors Jake Lunt Davies, Luke Fisher, Ivan Manzella, and Martin Rezard all had a hand in the design process of Proxima and how she connected to Moloch and the White Worms.
Han Meets Chewie
Solo: A Star Wars Story is the film audiences finally see how Han and Chewie meet. Joonas Suotamo brings the lovable Chewbacca to life in this version of Star Wars. The chemistry between Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo) and Joonas is magical. The concept team had a lot to live up to in creating their first meeting. The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story is filled with images depicting that first meeting. In early drafts, Kasdan intended for our two would-be heroes to develop a relationship while fighting on the battle grounds of Mimban. In fact, Chewie and other enslaved Wookiees were once depicted fighting for the Empire in stormtrooper armor on Mimban. There is nothing like a Wookiee in Stormtrooper gear!
With the development of Rio Durant, the concept artists mashed two characters together: a squid monkey named Zapf and a multi-eyed humanoid alien creature based on actor Wilford Brimley.
Much care is taken with the development of Beckett’s nemesis Enfys Nest. Costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman were challenged to develop a mask that would rival the iconic costumes of the original trilogy, yet feel truly Star Wars. Rejected designs for Enfys Nest would be used for her Cloud Riders. The inspiration for the mask was taken from a Japanese dolphin skull.
Early on, Dryden Vos was a dinosaur and bird combination. At one point, artists even considered Vos to be a Lasat (the species of Zeb from Dave Filoni’s Star Wars Rebels animated series). However, when Paul Bettany came onto the scene, that idea changed quickly.
The Millennium Falcon
Of all the designs in Solo: A Star Wars Story, arguably the boldest one is the redesign of the most recognizable ship in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon. Utilizing Joe Johnston’s original sketch of the Millennium Falcon, the design team set to work. The final design closely resembles famed Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie’s version of the Falcon, a cleaner, sleeker version. And, the interior of the Falcon had to match the exterior. 2001: A Space Odyssey became the inspiration for the padding and the pristine feel. Lando’s white, black and yellow color palette solidified the look.
Originally, L3-37 came as a packaged deal with the Falcon. Early designs set out to create not only a great droid, but a memorable personality as well. Taking into consideration that Phoebe Waller-Bridge would play the role in a practical suit ultimately informed the final design.
The Space Train on Vandor
The train heist on Vandor was straight out of a western. Utilizing painting references from renowned western artist Frederick Remington, the concept team designed scenes that could have been plucked out of the John Wayne classic, Stagecoach, yet set in a futuristic, Star Wars landscape.
One of the most fascinating looks into the development process comes in the pages of the conveyex train design. Clyne put forth the idea that the train would have a top and bottom and the track would run through the middle. When developing the mechanics of how it would work on screen, the concept team used an ILMxLab virtual reality program to see how it would function in VR. Furthermore, when the directors wanted to know if a character could jump from car to car, Clyne tested it out in the virtual reality space by running and jumping from virtual car to virtual car.
Vandor was also the home of the famed Sabacc game. With the never-before-seen gambling room also came the most alien rich scenes since the original trilogy. Creatures like the “crocamole,” a combination of a crocodile and sawfish. Or, Six-Eyes. The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story showcases them all. The artists reference fifties pulp sci-fi for many of the alien designs resulting in the retro-Original Trilogy feel.
Kessel Droid Revolution
Never has Star Wars shown so much love for droids than in this anthology series. L3-37 finds her true calling, liberating the droids who are slaves to the Pyke Syndicate in the spice mines of Kessel. Gonk droids, astromechs, and various protocol droids are abundant in the Kessel control room.
It’s clearly stated throughout The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story that the hero of this film is on a journey that mirrors the American journey. Our hero, Han Solo, travels from the eastern industrial cityscape of Corellia to the western frontier depicted by Savareen, a place where the desert meets the sea. This is the end of the journey where the hero is tested one last time. For this frontier, the concept team drew inspiration from painters of the American West. Artists such as Frederick Church, Albert Bierstadt, and Ansel Adams were referenced when scouting the locations for filming as well as designing the scene. And, in true Star Wars concept art fashion, the team drew heavily upon the work of Ralph McQuarrie once again, specifically, his scenes of Bespin. The rusted cityscape with skeletal domed silos became an inspiration for the showdown on Savareen.
So Much More
The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story is packed with incredible images, a behind-the-scenes narrative, and insights into the development of the story itself. The love for the characters and staying true to the mythology created by George Lucas is evident. This should be a regular fixture on every coffee table or bookshelf.
Kendall Schroeder saw the original Star Wars in a small theater in the summer of his 10th birthday and immediately fell in love with the Far Away Galaxy. Pretending to be either Jedi Luke Skywalker or Colonel Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, Kendall always believed he had special powers. Maybe that’s why he truly believes there is good in all people. And, he will stop at nothing to help rid the world of evil. When Kendall is not creating art, he is leading educators as the head of an online school. Kendall lives in West Michigan with his wife and two kids.