A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
It’s a hunt that would make Jabba the Hutt proud.
According to sources, more than 2,500 actors have met on the project or put themselves on tape, with casting director Jeanne McCarthy running point on finding the man to fill the vest made famous by Harrison Ford in the first Star Wars trilogy and The Force Awakens, which opens Dec. 18.
The contenders are being whittled down before Star Wars spinoff directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who worked with McCarthy on the hit Jump Street films, hone in on their Han. The movie isn’t due to shoot until January 2017 for a May 25, 2018, release, so they have plenty of time to make a choice.
“This has been the easiest movie to audition for,” says an agent with a client who has auditioned. “They are seeing everyone.”
The strategy is a 180 degree turn from the plan producers took to find the young stars of The Force Awakens, the upcoming movie that relaunches the Star Wars franchise under the direction of Disney and Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy. Director J.J. Abrams took great pains to find relative unknowns to play the leads. Daisy Ridley, the movie’s female star, had only a handful of television appearances to her credit when she was chosen. Co-star John Boyega only boasted a bit more experience, having appeared in British sci-fi comedy Attack the Block and other small projects.
The top-secret Solo project, with a script by Lawrence and Jon Kasdan, is slyly working under the code name “Red Cup,” a reference to the college party staple manufactured by, yep, the Solo Cup Corp. But with every agency sending clients between the ages of 18 and 32 in to read for the part, names are beginning to surface.
Actors who have read in person or auditioned via videotape range from the well-known (Dave Franco, 30, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, 25, and Miles Teller, 28) to the sort-of-known (Jurassic World‘s Nick Robinson, 20) to relative unknowns (Kickin’ It‘s Leo Howard, 18, and The Purge‘s Tony Oller, 24) and also vary significantly in age. Though sources say the “sweet spot” seems to be the mid-20s, the ages of the contenders span from Chandler Riggs, the 16-year-old star of The Walking Dead, to Hunter Parrish, 28, and Mr. Robot star Rami Malek, 34.
Casting directors are not just focusing on American actors, either, considering Canadian Hemlock Grove star Landon Liboiron, 23, and English actors Ed Westwick, 28, Tom Felton, 28, and Joshua Sasse, 27, among many, many others.
The casting team is said to be looking for someone who looks at least a bit like a young Ford (now 73, he was 35 when the original Star Wars was released) and can be funny and charming as well as handle the expected action scenes. A few young comedians have been asked to read.
Others who have thrown their hats in the ring include Fury‘s Logan Lerman, 23, The Fault in Our Stars‘ Ansel Elgort, 21, Beautiful Creatures actor Alden Ehrenreich, 26, and Transformers: Age of Extinction‘s Jack Reynor, 23, plus TV faces like Teen Wolf‘s Colton Haynes, 27, and Bates Motel‘s Max Thieriot, 27.
With a search this galactic, reps would be wise to quote Solo’s advice to Luke Skywalker: “Don’t get cocky.”