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Ron Howard to helm Han Solo ‘Star Wars’ film, replacing directors fired by Lucasfilm

Ron Howard is taking over as director of the Han Solo “Star Wars” spinoff.
Ron Howard is taking over as director of the Han Solo “Star Wars” spinoff. Invision/AP

A new hope?

The Millennium Falcon lost its pilots earlier this week, but a replacement is climbing aboard: Ron Howard will now direct 2018’s untitled “Star Wars” Han Solo origin film, Lucasfilm announced Thursday.

In the thick of production, the movie’s original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired Tuesday after too many disagreements with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and co-writer/executive producer Lawrence Kasdan. According to “Variety,” the duo — the men behind “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street” — wanted more wisecracks and improv than Kasdan could abide.

Lucasfilm says filming will resume July 10, and the movie is still set for release on May 25, but who knows how much rewriting and reshooting Howard will demand?

It’s also unclear whether this is indeed a good thing. On the one hand, the former child star of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Happy Days” directed “Splash,” “Backdraft,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “Apollo 13” and 2001’s Oscar winner, “A Beautiful Mind.” On the other hand, at 63, he has had one dud after another lately: “Inferno,” “In the Heart of the Sea,” “Rush.” His last box office success was 2009’s “Angels & Demons.”

Howard worked with Lucasfilm once before, on 1988’s fantasy adventure “Willow,” which got Oscar nominations for visual effects and sound editing but was too weird to connect with audiences.

And let’s not forget his other connection: Before George Lucas created “Star Wars,” he directed a young Ron Howard in his ode to the 1950s, “American Graffiti.”

Say what you will about Howard, the Han Solo cast is promising though: Alden Ehrenreich as a young Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, plus Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Thandie Newton.

han solo cast
Happier days on the Han Solo “Star Wars” set (from bottom left): fired co-director Christopher Miller, Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Alden Ehrenreich (who plays Han Solo), Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, fired co-director Phil Lord and Donald Glover (who plays Lando Calrissian). Jonathan Olley Lucasfilm

Here’s Thursday’s official statement:

“At Lucasfilm, we believe the highest goal of each film is to delight, carrying forward the spirit of the saga that George Lucas began forty years ago,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “With that in mind, we’re thrilled to announce that Ron Howard will step in to direct the untitled Han Solo film. We have a wonderful script, an incredible cast and crew, and the absolute commitment to make a great movie. Filming will resume the 10th of July.”

Our cup of tea

downton
“Downton Abbey” costumes are on display in a traveling exhibit that opened this week in Singapore. Joseph Nair The Associated Press

In other exciting news, a “Downton Abbey” movie will begin production in 2018, Michael Edelstein, president of NBCUniversal International Studios, told The Associated Press.

“There’s a movie in the works. It’s been in the works for some time,” the executive said at a red-carpet event in Singapore for “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition,” which features costumes, locations and unearthed footage from the TV show. “We are working on getting the script right and then we’ve got to figure out how to get the (cast) together. Because as you know, people go on and do other things. But we’re hopeful to make a movie sometime next year.”

Cast members at the exhibition said it was news to them. “Oh, well, you’ve got confirmation before us. We have no idea if that’s happening,” said Sophie McShera, who played assistant cook Daisy. “But we would all love to be part of the film if it was to happen, for sure.” Meanwhile, the exhibit will eventually tour the U.S.

Sharon Hoffmann: 816-234-4457, @Sharonakc

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