Because everything is happening all of the time, before we can recover from our Avengers hangover—hell, before we can even enjoy the drunk—we’re already warming up the Solo press machine. The new Han Solo (NuHan), Alden Ehrenreich, covers Esquire this month with a profile that is part typical “on the cusp” celebrity profile and part damage control. It starts out with the cusp’ing, with the usual revelations of an up-and-comer no one knows yet. He uses a flip phone—the signifier of un-precious celebrities everywhere—and hangs out in public in a way he won’t be able to as soon as the new movie launches. He’s so normal and open and not famous—there’s even a suggestion he eats at steakhouse chain Sizzler.
Cusp’ing happens to any actor cast in a movie expected to be big, and Ehrenreich is just the latest. He comes off well: Thoughtful and interested, and Ron Howard confirms he can read. He has a good Hollywood story: Discovered by Spielberg and cast by Coppola (the main one) at 18, hanging out with Warren Beatty for years, waiting for Rules Don’t Apply to get made. He’s philosophical about Star Wars remaking his life, he quotes Elvis’s obituary and I can feel Lainey perking up. All very good cusp stuff.
But of course, this is Solo, notoriously beleaguered behind the scenes. It must be addressed, and half of Ehrenreich’s profile goes to damage control. As much as he can be bound by the LucasFilm Official Secrets Act of 2012, he tries to set the record straight. He got along with Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the original directors who cast him, and they liked him. He certainly didn’t rat them out to the LucasFilm brass, and no, according to Ehrenreich, the crew didn’t applaud when it was announced Ron Howard was taking over. That acting coach hired to fix his performance? Not true—Lord & Miller invited a collaborator, Maggie Kiley, to set who “was part of conversations that happened for a couple weeks at one point […] but that was basically it.”
It’s a bummer to have to devote so much of your time to denying bad press, but at the same time, I’m actually glad to see Ehrenreich trying to reshape the narrative. Because the way it was, he was set up to take a huge hit if the movie doesn’t do well. The whole acting coach narrative seemed designed to throw him under the bus—if his performance is embraced, then it worked! If not, well, he sucked so bad, and we tried to fix it, but alas. So I’m glad there is now Alden’s Version of Events entered into the record. If this goes badly, at least he won’t be isolated on the field of play. (Because the more we’ve learned about Solo, the more we should be asking why LucasFilm ever hired Lord & Miller in the first place.)
As for Ehrenreich himself, he seems okay. He loves old films and classic Hollywood, in a way that suggests he is definitely going to try directing at some point. But all we really get from this profile—again, half of it is devoted to damage control—is “flip phone” and “old movies” and “really f*cking lucky”. Ehrenreich popped right off the screen in Hail, Caesar!, but so far his public persona is not as compelling as his screen presence. Which is fine, not everyone is primed to be A-#1 Entertaining Celebrity. And really, at this point, the most important thing is selling us on NuHan. This profile at least establishes that if Solo sucks, it won’t (entirely) be Alden Ehrenreich’s fault.