The new Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich talks Star Wars and his five-year audition

Marie Claire sat down for an exclusive chat with US actor Alden Ehrenreich, who is set to go stellar in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Alden Ehrenreich

Marie Claire sat down for an exclusive chat with US actor Alden Ehrenreich, who is set to go stellar in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Discovered by Steven Spielberg and mentored by Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich doesn't have your average Hollywood backstory. Now he's taking on one of the most iconic movie roles of all time. Marie Claire's Victoria Fell met him in London for a chat.

How did you find out that you were going to play Han Solo? ‘I was taking a break from editing a short film and got a call from the directors. I just flipped. I kept saying, “Holy fuck!” – I was so excited. It was hard for anyone I told to believe, just because it’s so iconic.’

When did it really sink in? ‘The first time I felt “this is really happening" was when I did the initial screen test on the Millennium Falcon. I put on a mock-up of a costume, and the pants had the red Corellian Bloodstripe on them – that felt so distinctively Star Wars to me.’

You met Harrison Ford over lunch. What advice did he give you? ‘He said to me, “If anyone asks, tell them I told you everything you need to know and that you’re not allowed to say anything.”’

John Boyega with Alden Ehrenreich in 2016

What were you like as a kid? ‘I was always acting and playing make-believe. My parents weren’t in the industry, but we’d have little film festivals in our house, where we’d watch Charlie Chaplins or westerns. They were real movie buffs. I love It’s A Wonderful Life and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid – there’s a certain kinship in Solo: A Star Wars Story to [the latter].’

Tell us about being discovered by Steven Spielberg. ‘I did a stupid, goofy video for a friend’s bat mitzvah when I was 14. When we showed it to our parents, they said, “You shouldn’t show this to anyone. You look like a moron.” It was a story about me being obsessed with the girl whose bat mitzvah it was, singing a song about her and being rejected. I cry and roll in the dirt, and then there’s a time lapse and I show up at her wedding in a kimono – it was ridiculous. They played this video at the event and Steven Spielberg was there, so he watched it. We got a phone call from DreamWorks a little while after that. [This then led to an audition for Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro]. It’s hard to imagine what he saw in the video.’

In the upcoming movie The Yellow Birds, you’re playing an American soldier. How did you prepare for that? ‘We did a boot camp with Captain Dale Dye, who’s worked on Saving Private Ryan and Platoon. Usually the boot camp lasts for two weeks, but they crammed everything into three days. It got shortened because we were in Morocco and they couldn’t get the fake weapons into the country due to customs issues. We slept in tents and Captain Dye allowed us to ask him anything, which was incredible.’

What’s the steepest learning curve you’ve had so far? Working with Francis Ford Coppola on Tetro was probably the most I learned in a concentrated amount of time because it was my first movie. For Warren Beatty’s film Rules Don’t Apply, I had a five-year audition and during the course of that period I spent a lot of time with him. I’d go over to his house and we would have dinner for nine hours. It was a wonderful apprenticeship.’

Solo: A Star Wars Story is in UK cinemas on 24 May.

Victoria Fell