Harrison Ford’s first day back as Han Solo after 32 years was not the “Chewie, we’re home” scene, but that’s how it felt for those who watched it that day on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It took place on a soundstage at Pinewood Studios outside London, where lots of massive movies have been made, including most of the 007 titles and some of the later Harry Potter films. Crews here are old hands, and not the kind to get starstruck.
That’s why Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was caught off guard by their reaction. “The minute Harrison and Chewie walked on board the Millennium Falcon — that was incredible,” she tells EW. “Every single person on the set was stunned. I remember turning around, and there must have been 200 people gathered behind me — completely quiet. I didn’t even know they were there. The whole crew had stopped working, staring at the monitor, because it was so iconic.”
Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on the original trilogy and wrote The Force Awakens with director J.J. Abrams also took note of that hush. “It was sort of surreal for everybody, and it wasn’t just Han, it wasn’t just Harrison. It was seeing all this stuff,” he says. “The Millennium Falcon has been a big part of my life, from Empire to Jedi to Force Awakens — and now I’ve written a movie about the young Han. So the Falcon has enormous resonance for me. And I don’t know if you can imagine what it would be like to watch things being shot on that set with those people.”
He laughs, trying to find the right words, and settles on: “It’s pretty cool!”
Over the years, Ford has grumbled about the space smuggler, saying he thought the character was “dumb as a stump” and even wished Solo had died at the end of the original saga — the selfish, sarcastic anti-hero who sacrifices himself for the greater good.
But on his first day back, the 72-year-old actor, who long ago told The Today Show he was “glad to see that costume for the last time,” appeared a bit overcome himself to be back in it.
“Harrison was going through his own experience, finding that place for himself again, to return to something that had been so much a part of his identity and acting career,” Kennedy says. “It was his own little personal journey, but once he got there, it was amazing. I mean, he was Han Solo again. That’s why everybody else got so quiet! They were like, ‘Oh my God, he’s back!’”
And then, later, they dropped a door on him.
NEXT PAGE: The accident’s aftermath …