Rumours have been flying for weeks about Disney’s plans for the future of the “Star Wars” franchise. Hot on the heels of the news that director J. J. Abrams (“Super 8,” “Star Trek”) would be helming the upcoming “Star Wars Episode VII,” came word that some character-centric spin-off “Star Wars” movies might be in the works as well.
Earlier this week, Disney Chairman Bob Iger confirmed that the House of Mouse does indeed have plans for standalone spin-off movies centered on certain characters from a galaxy far, far away – specifically, the smuggler-turned-rebel Han Solo and galactic bounty hunter Boba Fett. Reportedly set during the events of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, the two films are being developed by screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back”) and Simon Kinberg (“Sherlock Holmes”).
Finding an actor to play the always-helmeted original trilogy-era Boba Fett will be easy for Disney. However, in the case of the still-untitled Han Solo movie, the original trilogy setting obviously presents a bit of a problem for the studio: 70-year-old Ford is now too old to play a middle-aged version of the smuggler.
Han Solo is one of the most iconic movie characters of all time, thanks in large part to Harrison Ford’s brash and sarcastic performance as the roguish space smuggler. "Star Wars" made Ford bona fide a star, and to this day the actor is perhaps more recognized for the role of Han Solo than he is even for whip-cracking archaeologist Indiana Jones.
As we see it, Disney has two options here: they can either cast another actor in the iconic role or the studio can stick with Ford.
"Huh?" you might be saying. "Stick with Ford? But didn’t you just say he was too old to play the part?"
Ford is too old in the conventional sense, but nobody wants to see another actor play Han Solo. Can you imagine someone like Ryan Reynolds playing Solo? It just wouldn't work (no offense to Reynolds). As other films have recently demonstrated, an actor’s age isn’t even an issue when you’ve got millions of dollars worth of visual effects trickery up your sleeve.
Take 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand.” The superhero film featured a flashback scene in which stars Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (both in their late 60s when the film was made) were to appear approximately 25 years younger. Rather than use special make-up effects to “de-age” the pair, the two British actors were given digital facelifts by a team of visual effects artists. As seen in the image below, Stewart and McKellen's wrinkles and lines disappeared, resulting in much younger-looking versions of the actors.
Sure, the results were a little uncanny seven years ago, but advances in technology mean that technique has likely been refined since then. There is currently a huge sub-industry of VFX studios focused exclusively on providing movies with digital touch-ups and facelifts for actors, and even full on face replacements. Why couldn’t the same process be applied to Ford for the Han Solo movie?
To most fans, Harrison Ford is irreplaceable in the role of Han Solo. Most would probably prefer to see him play the part over another actor -- even if it was a digitally alterered version of him. It should be a walk in the park for the VFX wizards at the now Disney-owned Industrial Light & Magic.
See also: Disney planning a 'Yoda' spinoff film?
But what of Ford's now gruff and gravely voice? We're sure it's nothing that some digital autotuning and octave-shifting can't fix! We knew there was a reason Disney bought Skywalker Sound as part of the Lucasfilm deal.
It would be a costly process for Disney and Lucasfilm, but a "de-aged" Ford would be a win-win for producers and fans. There's no way that a chance to see one of cinema's great stars back in his prime (sort of) wouldn't be a box office draw.
Do you want to see Ford back in action as Han Solo? Or would you prefer to see the role recast?