Solo: A Star Wars Story — the Han Solo origin movie — will give a brand new backstory to the iconic smuggler turned rebel, one that will no doubt depart from the Expanded Universe/Legends origin that is no longer considered canon.
The Lucasfilm story group has very intentionally left Han’s backstory in the new canon a relative mystery, giving the movie a blank slate on which to work. In contrast, however, the previous EU timeline spent dozens of novels, comics, and games fleshing out just about every little detail about his past. And while very little of this has remained in the new canon, it’s clear from what we know of the film so far that at least a few important details are likely to survive the transition.
In looking for hints as to where the new movie will go, we can certainly glean some vital clues from Han’s original EU past: how he and Chewbacca formed their partnership, the history of Han’s friendship and rivalry with Lando Calrissian, and just how the smuggler got his hands on the “fastest ship in the galaxy.” Read on to learn everything you need to know about Han Solo’s classic origin story.
In the EU, Han was an orphan who grew up learning the ways of petty crime. He was taken in by a man named Garris Shrike, a small-time bounty hunter, thief, and smuggler who first appeared in the novel The Paradise Snare.
During his time as a part of Shrike’s crew, Han developed a fondness for Wookiees after one named Dewlanna became something of a surrogate mother to him, even teaching him to understand the Wookiee language of Shyriiwook. This relationship ended in tragedy, however, when Dewlanna was killed while helping Han escape from Shrike.
Stowing away on another ship, Han vowed to one day repay Dewlanna’s kindness. In an attempt to leave his life of crime behind, he made his way to Coruscant to fulfill a childhood dream: enrolling in the Imperial Academy to become a pilot. Despite his unorthodox methods, Han’s talent as a pilot helped propel him through the ranks, and he soon graduated at the top of his class.
As an Imperial officer, Han was assigned to an Imperial commander named Pter Nyklas, a cruel man who oversaw a Wookiee slave labor operation. On a fateful day, Solo had a run in with a Wookiee who had been captured after liberating a ship full of child slaves. The Wookiee’s name was Chewbacca (as revealed in Chewbacca #2, part of a Dark Horse comic book series published in 2000).
Remembering the sacrifice that Dewlanna made to him years ago, Solo refused to execute Chewbacca. Instead, he helped to arrange for the Wookiee’s escape, an action that led to a court-martial and dishonorable discharge from the Imperial Navy.
With nowhere else to go, Solo returned to a life of crime, once again becoming a smuggler. Chewbacca joined him, having sworn a life debt, an unbreakable vow to always protect and aid the person who saved him. Surprisingly though, given their closeness later in life, they weren’t fast friends. Han’s despondence after giving up his dream of becoming an Imperial Navy pilot carried over to his outlook on his new companion. In time, however — and after Chewbacca got Han out of more than a few bad situations — they became lifelong friends.
Han had a run-in with another iconic figure of Star Wars history when a suave, young gambler named Lando Calrissian tracked him down. Lando had just won an expensive Corellian ship called the Millennium Falcon in a high-stakes card game called sabacc (as told in the novel Millennium Falcon by James Luceno). The only problem was that Lando had never learned how to pilot a ship.
Having heard rumors of Han Solo and Chewbacca’s exploits, he decided to seek them out to ask if Han would teach him. This proved extremely fortuitous for the smuggling duo as Lando arrived just as Han was being cornered by the infamous bounty hunter Boba Fett. Lando intervened, saving Han’s life. As thanks, Han agreed to take Lando under his wing, beginning a friendship and rivalry that would last for the rest of their lives.
Lando eventually parted ways with Han and Chewbacca to strike out on his own. However, the Millennium Falcon had left a huge impression on Han, and he secretly hoped that somehow he would one day be its owner. As we know, destiny is a funny thing in the Star Wars galaxy, and this wouldn’t be the last time that Han Solo crossed paths with the Falcon.
Han and Chewbacca’s career soon hit a slow period and they found themselves running out of money. In the novel The Hutt Gambit, Han decided to “invest” it all into the entry fee for an ultra-competitive gambling competition called the Cloud City Sabacc Tournament.
Despite being a massive underdog, Han made it to the finals of the tournament where he faced a familiar face: Lando Calrissian. To buy into the final hand, Lando put up a choice of any of the ships in his collection. Ultimately, Han was victorious when Lando came up just one card short of an “Idiot’s Array,” the most powerful hand in sabacc. Lando would later claim that Han cheated. Han hasn’t necessarily denied this, but rather insists that Lando was cheating too.
Regardless, Han had the pick of any of Lando’s ships, and he immediately chose the Falcon, much to Lando’s dismay. Han’s dream ship was finally in his hands, and while it would fall out of his possession from time to time, he would always manage to get it back. Over the years, Han would routinely upgrade and modify the Falcon, giving it the uncanny ability to make seemingly impossible maneuvers in the hands of a skilled pilot.
In the pilot’s seat of the Falcon, and with his companion Chewbacca by his side, Han embarked on countless adventures throughout the galaxy. At the height of his smuggling career, he became an underworld legend when he made the Kessel Run in a record 12 parsecs (as told in the novel Rebel Dawn), and not too long after, he picked up a few passengers in the Mos Eisley Cantina who would change his life forever.
Pretty much all of the source material that fleshed out Han’s backstory in the Expanded Universe no longer remains in the current Star Wars canon.
However, many of the broad strokes remain the same. In the Ultimate Star Wars sourcebook, it’s confirmed that Han was still orphaned at a young age, learning how to be a criminal to survive. He still met and befriended Chewbacca after saving the Wookiee from Imperial slavery, after which Chewbacca swore a life debt. And of course, Han still became the owner of the Millennium Falcon after winning it from Lando Calrissian.
This time, however, the two played a game called “Corellian Spike,” a variant on sabacc that uses dice (a change that was revealed in the Force Awakens visual dictionary). Han kept the pair of dice that won him his prized ship as mementos, hanging them in the cockpit of the Falcon. Eventually, they played a small but poignant role in the story of The Last Jedi. Given how those dice reemerged recently in such a big way, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to say that a game of Corellian Spike between Han and Lando will figure in the upcoming movie.
There are a few other differences that we know of. Firstly, a character named Beckett (played by Woody Harrelson) is taking the role of a younger Han’s mentor, instead of Garris Shrike.
Perhaps more importantly though, it seems the circumstances of Han’s record-breaking Kessel Run have been altered somewhat. In this new version of the story, Han made the run while working for a criminal network known as the Pyke Syndicate (according to the StarWars.com Databank). This organization was first introduced in the Clone Wars animated series and has been steadily making more appearances in canon stories since then.
This could very well add a bit more fuel to the long-held rumors that the Han Solo movie will center around the Kessel Run, the character’s most iconic achievement as a smuggler. We’ll find out when Solo: A Star Wars Story opens on May 25, 2018.