JJ Abrams Discusses Harrison Ford’s Reaction to His Big Scene in The Force Awakens
Warning: Contains Spoilers for the three remaining human beings who have not seen The Force Awakens. Read at your own risk.
Harrison Ford has made it no secret over the years that he wanted Han Solo dead. Not out of spite, or distaste for the character as many have spun it since the release of Return of the Jedi. Simply because as an artist, Ford believed that Solo’s death was his best possible dramatic use after completing his initial character arc by sacrificing himself for something greater than himself at the end of Empire Strikes Back. When Han told Chewie to stand down so that he and Leia would make it out alive he ceased to be the loner. He cared about someone else more than himself. And when his friends united to save him from Jabba’s palace, that completed the story of that sacrifice. The karmic victory earned by Han at the end of ESB was paid off by his salvation. To Ford there was nowhere else to go on that thread so he thought it was best to use Han to illustrate the stakes of the galactic civil war by sacrificing one of its chief heroes. But George Lucas disagreed, Han lived, and the rebels got their happy ending.
So, it comes as no surprise that when Ford returned for TFA, that he wouldn’t have been too upset reading his script and finding Han’s fate. And now, in an interview with Fandango, JJ Abrams shares with us exactly how Ford reacted to Han’s death at the hands of his son.
He was very thoughtful about it, and he got it. He understood why it was so powerful. And I think part of it was because Harrison himself — Han, the character — has so much ahead of him. Has so much life and fight and adventure — that this was the time to do that thing. If we felt like the character was sort of at the end of his days, it wouldn’t have been as powerful. The thing that made it potentially meaningful wasn’t just who does it and how it happened, but that it’s a character that is so vital that is meeting his demise. I’ll also say that Harrison’s always said that he knew that Han needed to have clear utility, and that’s what he wanted to do. And that’s why he argued back in the day that Han should die and George [Lucas] didn’t want to do it. And I don’t know what his utility in that regard would’ve been, though I’m sure Harrison would’ve come up with a clever pitch for it. But in this case there was such a clear utility — it’s about bringing this new villain to the fore, and there’s nothing I could think of that is more hideous than patricide, especially when it comes to Han Solo.
Utility is exactly what Solo brought to this movie. Kylo Ren is a great villain, in part, because of Han Solo. The love that Han still feels for his son, the acceptance with which Han walks out onto that bridge even though he knows it means his likely death, humanizes Kylo Ren in a way that could not be achievable without the relation to an existing and loved character. And Han’s death solidifies our simultaneous hatred for Kylo Ren and pity for Ben Solo. In a matter of only a few scenes we not only have a frightening new villain, but a compelling tragic figure. A tragedy we wouldn’t be able to fully embrace if we didn’t feel the sting of the betrayal in Han’s death. If we didn’t feel that loss, Kylo Ren would not have the same impact.
So, Kudos to Harrison Ford. He fought for Han’s utility and eventually won that battle 30 years later. And in doing so he helped create a new iconic villain that will take us through the sequel trilogy.