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Ron Howard is certainly making his mark on Lucasfilm's as-yet-untitled Han Solo spinoff. He joined the troubled production back in June, and since then has been working tirelessly to complete the project and turn it into something Star Wars fans will love. It looks as though that includes bringing on whole new members of the cast — in this case, Howard has just revealed that his old colleague Paul Bettany has joined the production!
Howard dropped that bomb on Twitter, then SlashFilm revealed that Bettany has taken on an intriguing role: one recently vacated when Michael K. Williams left the project. Williams's tight schedule couldn't accommodate the scale of Howard's reshoots, and we initially thought his character had simply been cut. It seems that's not the case. Instead, Howard has recast the role. Enter Bettany, stage left.
Clearly delighted, Bettany retweeted the announcement with a simple comment:
"It's a dream come true."
It's the third time Bettany and Howard have worked together; they proved to be a powerful team on both The Da Vinci Code and A Beautiful Mind.
Meanwhile, this means Bettany is now playing roles in two of the most vast, sprawling cinematic universes around; as well as playing this currently-unknown role in #StarWars, he's also the Vision over in the Marvel movies. Given Bettany recently hinted that character will survive into Avengers 4, which is currently in production, we can assume he's in for a busy year!
Clearly Dramatic Changes Are Happening
It's likely that we'll never know what actually went wrong with the Han Solo spinoff. All we know for certain is that, back in June, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller left under a cloud. Lucasfilm swiftly brought in Ron Howard to right the ship, and since then he's been hard at work. Part of that has involved engaging fans on social media, constantly dropping mysterious hints and teases that stir up as many fan-theories as possible. It's a smart strategy, getting the vocal Star Wars fan community back on his side. This fan-pleasing announcement should be seen as part of that social media strategy.
We still don't know much about Bettany's character — but the clothing in the image will intrigue fans. As Seth Rogen pithily noted:
Bettany's costume — and the reference to the Outer Rim — suggest he's some sort of underworld figure. The Han Solo movie is set during the reign of the Empire, and Imperial authority and power was centered at the galactic core. Criminals and smugglers fled to the galactic rim, which became a lawless and disordered place. We can safely assume that this mystery character is one of the criminals who've made the Outer Rim his home, but we don't know how major a role Bettany is playing in the film.
This much we do know; back when Williams was playing the role, we were told he was playing a half-human, half-animal being who was pretty kick-ass. It seems there's been a subtle change due to time constraints, with the role now human rather than motion-capture. Still, we're sure the essence of the character will remain relatively unchanged.
It's clear the Han Solo spinoff is really changing shape under Ron Howard's direction. This casting announcement — made to catch the eyes of fans, rather than through an official statement — gives a sense of just how radical the changes are. They've also caused real issues, with actors recast due to their schedules being unable to accommodate the scale of Howard's work.
That said, this particular casting news is surely cause to rejoice. We're seeing a much-loved partnership come together once again, and that bodes well for this troubled production.