Disney and Lucasfilm are busy preparing for the theatrical release of this December’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; a film that will “test” the Star Wars brand in new ways, being the first live-action film in the franchise that isn’t part of the core Episode narrative. Rogue One also mixes things up by including main characters who are all either new additions to the Star Wars galaxy (special guest appearances from Darth Vader aside) or established players that only hardcore Star Wars fans will be familiar with (see Forest Whitaker as a live-action version of the animated Clone Wars TV show character, Saw Gerrera).
The second Star Wars “anthology” film that’s currently in development must deal with the opposite of that challenge now facing Rogue One – in the sense that it features protagonists whom the filmgoing public knows all too well. Said Star Wars movie is going to be about the early life and times of Han Solo (as played by Hail, Caesar! standout Alden Ehrenreich) and will include such beloved characters as young(er) Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and Chewbacca (casting TBA) in substantial roles too. Meanwhile, operating behind the camera on the project will be such acclaimed talents as The LEGO Movie directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, as well as the equally-acclaimed cinematographer, Bradford Young.
Young started his career as a cinematographer by working primarily on short films and documentaries during the mid-2000s, but has more recently become better known for his work on prestigious drama fare. The Han Solo movie admittedly reads as something of an odd choice for Young based on his output of late; a resume that includes the Civil Rights drama Selma, the Bobby Fisher biopic Pawn Sacrifice and the upcoming cerebral alien contact drama Arrival. Young addressed that very matter during an interview with Collider, where he discussed his involvement with the Star Wars spinoff film:
“It’s funny, here’s the thing about Phil Lord and Chris Miller: don’t let their track record fool you. Don’t put those guys in a box because they have a vision, they know exactly what they want. They have no hidden agenda, but they do have an agenda; they have a way of seeing that’s very special, and their collaboration is genuinely unique. So I have to say I had to get converted into that. I respect their work, I respect them as filmmakers, but I wasn’t quite sure if there would be a good marriage between what I’m trying to pursue and the work that I’m doing and what they’re doing, but they helped make that real clear to me early on by expressing some real interesting story [and] photographic ideas that really resonated with me. So once they started really pulling me into that world, I realized how much these cats have come from the same pedagogy of filmmaking—in the visual sense for sure, and definitely from an approach in terms of how we want to make movies, they come from the same school.”
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One needs look no further than Lord and Miller’s own previous directorial efforts, for proof of what Young is saying about the dangers of “putting them in a box.” The duo kicked off their feature-length filmmaking career with an unexpectedly clever (visually and thematically) exercise in self-reflexive storytelling with the animated film, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Lord and Miller started to become even more ambitious with their subsequent work on the 21 Jump Street films and The LEGO Movie; projects that deconstruct the very concepts of sequels and brands in Hollywood, at the same time delivering funny (and surprisingly heartfelt) narratives, on the surface. There are very clear visions behind all of these movies too and Young assured Collider that Lord and Miller have a similarly distinct, rule-breaking plan in mind for how to make a quality movie about the (mis)adventures of a young Han Solo:
“We’re doing our own thing, that’s why we’re there. Phil and Chris are there to bring what they bring to their films, their very unique vision, their perspective on story and they asked me to come bring what I bring, and so just for that it won’t feel like any of the other films. And nobody at Lucasfilm is asking us to betray that, they’re saying ‘We’re in full support of what you do and we wanna make sure that we’re able to help you do it in the best way.’ It’s gonna feel like a Star Wars film, but we’re definitely gonna break some rules, and we’re encouraged to do that. Visually, narratively that’s a good mandate. They really are about, from what I’ve seen so far, supporting up and coming artists, artists who have a strong vision and voice and perspective, and they really wanna permeate the films with those kinds of voices. So it’s interesting, very interesting. Not what I thought it would be, that’s for sure. I’m pleasantly encouraged and pleasantly surprised.”
Young’s contributions as cinematographer to the Han Solo movie – written by Force Awakens co-writer Lawrence Kasdan with his son, Jon Kasdan – will help to ensure that the film has a visual style that sets it apart from not only the main Star Wars Episode installments, but also the comparatively gritty and grounded aesthetic of director Gareth Edwards’ approach on Rogue One. Where Rogue One is shaping up to feel like a military drama/thriller more than any previous movie in the Star Wars franchise, the Han Solo film may explore brand-new genre territory for the series; namely, a buddy action/comedy (possibly in the vein of Lord and Miller’s Jump Street movies) that revolves around Han, Chewie and/or Lando. For these reasons and more, it makes sense that Young would choose this project to serve as his first-time swimming in the pool that is the world of Hollywood blockbusters.