Star Wars skeptics who contend that George Lucass beloved universe isnt what it once was might have had their minds changed by the scene in Manhattans S.V.A. Theatre on Monday. The New York premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story proved that the franchises fandom remains as varied as the patrons of the Mos Eisley cantina; everyone from Zadie Smith and the Winklevoss twins to Bradley Cooper and Tiffany Haddish turned out to fete the newest entry in the Star Wars galaxy, as well as its four core cast members.
For Donald Glover, who plays smooth Lando Calrissian, Monday was yet another recent peak. The actor-singer-writer had just made two well-received S.N.L. appearances, premiered the second-season finale of his Emmy-winning comedy, Atlanta, and released his sensational single “This Is America”—but on the carpet, Glover was all too happy to sink back into the Star Wars universe. In the event that intergalactic travel becomes possible, he said he would make his home among the Wookiees: “I like Kashyyyk. Tatooine is kind of sandy and desert-y, so Id prefer the tropical.” The ever-thoughtful Glover then puzzled over a classic Star Wars conundrum: “Why are the Wookiees there, though? They have so much hair—its so hot!”
Philosophical questions aside, the other members of the cast present Monday—including Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, and Alden Ehrenreich—were just as enthusiastic about entering the Star Wars family as Glover. Bettany, who plays a deliciously villainous intergalactic gangster in the film, practically had to pinch himself while shooting his first scene: “I walked down a spiral staircase on a galactic star yacht, that I own . . . and an R2 unit went by with Champagne flutes on its head, and a girl in a weird gas mask thing in a gold lamé dress was singing into a microphone. And I thought I was six years old again.” Hot off Disneys other windfall franchise, The Avengers, Bettany has grown used to the frenzy that surrounds these mega-blockbusters. “I came in from the Disney press pinball machine of The Avengers right into this, so Im beginning to feel like this actually might be my real life. Because Ive been in it selling movies for so long!”
Like Bettany, Clarke is well versed in the mania of fandom from her career-making stint as Daenerys Targaryen on HBOs Game of Thrones. Asked whether she drew from the Mother of Dragons to play Qira in Solo, Clarke said that its a balancing act. “Its tricky, because theyre both powerful and theyre both intelligent women who are survivors,” she said. “But I tried to separate them as much as I could. On paper, theyre quite different—but as an actor, youre always using certain parts of yourself and just putting that in a slightly different guise. So you cant escape that youre the throughline of each character that you play. Youre always going to have some kind of similarities, but I cant say that I directly drew from Daenerys.“
Asked if any lifelong friendships blossomed from her experience filming aboard the Millennium Falcon, Clarke didnt miss a beat: “Phoebe Waller-Bridge!” she exclaimed, naming the actress who plays Landos right-hand droid, L3-37. “I love her so much! Shes like, the best! Im having like, a complete girl thing right now, I just love her,” she gushed. “I watched [Waller-Bridges show] Fleabag. I was very much into it, and I saw the stage play as well . . . so I was like a minor stalker before I even met her.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the films star, Ehrenreich—who plays the titular space smuggler—was a little less romantic about the franchise. “I think its a different time, in terms of Star Wars,” he said. “It doesnt seem to affect people in that way that it once did. There are so many things that are more similar to this [that] it just doesnt seem to be quite what it once was.”
Certainly, stepping into the shoes of Harrison Ford was no small feat, and it required dramatic finesse from Ehrenreich—who previously set the record straight about reports that Disney hired an acting coach for him while shooting the film. “I think the main thing is youre aware of how much people love it, and you have to put that aside and concentrate on the only thing you have control over—which is the character that you play,” he said. “You want to just absorb as much of the original performance as possible, so you can put that away. And then the character youre meeting in this [film] is at a very different time in his life, so you want to concentrate on who is this guy at this time.”
Following the screening, guests availed themselves of the line of black SUVs waiting at the theaters entrance to spirit them to Le Bain at the Standard Hotel for the after-party. Guests sipped custom cocktails and partied into the wee hours, opting to crowd the clubs roof deck despite the chilly breeze—the open night sky bringing Glover, Ehrenreich, and the rest of the star-studded group of fans that much closer to a galaxy far, far away.
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