THE RUMORS have proved true: Ron Howard will return to space to complete Star Wars’s young Han Solo spinoff film, Lucasfilm announced Thursday.
Howard, who directed 1995’s “Apollo 13″ and won Oscars in 2002 for directing and producing “A Beautiful Mind,” will step into the breach left suddenly this week by directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were fired from the Star Wars Anthology film over “creative differences” with bosses at Lucasfilm.
Although the untitled film reportedly had about two more months of shooting — including five weeks of planned reshoots — that timetable could change markedly based on how Howard and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy decide to pivot. The film, which began shooting in London in late January, is still slated for release next May.
Howard worked with Lucasfilm three decades ago on the fantasy film “Willow,” based on a story by Star Wars creator George Lucas (the man who of course had hired the teenage Howard for 1973’s “American Graffiti”). Howard also has experience with space-set stories, not only with “Apollo 13″ but also the 1998 miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon,” for which he won an Emmy and worked with frequent collaborator Tom Hanks.
As a feature-film director, Howard has had a mostly commercially fallow period since 2009, when his “Da Vinci Code” sequel “Angels & Demons” grossed nearly a half-billion dollars worldwide — one year after he delivered a critical hit with the Oscar-nominated “Frost/Nixon.”
In Howard, Lucasfilm lands a consummate studio pro with a long track record of success whose films often feature warm humor and technical prowess. “Apollo 13,” “Backdraft” and “Cocoon” are among his movies that received tech-category Oscars.
The untitled Han Solo Anthology film — starring Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover — is due out May 25.