Kathleen Kennedy Willing To Recast Iconic Star Wars Characters?

Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy is really going back and forth about whether she would recast iconic Star Wars characters.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

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Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has been playing with Star Wars fans’ emotions a little bit more than usual lately. In a recent in-depth Vanity Fair article that featured interviews with many of the new stars of the franchise from a galaxy far, far away, Kennedy seemingly dropped a casual acknowledgment that recasting Harrison Ford’s Han Solo with Alden Ehrenreich had not worked out. Furthermore, she seemed to indicate that Lucasfilm had learned you just cannot just replace some of the most iconic characters of modern cinema willy-nilly. Who knew? However, in a new interview with Total Film, Kennedy seems to be qualifying her statements about recasting Star Wars characters with the sure-to-please “never say never.”

In the Vanity Fair spread, Kathleen Kennedy noted that Star Wars fans had basically rejected the notion of anyone playing Han Solo except Harrison Ford (which is no shade toward Alden Ehrenreich, who did the best he could under impossible expectations) and that it was a learning experience. We quote:

There should be moments along the way when you learn things. Now it does seem so abundantly clear that we can’t do that.” “We would never make Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford… We also can’t go do something with Luke Skywalker that isn’t Mark Hamill.

However, the follow-up Total Film interview had Kennedy going back a little bit on that (technically non-binding) statement. This time around, she implied that maybe there were some Star Wars character recastings audiences could buy and some they would not. Sorry, Bill Dee Williams:

I never say never. It’s certainly not something that we’re doing with any intention right now. We’re still talking about Lando with Donald Glover, for instance, but I don’t think we would intentionally just look back at some of the characters like Luke and Leia and whatnot and decide arbitrarily to do a story. There would have to be a really strong reason why.

The merits of Donald Glover’s portrayal of Lando Calrissian (which we will editorialize as consisting of a cape and a smirk) can be debated, but it does seem fair to acknowledge that there are tiers of acceptability for Star Wars fans. Perhaps it was inadvisable for Lucasfilm to make a recasting test run with one of the most beloved figures of pop culture. It could be argued they are already exploring the limits of Star Wars fandom tolerance by giving us uncanny valley Luke Skywalker in both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Similarly, the current Disney+ trend of bringing characters like Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan from animation to live-action is a kind of experiment as to the expectations of the fans. And of course, we are already getting pint-sized Luke (Grant Feely) and Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) in the currently airing Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is the kind of recasting we have the most precedent for. 

At the end of the day, stewardship of the Star Wars franchise has been handed to Kathleen Kennedy, who has a pretty good track record as a studio executive. Since first beginning to work with Steven Spielberg in the 1970s, she has been involved in massive, culture-changing projects like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That is a solid resume for anyone, and she is bound to make some hard choices eventually. Kennedy has also recently said that she feels the Star Wars franchise could potentially go on “forever” as long as the storytelling was strong, which probably means some recastings eventually (what with human life being finite and all). But it also seems like Kathleen Kennedy is willing to observe the lessons of the marketplace and adjust accordingly, which seems like a pretty good trait for a studio executive.