Just hours after Ron Howard was confirmed as the replacement director for the new “Star Wars” movie, he revealed that series creator George Lucas had told him of his idea for the franchise while they were making “American Graffiti” in 1972. Speaking at the Cannes Lion conference on Friday, the Oscar-winning director said, “I’ve been around the ‘Star Wars’ universe from the beginning.”
As Howard recalled, “we were standing out in front of Mel’s Drive-In in San Francisco where we were shooting and I said, ‘Do you know what you think your next film might be?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I want to do a science fiction movie, but a really fun one like ‘Flash Gordon’ with the effects of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001.’
Five years later, Howard says he and his wife stood in line for hours on opening day to see the original film. This new stand-alone entry, which will tell the back story of Han Solo, is slate to open on May 25, 2018. That will be 31 years to the day that “Star Wars” unspooled and had people like the Howards seeing it twice in a row.
“American Graffiti,” which was set on one pivotal night in a small California town in 1962, reaped five Oscar bids, including two for Lucas as director and co-screenwriter. Howard, who was transitioning from child stardom, was the lead of a largely unknown cast. Among the others in the ensemble was Harrison Ford, who played the pivotal role of an out-of-towner whose need for speed prompts a drag race with serious consequences. Four years after the success of this film, Lucas cast Ford as Han Solo, one of the leads in “Star Wars.” While Ford played the part in the original trilogy and “The Force Awakens” in 2015, he is not slated to be part of this new film that tells of his character’s early years.
Both Ford and Howard returned for the sequel “More American Graffiti” in 1979. Lucas only produced this picture, leaving the writing and directing to Bill L. Norton (“Cisco Pike”). It was a box office disappointment and marked Howard’s final credited film role. Since he left his TV hit “Happy Days” in 1980, Howard has concentrated on directing and producing.
The Oscar-winning helmer (“A Beautiful Mind”) replaces Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The pair, who previously directed the blockbuster “The LEGO Movie,” were dropped by Disney earlier this week despite being six months into production. The film is said to be three-quarters finished, with shooting suspended until July 10.