(WARNING: Potential Han Solo film spoilers ahead. It's possible they will directly adapt this version of his origin, so be careful. In all fairness we probably won't know until 2018)
Since the original trilogy #StarWars has always been full of surprises — Luke has been missing?! Kylo Ren is a Solo?! Darth Vader is Luke's father?! — but what has been one of the most surprising of Lucasfilm's moves is the removal of the Star Wars expanded universe, a corner of Lucas's creation filled with unique creatures and smart storytelling. However, for every positive element came one that's not so great. Thankfully, Lucasfilm is making an effort to bring the best of it back.
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Starting with subtle additions like Knights of the Old Republic's Hammerhead Corvettes, and even bigger leaps with Timothy Zahn's Admiral Thrawn, they are finally bringing a Legends character on the big screen in a big way — with Han Solo's mentor. Revealed by Harrelson during an interview with Variety at Sundance, his role was confirmed to be Corellian gunslinger Garris Shrike.
There's still a chance that Harrelson was just confused by the question. There's also the possibility that he was just very conflicted in whether to break the news or not. Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo spilled his thoughts on twitter, but did not outright deny Harrelson's statements.
If the news is indeed true:
Who Is Garris Shrike?
Shrike, a bounty hunter turned crime lord, debuted in the expanded universe novel, The Paradise Snare, one that often flashed back to Solo's childhood. Without potentially spoiling the film, it would be very interesting if Lord and Miller took a lot of inspiration from the novel. Due to the fact that Harrelson was one of the first cast, one can assume that he is very much a core character in the anthology film. Speculation points to Shrike becoming the villain of the film, one that shapes Han Solo's childhood and later haunts him as a bounty hunter.
In the novel where Shrike first appeared, he was somewhat enforcing as a gang leader, one who would had a very short temper. Shrike loved control, and used Corellian orphans to do his bidding, one being Han Solo himself. Out of all the children he recruited into his ring, Solo lacked discipline, often being beat and abused by Shrike and his gang as a child. Shrike was a mentor, though a harsh one, who taught him many tricks of the trade, even teaching the young scoundrel how to fly. Picked up at a space station at two, Solo ended up becoming an even better gunslinger than Shrike himself. However, Shrike's constant abuse led Solo to often flee with the crew of the Trader's Luck, forming a tense rivalry between the two.
This route seems fairly dark for one from both Disney and Lord and Miller, who are mostly known for their comedic and lighthearted fare. It would be surprising to see Lucasfilm tackle themes of abuse in what casual audiences would expect to be the typical blockbuster. Though Rogue One may have been dark, having Solo be a victim of frequently harsh punishment can easily bring the universe to an even darker level. Knowing Disney, Shrike will probably be portrayed like that of Guardians of the Galaxy's Yondu, but if they decide to take a big leap by making him an outright villain, I trust in Lord and Miller.
Watch Woody Harrelson win a bet in this clip below, from White Men Can't Jump:
What do you think about the inclusion of Garris Shrike?