The search for the actor who would play young Han Solo in Disney's upcoming spin-off was probably one of the biggest casting calls in movie history: More than 2,500 budding actors lined up to get the iconic part, including young stars such as Jack Reynor, Taron Egerton and Miles Teller.
But it looks like the space smuggler has finally found a new face: The Hollywood Reporter announced that Alden Ehrenreich, the breakout star from the Coen brothers' Hail, Caesar!, had made it to the last round of the selection. Although it's going to be a challenge to step into Harrison Ford's beloved shoes, playing Han Solo sounds like a fantastic role for an emerging actor such as Ehrenreich, so what do we need to know about him?
1. He Was Discovered In A Bat Mitzvah Video By Steven Spielberg
Before joining the star-studded cast of Hail, Caesar!, Ehrenreich actually made his big screen debut thanks to a comedic spoof he had played in for a friend's bat mitzvah. It wasn't meant to be a work of art, but lo and behold, Steven Spielberg saw the video and decided Ehrenreich's talent should get a chance in Hollywood.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Ehrenreich pointed out how he would never have expected to make it into acting based on this video:
"It's a video that this girl asked us to do. I mean, there wasn't a script: We would go and just film whatever made us laugh. I'm this 14-year-old, skinny little kid with long hair. I break into her house, try on her clothes and make up a song. All of this is just us literally taking a camera and going like, 'Okay, ha ha, do this.' We showed it to our parents — 'We're gonna play this at her bat mitzvah!' — and they were like, 'You look like an idiot in this. I don't think you should really do that.' We didn't care."
The story is even more interesting now when you realize how similar it is to Ford's rise to fame, who was cast as Han Solo while he was working as a carpenter on the set and did line readings with the potential actors as a favor to George Lucas. Because he, too, didn't really care about the impression he was giving, he was able to give his lines the exact amount of sarcasm that Lucas was looking for to play the space smuggler.
2. His Breakout Role Was A Cowboy In Hail, Caesar!
The latest movie by the Coen brothers, Hail, Caesar!, came out at the beginning of the year with an impressive lineup featuring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum — and Alden Ehrenreich.
Playing a slightly simple-minded actor who stars in mute cowboy movies, Ehrenreich delights and shows just how much potential he has in the front of the camera, especially in the above scene with Fiennes, who plays a director trying to teach the young cowboy a line.
Getting the part also proved his dedication — as he told Rolling Stone: "I don't think the Coen brothers had any idea of who I was." But he loved the script so much he asked to audition anyway.
3. He's Already Had A Few Good Roles
Born in Los Angeles, the 26-year-old actor studied at the prestigious Tisch School for the Arts in New York City. His first feature film role was in Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro in 2009, after which he starred as Ethan Wate in the YA movie Beautiful Creatures. He also appeared in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.
His latest projects are a biopic about Howard Hughes by Warren Beatty, currently in post-production, and a drama about the Iraq War, starring Tye Sheridan and Jennifer Aniston, titled The Yellow Birds.
4. He Chooses His Projects Carefully
Speaking to Collider after the release of Beautiful Creatures, he explained how much care he puts into choosing his roles:
"It's a hard quality to find, but I always know whether I want to do something or not. The character is important to me, as is getting to work with people that I feel like I can learn from and make a great movie with. I'm an actor because I love movies, and always have loved movies. I'm a film buff."
On top of his evident passion for his work, it's good to see that his slow but steady rise to fame hasn't gotten to his head. As he admitted to Rolling Stone back in February, his priority isn't determining whether he's technically on Hollywood's A-list or not.
"I've been in movies where so much of the conversation was about, 'Well, after this movie, you're gonna be the biggest movie star.' I sort of have learned that you never really can predict any of that. I don't really know what it's like when you have a big breakout thing happen and you're on the level of George or Josh or Channing or Jonah or Scarlett or Tilda."
Speaking of the Hail, Caesar! premiere, he said he was happy with still being anonymous on the street — but we're guessing it won't last long now.
"People will know who I am at the party tonight and at the premiere…But I could drive right now to the building next door and no one knows who I am. That's kind of nice."
5. He's Already Gotten Pretty Close To A Star Wars Actress
It surely won't impact his performance as Han Solo, but there's a nice coincidence here: He's starred as a heartthrob alongside Natalie Portman in an ad for luxury brand Dior, who just happened to play Padmé in the Star Wars prequels. Wasn't he just meant to play Han Solo?