The first time we met Alden Ehrenreich was when he portrayed Hobie Doyle in the Coen brothers’ comedy “Hail, Caesar!” He made a strong impression on us and we knew the young lad would go far.
Two years later, we meet the charming and humble 28-year-old as the lead in “Solo: A Star Wars Story” as no less than a young Han Solo.
(Photo courtesy of Janet R. Nepales / HFPA)
How did he get so lucky, we asked this Los Angeles-born actor whose ancestors are Jewish emigrants from Austria, Hungary, Russia, and Poland. We knew there was a list of 20 young actors who had screen tested for the role. Was it his screen test or his performance in “Hail, Caesar!” that convinced the Coen brothers to get him?
“I think it was a combination and thank you, I appreciate that,” he humbly replied. “‘Hail, Caesar!’ was coming out when I was auditioning for it, so that might have helped,” he added.
Discovered at a friend’s Bat Mitzvah reception by Steven Spielberg with Alden performing in a comedy video he and his friend created, Alden said he hasn’t talked to Steven yet since he got the much-coveted role.
“He discovered me when I was 14. I have talked to him over the years and I have spoken with him, but I haven’t actually gotten to talk to him since I got the part. I just went to Northern California to visit Skywalker Ranch and I got to sit down with George Lucas for about an hour and talk to him about ‘Star Wars’ which was really cool after two years of learning about it.”
He added, “I went and visited Francis Ford Coppola. Now I am just name dropping basically, but I went and visited Francis Ford Coppola, who directed the first movie and he put me in my first movie. He was really my mentor. So that was really wonderful.”
Alden made his first feature film in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tetro” in 2009 and then appeared in Francis’ subsequent film, “Twixt” in 2011.
“I would say like he almost created me as an actor and so much as a person,” Alden said of Francis. “That’s why I went and visited him too, because I realize that so much of the way that I feel about work and what I find exciting about it is from that experience. In a way I always try to get back to that feeling, because it was so incredible. I was 17 and I flew to Argentina. I was still in high school. We didn’t have trailers.
“I would sit on his lap and ask him questions about Al Pacino and Brando and all these people while we were shooting. He’s so generous in that he will tell all those stories. He is so warm. I love him. He is such a great believer in experimenting and in film being personal and the possibilities of cinema. It’s inspiring to be around still. I could talk about him for this whole weekend.”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story,” helmed by Ron Howard, focuses on the younger years of Han Solo of the “Star Wars” franchise.
Recently, no less than Harrison Ford, who portrayed the popular character of the franchise, surprised Alden with an unannounced visit while Alden was being interviewed for TV.
A SCENE from ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’
“It was unbelievable,” he described his encounter. “It was so crazy. I had no idea he was coming out in the middle of me doing an interview. It just meant the world to me. First of all, that he loves the movie. He really loves it. I think he’s seen it twice.
“And having his blessing going into it was important to me. This is even more important and meaningful. The fact that he came out here and traveled out here to do that, it meant a lot. It was very emotional and very exciting.”
Asked what they talked about, Alden disclosed, “Honestly, we didn’t talk a ton about the part in a way. We talked more about his career and his life. It wasn’t really a matter of, if he said ‘Oh you should do this or this specific thing.’ I wouldn’t have been able to not do that. So there’s kind of a tricky thing there. His main feeling from the beginning, and he said this before I was ever cast, is for whoever takes it on to make it their own and do their own thing with it. So it was lovely to have that spirit behind me.”
So, how much confident is he like Han Solo in real life?
“I do feel a little more of that,” he admitted. “Having gone through lots of experiences and lots of things that have been disappointing have made me more comfortable with failure. So when you are not afraid of that as much, everything else is so much easier. You just feel so much freer. That just comes from experience. I am really grateful that this movie is coming after 15 years of auditioning basically.
Alden does not believe in overnight successes. “You work 10 years to have an overnight success,” he said.