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What If Al Pacino Was Han Solo?

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An offer he ultimately refused

Al Pacino and Millennium Falcon image
Paramount Pictures & Lucasfilm

In the history of movies, there have been many “what if?” scenarios. But sometimes you have situations like the one I’m going to look at today. A situation where a great movie could have gone in a different direction and potentially altered its reputation. What if a different actor had taken up an iconic role? What if Al Pacino, not Harrison Ford played the role of Han Solo? Would it have been for the better? Would it have been worse?

I’ve taken a look at a handful of disappointing movies. I looked at why they were disappointing, and also how they potentially could have been better. But today I’m taking a different angle. Today I’m looking at a great movie – indeed, a series of great movies – and evaluating how they could have been…different? And would “different” have meant “better“?

Let’s dive in. Buckle up your seat belt, get ready to board the Millennium Falcon, and let’s evaluate…

The Situation: What If Al Pacino accepted the role of Han Solo in Star Wars?

The role of Han Solo is almost synonymous with Harrison Ford. He created the role in the original Star Wars movie back in 1977. But, as legend has it, Ford landed the role almost essentially by accident. While Ford had worked with Lucas in 1973’s American Graffiti, that wasn’t what landed him the role.

Ford was just another actor landing small parts in the 1970s. Even with American Graffiti on his resume. He decided to lean more on his fallback career of being a carpenter while he waited for his “big break” in Hollywood. One of the carpentry jobs he was working on happened to be at the same studio that George Lucas was using. The one where he was creating and casting his new space opera called Star Wars. Since Lucas was still a relative unknown, he didn’t have the big budget to attract a cadre of major stars for his new film, so he brought on his carpenter to read some lines. The rest, as they say, was history.

A question of budget?

But just because Lucas didn’t have the money to cast an A-List celebrity as Han Solo doesn’t mean he didn’t try. One of his first choices was Al Pacino, who was offered the role and turned it down. Largely because he didn’t entirely understand the script. This same logic mirrored Sean Connery’s decision to turn down the role of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, which led to Connery’s retirement from acting.

This was a pivotal time for Pacino. He was fresh off a starring role as Michael Corleone in The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II in 1974. Not to mention lesser classics such as Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. Now he was being offered the chance to create a role in a movie that could cement his legacy as the biggest star in contemporary Hollywood, if not the history of Hollywood.

But he didn’t take it. He didn’t get it, he didn’t want it…whatever your favourite reason is, Pacino turned it down. So let’s take a look at this incredible “what if?” scenario that is playing out before our eyes.

How would it have affected the Star Wars canon?

It is easy to evaluate Pacino’s decision in hindsight as a terrible idea. He was one of the biggest and most respected actors in the film industry at the time of the creation of Star Wars.

Adding him to the fledgeling franchise could have added instant credibility to the film. Remember it was mostly packed with no-name actors and a director fighting to make his name. It could have cemented Pacino as THE biggest name in movies and could have made him untouchable in the eyes of cinema historians.

So here’s my hot take: Al Pacino turning down the role of Han Solo is one of the best things that ever happened in movie history. And had he taken the role of Han Solo, it would have ruined the Star Wars franchise and, potentially, American cinema for the last 50 years.

That may sound like a shock to you. But hear me out.

Credibility

Pacino was a phenomenal actor. I would say “he is a phenomenal actor” but a lot of his work since the turn of the 21st century has been…not great. But at the time Star Wars was released there weren’t many Hollywood names more respected than Pacino’s. He embodied the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II and turned it into one of the most iconic characters in movie history. He turned in similarly iconic roles in Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. Pacino was a major star. He would have lent instant credibility to the fledgeling franchise.

And that’s kind of my point here.

A Star Wars secret

You see, the dirty little secret about the first Star Wars movie is that when you really look at it…it’s not really that great of a movie. A revolutionary movie, yes. A movie that spawned one of the most profitable franchises in Hollywood history, yes. A movie that reinvigorated the science fiction genre (and created the concept of a “space opera”) and defined the concept of a “summer blockbuster,” yes.

However, from the standpoint of pure movie-making, of acting performances and well-written dialogue? Not so much. But that’s not a bad thing!

Star Wars is less a movie and more an experience. It is a spectacle. To examine why Star Wars became such a phenomenon is to examine the story and the world-building itself. To really make that special world and get audiences fully invested, you had to see the characters as characters. And not actors playing characters. And having the no-name cast for the movie helped this immensely. Remember: only Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan) had a notable career to speak of before the movie. By not having a famous cast, we could become fully immersed in the world that Star Wars created for us and get lost in the story and the mythos therein.

Stars vs. experience

But having Al Pacino in the movie would have ruined all that. Instead of being a trailblazing piece of cinema. One where we became lost in the world of Jedi’s and the Rebels Alliance and the evil Empire. Audiences would likely have focused on Al Pacino and his role in a weird space movie with robots and lasers and legendarily terrible dialogue. From the performance aspect of things, could Pacino have successfully pulled off the role of Han Solo? Of course, he could have. Playing a morally ambiguous anti-hero was his bread and butter at the time. But his star power would have overshadowed the whole project.

People would have looked at the movie as “that weird Pacino space fighting movie. You know, where people talk like robots” instead of what it ultimately became. And if that had happened, perhaps there wouldn’t have been any Star Wars franchise. Then science fiction and grand film epics may have fallen by the wayside.

So when Pacino turned down the role, the relatively unknown carpenter stepped in and became a megastar. And that leads us to the next part of this what-if:

The Domino Effect: What Happens to Harrison Ford and History of American Cinema?

If we never got Harrison Ford as Han Solo, then it’s very likely we never get Harrison Ford as the biggest yet most surprising movie star of his generation. And that would have been a tragedy. But not only that, it would have set off a domino effect that would have had untold consequences in the last fifty years of Hollywood cinema.

If Harrison Ford doesn’t get the role of Han Solo. Then it’s highly likely he doesn’t get the role of Indiana Jones, since he wouldn’t have had the star power to bank on when Steven Spielberg started his new series. If Ford never got offered the role of Indy, who would have taken it? Legend has always had it that Tom Selleck was the first choice for the role. But since he wasn’t available, Ford took over and became the undisputed star of two of the most profitable movie franchises in history.

What about Indy?

Does this mean that a different actor takes over the role of Indiana Jones and becomes a megastar? And who would it have been? Does this actor have the same impact on the series, and does the Indiana Jones series become as successful as it did with Ford in the lead role? And if it doesn’t, and Pacino takes the role of Han Solo and ruins the Star Wars franchise.

Due to overpowering the project. Does this mean that both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies are erased from Hollywood’s history as two of the greatest and most influential franchises of all time? And if the answer is “no,” what happens to the careers of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg? Worst of all: if Star Wars and the Indiana Jones movies don’t get made, what happens to the career of John Williams and his amazing compositions? Does someone else take the mantle of the greatest Hollywood composer of all time (maybe Hans Zimmer or James Horner)?

Needless to say, having Al Pacino take the role of Han Solo and erase Harrison Ford from the majority of Hollywood’s history has more far-reaching consequences than you might think of at first. But it didn’t happen. And for that, we should all be thankful that Al Pacino was made an offer and decided to refuse.

Thanks for reading, my head hurts now after all that rewriting of movie history, I’m going for a nap.


Thanks for reading our article what would have happened if Al Pacino became Han Solo. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out more of our Star Wars articles HERE.

Read IMDB information on Al Pacino HERE.

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Movie News

Hogwarts Houses For MCU Characters

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MCU Harry Potter houses image
Marvel Studios & Warner Bros.

Since its conception, Hogwarts houses have been a deciding factor in getting to know people. How someone answers “what Hogwarts house are you in?” can tell you a lot about a person. But where do some of our favourite MCU characters shape up when faced with the sorting hat?

Tony Stark/Iron Man- Ravenclaw

While Tony could be argued for almost any of the houses, Ravenclaw suits him best. Most of his development comes from the pursuit of knowledge. Aside from being one of the smartest characters in the MCU, he is constantly learning and improving upon his technology. He tends to approach large problems from a strategic and pragmatic standpoint, especially in his later films. Admittedly he can be brave and somewhat self-servingly ambitious. But who he is at the end of his arc and the way that he solves problems points to Iron Man being in Ravenclaw.

Steve Rogers/Captain America- Gryffindor

Is it even a question? Steve Rogers is definitely a Gryffindor. From day one, he has always strived to do what’s right. And he subtly wants a bit of glory for it too. He’s a natural leader and has always rushed into danger without a thought. He is undoubtedly driven by bravery and righteousness and is through and through a Gryffindor.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow- Hufflepuff

Natasha is tricky. She could truthfully swing in any direction. It may seem strange to put a spy in Hufflepuff, but if nothing else, Natasha is loyal. She cares deeply for those close to her and has shown that she’s willing to die for them. Her characterization throughout the MCU has been lacking, but her solo film has shown her to be fiercely loyal.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk- Ravenclaw

Another Ravenclaw. Similar to Tony, Bruce is very intelligent. While he seems to be less inclined to want to fight battles than Tony is, he is constantly learning. His relationship with the Hulk can even be characterized this way. By a desire to learn how to control him, then to understand him, then to become him. His arc is one that is driven by knowledge.

Thor- Gryffindor

Thor is always looking to prove himself. Even though he can lift the hammer, he is constantly looking for validation that he is worthy. He’s not usually afraid of much, and when he is, he faces it anyway. What makes Thor a Gryffindor though is his desire to be the hero. He’s not in Slytherin because he doesn’t desire to rule. He’s not ambitious, he just wants validation.

Peter Parker/Spiderman- Gryffindor

Peter is another hard one. He’s intelligent like Bruce and Tony, which could throw him into Ravenclaw. He’s loyal to his friends, which could put him into Hufflepuff. But at his core, Peter is in Gryffindor. The proof is in one of his first lines in the MCU. In Civil War, he tells Tony, “if you can do the things I do, and you don’t, then bad things happen because of you. (paraphrased)” He feels that because he’s special, he has to act. And unlike Steve and Thor, Peter is almost always afraid. He faces his challenges in spite of that. And while he wants to have a normal life, and a typical High School experience, he selflessly puts himself on the line. Once again, Peter is not looking for recognition, he’s just trying to do the right thing.

Dr Strange- Ravenclaw

Lots of Ravenclaws in the MCU. For Dr Strange, there really isn’t any other option. He is completely driven by the pursuit of knowledge. And while recognition came with that, we see with his journey into the mystic arts that his true motivation comes from learning. He’s a very similar character to Tony Stark, and both of them are textbook Ravenclaws.

Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch- Hufflepuff

Like Natasha, Wanda is driven by her relationships. She is faithfully loyal to her brother, then Vision, then her family. She is definitely motivated to protect and care for those she loves. Including creating an entire alternate reality to be with them! Wanda is brave and intelligent, but at her core, she is loyal.

Loki- Slytherin

Finally, a Slytherin. Once again, was there any other option? Loki is characterized by his cunning and ambition. He wants to rule. And he doesn’t get there by rushing into battle. He gets there by being sneaky and clever. Loki is a Slytherin through and through.

Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel- Slytherin

This may not feel like the obvious choice for Carol, but she definitely portrays characteristics of a Slytherin. She’s the best, and she wants people to know it. She’s confident and clever, and she likes attention. We don’t know her very well yet, but from what we’ve seen, she seems to relish in the attention her efforts provide. She is good, helpful, and ambitious.

T’Challa/Black Panther- Hufflepuff

T’Challa is also driven by loyalty. But while he is protective of those he loves, his true loyalty is to Wakanda. He’s not king because of ambition, he’s king out of duty. Everything he does is through the lens of “what is best for Wakanda?” While it’s a bit unconventional, his loyalty to Wakanda characterizes him as a Hufflepuff.

Scott Lang/Ant-Man- Gryffindor

At first, it appears that Scott would be in Hufflepuff. After all, he is very motivated by his relationship with his daughter. But if he were truly 100% driven by that, he would have made different choices. He would not have betrayed Hope and Hank and teamed up with Captain America without their permission. He also would not have stolen from his company and landed in jail in the first place. But both of those above decisions do characterize him as a Gryffindor. He wants to be in the action, and he doesn’t always consider the consequences. Scott isn’t really looking for recognition and is not that ambitious, but he does want to be involved in the big events. He wants to help people, and he bravely faces battles. Sometimes without discretion.


Do you agree with our picks for these MCU characters in Hogwarts Houses? If not or if we’ve missed any out, leave us a comment below.


Check out our review of Black Widow HERE.

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