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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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9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies

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Wayne's World image
Paramount Pictures

There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.

1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)

Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.

2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.

3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)

You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.

4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.

5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)

Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.

6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)

I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.

7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)

This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.

8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)

We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.

9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.


That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.


Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.

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