For visionary filmmaker George Lucas, finding the perfect Han Solo was a painstaking process, to say the least. In Lucas’s 1974 screenplay for Star Wars, a 132-page script titled The Star Wars: Rough Draft, Solo was depicted as a mammoth green-skinned alien monster with gills and no nose. In the second draft, Solo evolved into a bearded, flamboyantly-outfitted pirate (picture: Jack Sparrow in space). Finally, in 1975’s third draft, Lucas had nailed down the character of Solo, who he described as, “A tough James Dean-style starpilot about twenty-five years old. A cowboy in a starship—simple, sentimental and cocksure of himself.”
Then, Lucas envisioned Solo as black. He auditioned Billy Dee Williams for the part (who’d later be cast in the film’s sequel The Empire Strikes Back as Lando Calrissian) before nearly casting Glynn Turman for the role—only to back away at the last minute.
“That was in George Lucas' book,” Turman recalled in a 2007 interview with Creative Loafing. “Apparently George Lucas had me in mind for the role, and then thought that there might be too much controversy between a white Princess Leia and a black Han Solo—because those were the times—and he didn’t want to get into that. At the time, I had no idea. I just went to the audition, did it and got out of there.”
So, Lucas auditioned a ton of white men for the part of Han Solo, including Kurt Russell, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray (!), Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, and Sylvester Stallone. But it was Harrison Ford, who’d starred as Bob Falfa in Lucas’s 1973 film American Graffiti, who nailed his screen test and won the now-iconic part.
Here, watch Harrison Ford’s excellent original audition with Mark Hamill (who had already been cast as Luke Skywalker) for Han Solo: