Harrison Ford’s Han Solo may have—spoiler alert for Episode VII: The Force Awakens—been lightsabered to death by his son, Kylo Ren, but the character will live to see another day in Disney/Lucasfilm’s highly-anticipated, still untitled “young Han Solo” project, set to premiere on a far, far away date: May 2018.
On Monday, Variety published eight names from an alleged shortlist of actors still in the running to play the iconic character as a young man in the film, which will be directed by The LEGO Movie’s Phil Lord and Chris Miller: Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Dave Franco, Jack Reynor, Scott Eastwood, Logan Lerman, Emory Cohen, and Blake Jenner.
The film is still a year away from shooting, but the stakes have been raised now that young Han Solo will reportedly make a cameo in this winter’s stand-alone Star Wars film Rogue One.
From that shortlist, Teller and Elgort are probably our best bets. Despite his bizarre antics in last summer’s sit down with Esquire’s Anna Peele, 28-year-old Teller remains a highly respected actor who can deliver both an awards-worthy performance in Whiplash and help prop up a young adult franchise like the Divergent series. But his participation in this past year’s Fantastic Four disaster isn’t doing his career any favors.
At 21, Elgort is an even fresher face and does bear at least a passing resemblance to a young Ford. He joined Teller in the Divergent films and has seen some success in weepy teen dramas like The Fault in Our Stars, but he has yet to carry a film on his shoulders, and the Solo role will be a lot to carry.
Perhaps the most intriguing name on Disney’s list is Emory Cohen, who put in a sweet and affecting performance as Saoirse Ronan’s love interest in last year’s Brooklyn, demonstrating a combination of humor and heart the role will no doubt need.
The ability to pull off Han Solo’s combination of wry wit and action star charisma is the major challenge any actor who steps into the role will face. It was that type of natural charm that led Ford on his trajectory to become the highest-grossing movie star of all time, a feat he just achieved this past year—surpassing Samuel L. Jackson—thanks to The Force Awakens. James Franco’s younger brother Dave may be funny, but nobody is going to put their money on him in a fight.
If Oscar Isaac hadn’t played what was essentially a young Han Solo as Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens, he might make an obvious choice. Same goes for Chris Pratt, who proved he can do funny sci-fi action in Guardians of the Galaxy, but is already reportedly being tapped to play a younger version of Ford in the rumored Indiana Jones prequels.
Of course, both of those actors are over 35, Ford’s age when the first Star Wars film was released. Disney has obviously put a lot of stock in youth—each of the actors on that shortlist are under 30—but the studio may be prematurely eliminating some more bankable options, just because they happen to have been born in the early ’80s.
Here are five other actors (including two over age 30) the studio should consider before it’s too late.
25-year-old Jack O’Connell got burned by Unbroken. He put in an excellent performance as Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, but there was nothing he could do to save Angelina Jolie’s bloated, surprisingly boring movie from itself. He did, however, earn himself a BAFTA Rising Star Award. And he’s even got that coveted teen girl market on lock due to his heartthrob performance in the short-lived, but much-obsessed over series Skins.
And what about O’Connell’s Skins co-star Nicholas Hoult? With his transformative performance as the pale, deranged Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road, Hoult almost made audiences forget his earlier work as the cute kid from About a Boy. He has also made his name in the superhero circuit, playing Beast in the X-Men films. For a more human Hoult performance, see his work as a young, gay college student opposite Colin Firth in A Single Man.
Michael B. Jordan
The big question on everyone’s minds: Does young Han Solo have to look like young Harrison Ford? The reality is, no matter who Disney casts, you’ll have to suspend disbelief because no one looks exactly like young Harrison Ford. If Michael B. Jordan can essentially play a young Rocky Balboa, then why can’t be play young Han Solo?
Again, the Egyptian-American 34-year-old Rami Malek looks nothing like Harrison Ford. But how fun would it be to see him shed the nervous, awkward, uncomfortable character he plays on the Golden Globe-winning Mr. Robot and show a different side of himself in the Star Wars universe? Anyone who has seen or heard interviews with him knows he is nothing like his character Elliot Alderson in real life.
Finally, here’s an idea that seems outside the box at first but might actually be the most obvious choice of all. JGL turns 35 this year, making him the same age as Ford when the first Star Wars film was released. He is a huge star with a solid track record of both comedy (50/50, Don Jon) and action (The Dark Knight Rises, Looper). He’s charming as hell and really needs a win after that whole debacle with The Walk. Plus, as he demonstrated in (500) Days of Summer, he already sees himself as Han Solo.