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Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, is a fictional smuggler and "reckless mercenary" in the Star Wars franchise. Introduced in the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), Solo and his Wookiee first mate, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), become involved in the Rebel Alliance against the evil Galactic Empire. Over the course of the Star Wars franchise, Solo becomes a chief figure in the Alliance and succeeding galactic governments. Star Wars creator George Lucas described Solo as "a loner who realizes the importance of being part of a group and helping for the common good." The American Film Institute ranked Solo as the fourteenth-greatest film hero.

Concept and development

Solo was originally conceived as a "hulking green alien" Jedi, and later as a flamboyantly-dressed and burly Corellian. Parts of his character were taken from various early drafts of the Star Wars script featuring Luke Starkiller's older brother Deak Starkiller. The third Star Wars draft presented Solo in his filmed form.

Lucas asked Ford, whom he knew from their work in American Graffiti (1973), to read lines opposite actors auditioning for the roles of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa. Reading the lines made Ford familiar with the character, and Lucas cast him over other candidates such as Nick Nolte, Kurt Russell, and Christopher Walken. When neither Ford nor director Irvin Kershner were happy with Solo's scripted "I love you, too" response to Leia's declaration of love in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Kershner prompted Ford to draw upon his familiarity with Solo to improvise. Kershner agreed that Ford's line -- "I know" -- was exactly what Solo would say.

Ford asked Lucas to have Solo die from the frozen carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back or Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi; Ford said he believed that letting Solo die would strengthen the story. Return of the Jedi screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan concurred, saying it should happen near the beginning of Return of the Jedi to instill doubt as to whether the others would survive, but Lucas was adamantly against it. Although never filmed, Lucasfilm generated concept art of a young Solo helping the Wookiees in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).

Lucas later said, "Han and Leia probably did get married . . . They settled down. She became a senator, and they got a nice little house with a white picket fence. Han Solo is out there cooking burgers on the grill."

Depiction

At the beginning of A New Hope, Solo and Chewbacca are desperate to pay off a debt to Jabba the Hutt. Solo accepts a charter to transport Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) to Alderaan; when they arrive, they find Alderaan has been destroyed by the Death Star, and the Falcon is captured. Enticed by the likelihood of a substantial reward, Solo and Chewbacca help Skywalker rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), held captive aboard the station. After escaping and delivering Skywalker, Leia and the droids to the Rebels, Solo and Chewbacca receive payment for their services and depart; Solo believes the Rebels' plan to attack the Death Star is "suicide". However, Solo has a change of heart and returns to aid in the attack, ultimately allowing Skywalker to fire the shot that destroys the Death Star.

When the Empire attacks the Rebels' base on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, Solo transports Chewbacca, Leia, and C-3PO to Cloud City for safety and repairs to the Falcon. The bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) tracks the Falcon to Cloud City, and Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) forces Cloud City's administrator, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), to help capture Solo. Leia confesses her love of Solo shortly before he is frozen in carbonite for delivery to Jabba the Hutt. Although Calrissian helps free Vader's other captives, they do not succeed in releasing Solo. However, Leia infiltrates Jabba's palace at the beginning of Return of the Jedi and frees Solo. Reunited with the Rebels, Solo rejoins the Alliance and is commissioned as a general. Along with Leia and Chewbacca, he leads a team in deactivating the shields protecting the Empire's second Death Star. Aided by the indigenous Ewoks, Solo and the Rebels succeed in overcoming the Imperial garrison, allowing the Rebels' space forces to destroy the Empire's battlestation.

Brian Daley wrote a series of novels, the first published in 1979, exploring Solo and Chewbecca's smuggling adventures, and Ann C. Crispin's Han Solo Trilogy (1997-1998) further develops the character's backstory. Crispin's books depict Solo as a beggar and pickpocket for much of his youth.

Han Solo escapes from Trader's Luck and begins life on his own, apart from Garris Shrike's band of space gypsies.He was supposed to be raised in a family of Corellian space gypsies. He becomes a pilot and, in the process of undermining a religious fraud, frees and falls in love with Bria Tharen. Tharen, however, disappears soon before Solo joins the Imperial Navy. Solo loses his commission and is cashiered when he refuses an order to skin Chewbacca, who had commandeered a ship carrying Wookiee children destined for slavery; Chewbacca, in turn, swears a life-debt to Solo. The two become a prominent smuggling team, and help repel an Imperial blockade of a Hutt moon. Solo soon thereafter wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in a card tournament. Tharen, who has become a Rebel agent, reappears and asks for Solo, Chewbacca, and Calrissian's help in attacking a slave colony. After succeeding, Tharen's troopers steal the smuggler's valuables to aid the Rebel Alliance. Desperate to recoup their losses, Solo and Chewbacca accept a smuggling job from Jabba the Hutt. However, Imperials intercept the Falcon, forcing the smugglers to jetison their cargo. This loss is the debt Solo and Chewbacca owe the Hutt crime lord at the beginning of A New Hope.

Solo plays a central role in the years following Emperor Palpatine's death in Return of the Jedi. In The Courtship of Princess Leia (1995), he resigns his commission to pursue Leia, whom he eventually marries. Han and Leia have three children together: twins Jaina and Jacen and their younger brother, Anakin. Chewbacca dies saving Anakin's life in Vector Prime (1999). Solo takes his companion's death hard, sinking into alcoholism and depression. He takes his anger and grief out on his family, alienating them and returning to his loner lifestyle. In Star by Star (2001), Anakin dies as well, compounding Han's despair. By the end of the series, however, he accepts Anakin's and Chewbacca's deaths and repairs his relationship with his family. In the Legacy of the Force series, Jacen falls to the dark side of the Force, eventually becoming the Sith lord Darth Caedus. Although Solo disowns Jacen, he and Leia adopt Jacen's daughter, Allana, after Jacen's death.

Influence and critical reaction

Solo is a reckless smuggler with a sarcastic wit; he is "a very practical guy" and considers himself "a materialist". However, the adventures in the first Star Wars movie evoke his compassion, a trait "he didn't know he possessed."

Prince of Persia producer Ben Mattes explained that their "inspiration was anything Harrison Ford has ever done: Indiana Jones, Han Solo." The Japanesemarker manga and anime anti-hero Space Adventure Cobra has been compared by reviewers to Solo. In preparing to play James T. Kirk for the 2009 Star Trek film, Chris Pine drew inspiration from Ford's depictions of Solo and Indiana Jones, highlighting their humor and "accidental hero" traits.

Merchandising

Solo has been merchandised in multiple media, including action figures, video games, and other collectibles. A Han Solo action figure with "human proportions" was released in 1977 for A New Hope, while a figure created for the films' mid-1990s re-release is "unrealistically muscled."

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