Never tell him the odds: writer-director J.J. Abrams says it was easy enough convincing Star Wars veteran Harrison Ford to reprise his role as Han Solo one last time for a pivotal scene in saga finale The Rise of Skywalker. Spoilers. Ford previously reprised the role as a main character in Abrams' The Force Awakens, where Han was cut down and killed by dark sided son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). In The Rise of Skywalker, the late Han appears to a disillusioned Kylo on the ocean moon Kef Bir — appearing as just a memory, not a Force ghost — after mother Leia (Carrie Fisher) uses the Force to persuade her son to return to the light, a decision he ultimately makes when the returned Ben Solo tosses his red-bladed lightsaber into rocky waters below.
“Well, I called him and I said, ‘We want to have a scene in the film between Kylo Ren and his father, would you do it?’ And he said, ‘Okay,’” Abrams told Vanity Fair when asked to reveal how he convinced Ford to return to a galaxy far, far away after being killed off years earlier. “It's not more interesting!”
Ford famously lobbied for Han to die in 1983's Return of the Jedi, arguing it would give the original trilogy finale “some emotional strength,” and Ford wanted to know why the slain space pirate needed to reappear in The Rise of Skywalker.
“We had a meeting and talked about what it would be,” Abrams said. “Harrison, who is one of the great people ever, and incredibly thoughtful about everything that he does, all he ever wants is to understand the utility of the character. 'What is my role?' It was about sitting with him and explaining what our intention was. We talked about it for quite a while, I sent him the pages. He got it, and of course, as you can see, he was wonderful.”
The scene, a direct callback to Han and Kylo's last meeting in The Force Awakens, was pivotal: it's there Kylo dies and Ben Solo returns as a swagger-filled hero who races to backup Rey (Daisy Ridley) in her fight against revived Sith lord Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
“At least for J.J. and I, we thought that this finally was Ren, after the death of his mother, being able to really ask for forgiveness, to ask his father for forgiveness, and make some kind of peace,” co-writer Chris Terrio explained. “He cannot go back and take back what he has done to his father, but as Han says, ‘Your mother's gone but what she stood for and what she fought for, that's not gone,’ so he still can make amends in the future.”
Abrams explained to Ford the scene needed Han “to have Kylo get to dramatize the thing that he’d been playing some form of [in his head].”
“[Ren] was sort of suppressing and rejecting what he had done,” Abrams said, pointing to Ren’s line about killing the past in Rian Johnson’s preceding episode The Last Jedi.
“Why do you think he wants to kill the past? It's like there's this thing that is haunting him. It's not until he's shown compassion by Rey that he allows himself to have that conversation,” Abrams said. “It’s the thing that will crush him, and the idea that he knows the spirit of his father would give him permission and encouragement to go to the light side.”
On Driver’s part, the actor worked with Abrams to inject parts of Ford’s Han Solo into Ben, who displays the smuggler’s famed cockiness when he’s shown as a blue lightsaber-wielding hero.
“That was actually a very conscious thing that J.J. and Adam talked about,” added Terrio. “There could be subtle ways for you to see the ghost of Ben Solo in there somewhere, just his physicality. There are certain things like that in the movie that I see which I'm pretty convinced are Adam showing you what Ben Solo would have looked like before by showing what he inherited from his father.”