Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Solo: A Star Wars Story yet, but what are you waiting for?
Folks who ventured out to experience Solo: A Star Wars Story got to meet the new names and faces behind familiar franchise characters Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian, but they also got to reunite with an unexpected villain from Star Wars lore. This is your final spoiler warning!
We’re speaking, of course, about the reveal that Darth Maul was the boss behind the scenes of Crimson Dawn and made even Paul Bettany‘s Dryden Vos blanch in terror at the mere suggestion of pissing him off or disappointing him. Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), however, is made of sterner stuff, as it was revealed that her ambitions have led her into an unholy alliance with the former Sith lord. We’ve already offered up an explanation of Maul’s appearance in Solo, along with what he’s been up to since being cut in half in The Phantom Menace, but new quotes from director Ron Howard and screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan clarify the decision behind the cameo and how it came about a bit more.
As /Film reports, the original reveal of the Crimson Dawn crime lord wasn’t specifically going to be Darth Maul. In fact, it wasn’t going to specifically be anyone at all:
Ron Howard: I will say that was scripted and there was a lot of uncertainty as to who that character would be. So it was sort of initially written in a rather generic way. It just sort of said “Boss”. And I thought when I came in, I assumed they knew who it was and they were just keeping it under wraps. And they didn’t. But Maul was listed as one of the candidates. And I lobbied hard for that. I thought that made a lot of sense to me. I found that character to be really effective. And I knew for a fact, without asking directly and giving anything away, my son Reed who just turned 31, who’s a dedicated Star Wars fan, he’s a golfer. He’s not in the business. Dedicated Star Wars fan. I just whispered that possibility and he just thought that would be incredibly cool. And so for that generation, I thought, well that was gonna be a pretty interesting idea. And doing a little more research and understanding sort of how the character had worked elsewhere, I thought it was good. And the Kasdan’s were on board with that. And but then we actually shot it twice. Because we did it once. And then we realized we, it wasn’t quite Maul enough yet.
So, despite the cybernetic legs, hooded visage, and combo of Ray Park and Sam Witwer, what else did the scene need?
Howard: Added the lightsaber. And intensified it. And definitely took a big jump.
More than just a connection to the Star Wars prequels and the animated series, Maul’s appearance served to explain Qi’ra’s unique and formidable fighting style, as explained by Jonathan Kasdan:
Jonathan Kasdan: Which is something that you’ve got to, you’re writing these movies and somebody’s saying, well she’s gotta be able to have some skills. And you say like okay, well she’s gotta have some skills. What are they gonna be and how can they be different than Rey or this Felicity character? And you start to dig into Wookieepedia and you start to say, well what are different kinds of martial arts within the games? And then we say, well we did wanna land this nugget about Darth Maul and maybe if the fighting style is connected to Maul in some way, that’d be really cool. And so you start to sort of fill in the gaps with the canon.
I was always sort of, I was trying to design it in such a way that everyone who read it would feel that they had thought to put him in there. And no one would realize that it was always what I wanted. And even Larry was sort of ambivalent about it at the beginning and then came to fully embrace the Maul of it all. But yeah, no, there’s subtle clues and even in the name Crimson Dawn I think it’s sort of setup to be this guy’s organization and where he goes after the many adventures he has in Clone Wars and the like.
And one final nugget about the scene between Qi’ra and Maul comes courtesy of Solo editor Pietro Scalia:
The thing is, I think it had to do with the surprise element, the dialogue between Maul and Qi’ra, and really, what is his presence? How does it effect what Qi’ra is doing? I think the original scene was a little… I don’t know. It was fine, but there were certain things that they wanted to change dialogue-wise, saying less, and creating a little more fear in Qi’ra. It was [originally] too simplistic; she easily goes with this villain. I think Ron wanted to get a little more depth and layers in the performance, because it’s a devil’s pact taking this on.
Did the Darth Maul cameo work for you, or did it feel too much like fan service? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!