A role in a Star Wars movie can be the role of a lifetime. Unless you’re cut from the film, that is.
Michael K. Williams, the scene-stealing star of The Wire and The Night Of, was originally cast in what Variety called “a key role” in the upcoming Star Wars spinoff, about the adventures of a young Han Solo. But that was before Lucasfilm made the highly unusual choice to fire the directors of the film, Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie), in mid-production, and replace them with Ron Howard (Apollo 13).
Now the Han Solo film is undergoing extensive reshoots, and Michael K. Williams is simply unable to change his schedule to accommodate the production, according to a new interview at Deadline.
“When Ron Howard got hired to finish out the film, there were some reshoot issues that needed to be done in regards to my character, in order for it to match the new direction which the producers wanted Ron to carry the film in,” Michael K. Williams explained.
“And that would have required me on a plane a month ago to London, to Pinewood, to do reshoots. But I’m here, on location in Africa. It’s scheduling. I’m not going to be back on the market until the end of November after Hap and Leonard, and for them to wait that long for me, that would have pushed back the release date, which I believe is in May 2018. They wanted me now; I couldn’t go. So they had to clip-clip-clip.”
It remains unclear whether Michael K. Williams was cut from the film or whether the character, which Williams reportedly described as half-human and half-animal (and “kick-ass”), will need to be recast.
It’s uncommon for actors to be replaced in the middle of production, but it’s not unheard of. It’s a heck of a lot more common than replacing a director in the midst of principle photography. Viggo Mortensen was a last-minute replacement for Stuart Townsend in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jodie Foster took over the lead role in Panic Room after Nicole Kidman suffered an on-set injury, and Eric Stoltz was notoriously replaced by Michael J. Fox in the lead role in the original Back to the Future.
Replacing actors in reshoots isn’t altogether uncommon either, and often has a lot to do with similar scheduling concerns. Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut, had to replace two actors due to the film’s incredibly long shooting schedule: Jennifer Jason Leigh and Harvey Keitel, whose parts were taken over by Marie Richardson and Sydney Pollack (respectively).
Michael K. Williams was quick to thank Lucasfilm for a positive experience and to leave the door open for future collaborations. Maybe his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity can come around again. Let’s hope so!
Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on Canceled Too Soon and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.