Monday, April 18, 2016

The Case for Alden Ehrenreich

Seeing as how the internet has appropriately and promptly exploded over the news that actor Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) is the front runner for the title role in the eponymous movie "Han Solo", I, as a responsible Star Wars fan, feel obliged to respond.

Look, let's face it: the Han Solo movie is fighting a losing battle. No matter who you cast, and no matter how well-made the movie is, no one (DESPITE WHAT THIS ARTICLE MIGHT IMPLY) can replace Harrison Ford as our beloved nerf-herder. That being said.. there is a compelling argument to be made about the status of our titular hero.

Let's start with what the internet felt was the obvious answer to Lucasfilm's problem. Enter Anthony Ingruber (Age of Adaline). Anthony Ingruber is a Canadian actor who carried himself to fame via his Youtube channel dedicated to famous character impressions. A particular impression, however, set the web ablaze with the heat of erotic fancast-ica. Could it be? Had Harrison Ford had an illegitimate child somewhere in the depths of Canada? Or could it be that this kid just happened to have a knack for crooking his smile and speaking with the cadence of an actor thrice his age?

Before long, Anthony Ingruber was unavoidably cast as a young Harrison Ford in the 2015 film "Age of Adaline" by Lee Toland Krieger. What Ingruber offers in his role is little more than a simple cameo that is played just subtly enough to effectively convince us of a time gone by in Harrison Ford's life. And therein lies the problem: cameo.

What Anthony Ingruber can offer is a remarkably impressive impersonation of Harrison Ford in a cameo role, but where he falters is in the extended role that lead actors have to fill. As an impressionist, he is beyond talented, but as an actor, he fails to properly emote with the nuance required by a film actor for more than a few minutes. Exit Anthony Ingruber.

At this point in time, a number of different actors' names were being floated by Hollywood journalistic media outlets. These names ranged from the credible with Taron Egerton and Jack Reynor, to the ridiculous with Dave Franco and Miles Teller (not that Miles isn't a great actor, but that he'd, like Franco, be ludicrously wrong for the part). These actors have the name, face recognition, and folly (I'll explain why) of being in big hit blockbuster films such as Transformers, the Divergent Series, and Kingsman. Then, you have the mysterious Alden Ehrenreich.

Alden Ehrenreich, whose most prominent role was in the Coen Brothers' latest "Hail, Caesar!", lacks what most all of those other actors have: a face. In this regard, he's almost an analog to who Harrison Ford was back in 1976. Harrison Ford, at that point in his career, got lucky with a minor role in the immensely successful "American Graffiti" by George Lucas, which acted as a vehicle into his career bounding role as the smuggler, Han Solo, in Star Wars (1977) by George Lucas. If we simply take Ehrenreich as the Harrison Ford of "Hail, Caesar!" to "American Graffiti" we can start to see why he would fit into the role.

Part of what made Harrison Ford so great as Han Solo was that Han Solo is kind of a mysterious neutral force. He holds no allegiances and walks with an air of mystery that follows him like an 8 foot sasquatch. With it, he brings this sort of rebellious James Dean-esque vibe to the character that only someone with unconventionally good looks can (the scar and crooked smile), something proven by Ford was a part of his toolbox with his performance in "American Graffiti".

Likewise, Ehrenreich is an equally unconventionally attractive man with an aura almost like that of an actor from the western era of Hollywood. Isn't that what Han Solo essentially is? He's a space cowboy! He's Clint Eastwood mixed with James Dean. He's an outlaw with a devilish grin and quick draw. It only takes the most plain of audience members to sit down with "Hail, Caesar!" to notice just how uncannily familiar Alden Ehrenrich resembles this archetype.

Sure, he doesn't look like Harrison Ford. No one does! Jack Reynor doesn't look like Harrison Ford. Alden Ehrenreich doesn't look like Harrison Ford. Anthony Ingruber doesn't look like Harrison Ford (besides a passing resemblance). Hell, there will be a day when even Harrison Ford doesn't look like Harrison Ford. But, as with James Bond, what's important is the attitude: the ability to carry yourself through a cantina filled with the galaxy's worst scum and villainy yet feel at home.

Maybe it's time we let space have a James Bond, too. From one Star Wars fan who wants nothing but good to come from these new movies, and who was just as worried as the rest of you when they announced a Solo Han Solo movie (instead of the OBI WAN MOVIE WE ALL WANTED), I honestly believe that Alden Ehrenreich is the best (first) shot in the galaxy.

See you, space cowboys.

David Harding is a movie and comic book enthusiast and occasional contributor to the Getting Off Topic Podcast

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