Last night was Jason Reitman’s highly anticipated live read-through of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. A portion of the cast was announced the day before but now we know who the rest of the cast turned out to be, and how the night went down.
Han and Leia were the two major characters missing from the initial cast list but we weren’t disappointed when they were finally announced. Jessica Alba was cast as Princess Leia and Ellen Page turned out to be our scruffy-looking Nerfherder, Han Solo. This came as a surprise to plenty of fans but when discussing his choice, Reitman was all confidence.
“The Han Solo character is fascinating in that the approach to every other character in Star Wars is earnest and kind of sweet and old-fashioned. The heroes are heroes, and the villains are villains. And within this world, we’re introduced to one human being who looks at it all with irony. He’s the guy who doesn’t give a crap. With him, we feel like we have an ally in this, and it allows the viewer to get closer to Luke and Leia. In casting Han, the most important thing is: Who has the most interesting, ironic approach to life? And when I think of that, I think of Ellen Page. She’s a small human being who has the energy to fill Madison Square Garden.”
You know, the more Reitman talks about these characters, the more I want him involved in this franchise down the line.
As for Han’s best friend, Chewbacca, that role went to none other than Rainn Wilson. Most surprising, however, was the very familiar face that turned up. That’s right, Mark Hamill showed up as a member of the cast! He played both Obi-Wan Kenobi, giving a dead-on impression of Sir Alec Guiness, and Emperor Palpatine. Hamill is partially known for his voice work, especially as the Joker in various Batman franchises, so we’re not surprised to hear he did well in both his roles.
Reitman was all jokes at the event, starting with: “Welcome to the first live screening of The Interview.”
The good humored event continued throughout the night as the cast drew several laughs from the audience. This read-through was the same as all of Reitman’s prior read-throughs: the cast had not rehearsed the script before and there were no special effects. This allowed for new interpretations and creativity which is exactly what the audience got.
According to most reviews, it was Stephen Merchant as C-3PO and Kevin Pollack’s Yoda who drew the most applause. They made these two very memorable characters, especially in voice, come to life again last night.
Parts of George Lucas’ script were read to the audience as well, at one point describing Han as “kiss[ing Leia] with slow, hot lips.” Reitman interjected, “Oh, George.”
Even Reitman himself participated in the performance last night. In his first-ever turn at performing during one of his read-throughs, he gave the fun beeps and whistles to our favorite droid, R2-D2.
“I hope I pass the audition,” Hamill joked at one point in the night. We can say with confidence that we think everyone did, and it sounds like it was a fantastic night.