It's hard to imagine anyone else playing Han Solo other than Harrison Ford. The Star Wars franchise turned the unknown carpenter into a star overnight, leading to more heroic roles like Indiana Jones. It's also difficult to think about Luke Skywalker being played by anyone other than Mark Hamill. But when Hollywood was just beginning to work on casting Star Wars: A New Hope, Kurt Russell was being considered for both roles.
"That was back in the day when all the usual suspects in their twenties would roll in there, and it was early 1976 because at the same time was a television Western called The Quest that they were offering me. I really loved the part," Russell explained to the Daily Beast in an interview promoting his 2015 film, The Hateful Eight.
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Ultimately Russell went to George Lucas asking if he thought he would use him in the film or not. Apparently, Lucas just couldn't make up his mind.
"And he said, "I don't know which part I prefer you in. I don't know if I like you as Han and this guy as Skywalker, or this guy as Han and you as Skywalker. I don't know." I said, "I gotta make a decision on this Western and I gotta go to work," and he said, "I just can't give you an answer." So I said, "All right, I'm going to go take this Western and there will be one less guy to think about." I don't know if he would've hired me."
It's difficult to even fathom what it must have been like auditioning for the original trilogy. You don't really understand "the force" or know anything about Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, or the Jedi, you just had to jump in there and wing it. Russell explained he had absolutely no idea what he was talking about when he read for the role of Han. You can see his taped audition below.
"You know, it was pretty fun because George taped it, and I had no idea what I was saying. I'm talking about a Millennium Falcon and however long it took to get from here to there and the Death Star. So we're just doing stuff having no idea what you're talking about and no idea what you're doing."
Although Russell ended up not appearing in Star Wars, he later worked with Disney (who now owns Lucasfilm) in a different sci-fi franchise. He played Star Lord's (Chris Pratt) father, Ego the living planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It's no Han Solo, but we'll take it!