Lando Calrissian Nearly Returned in ‘The Last Jedi’

When it comes to revivals of popular franchises — and when the franchise in question is as much of a cultural touchstone has Star Wars is — it can become a difficult balancing act for filmmakers to make the movie fit preconceived expectations for the old while taking the material in a bold, new direction.  And, in some ways, it’s a Kobayashi Maru: an unwinnable situation.  Somebody is always going to be disappointed no matter what you do.

For everything that Disney’s done right with the Star Wars franchise — and they’ve done plenty right in the three short years that they’ve been releasing movies under the franchise’s banner — this is the one trap that they’ve still not been able to successfully navigate.  The Force Awakens‘ detractors claimed that the movie was nothing but a thinly-veiled remake of A New Hope.  Critics of The Last Jedi shriek that it changed up the familiar formula too much.  No matter what Disney does, it just can’t seem to win at this particular game.

One thing that may have helped, though, is an early plan that The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson had for the movie.  Among the original trilogy characters that were considered to be brought back was fan favorite ne’er-do-well Lando Calrissian: frienemy to iconic smuggler Han Solo and former top dog in Cloud City.

The character has proven to be one of the most endearing of the original trilogy, and certainly one of the most memorable outside of the original triad of Luke, Leia and Han.  Charming, charismatic and only a little bit of a sleazeball, he has grinned and double-crossed his way through both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  In the expanded universe — the books and tv series and other ancillary materials produced in the decades before The Force Awakens — he has maintained his fan favorite status, returning throughout the expansive storylines to assist or menace various characters in equal measure.

It appears that whatever part he was to be given in the movie was reworked for Benicio del Toro instead.  Despite how much fun it would have been to see him team up with Han and Chewie one last time, or flirt shamelessly with an older Leia, Johnson just couldn’t seem to find room for the character.  Speaking in a recent interview with Yahoo! Movies, the director stated that:

“Believe me I thought about [bringing Lando back], believe me, I did, and it just wouldn’t work. For reasons I can’t really talk about without getting into spoilers, Lando even in the position of any… just specific story reasons that he would not have worked, like in the capacity of the DJ part — Benicio’s part — there’s a reason that had to be a new character and couldn’t just be Lando.”

Although he hasn’t appeared in a new Star Wars movie yet, there’s still hope to see him in one of the Disney-branded sic-fi movies.  On the subject of his future inclusion, Johnson opined that:

“Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon in a game of chance [with Lando]. You’d think he’d be the casino boss. I love Billy Dee Williams, and you’re right, I think anyone who’s still around that had anything to do with the original trilogy deserves to come back in some way.”

It’s unlikely that Disney will continue to exclude the character from its new film lineup for long.  With the original trilogy’s characters dying off, familiar faces in the “modern day” movies will prove increasingly hard to find, and Lando remains one of the most popular of those still around.  Besides, with all of these spinoffs floating around — like Rogue One or the upcoming Han Solo prequel — you can rest assured that somebody’s going to get the bright idea to tell Lando’s story.

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