When she joined the cast of 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story, Thandiwe Newton became—a scant 41 years in—the first Black woman to have a major role in the franchise’s films. And by major, we of course mean “dies in the first act to ensure that Woody Harrelson looks properly bitter and unshaved for the rest of the movie.” Apparently, though, that wasn’t how it was meant to be—and now Newton has spoken up about her disappointment with Star Wars as a whole, after her character’s fate was altered from what was originally in the movie’s script.
This is per an interview Newton gave this week to Inverse, focused on her role in Hugh Jackman’s recent sci-fi noir Reminiscence. But Star Wars talk inevitably oozed into the conversation, and so Newton addressed the space elephant in the space room: “You don’t kill off the first Black woman to ever have a real role in a Star Wars movie. Like, are you fucking joking?”
In the film, Newton’s character Val dies at the end of the big heist that represents Alden Ehrenreich’s Han’s first big step into the criminal major leagues. In the script, though, Val’s fate was left far more ambiguous, opening up the possibility that she might return (if Solo’s lackluster box office performance hadn’t precluded possibilities of a sequel).
Actually, in the script, she wasn’t killed. It happened during filming. And it was much more just to do with the time we had to do the scenes. It’s much easier just to have me die than it is to have me fall into a vacuum of space so I can come back sometime. That’s what it originally was: that the explosion and she falls out and you don’t know where she’s gone. So I could have come back at some point. But when we came to filming, as far as I was concerned and was aware, when it came to filming that scene, it was too huge a set-piece to create, so they just had me blow up and I’m done. But I remembered at the time thinking, “This is a big, big mistake.”
In the interview, Newton doesn’t make it clear which of the film’s directors—Phil Lord and Chris Miller, or Ron Howard, who took over the film after Disney fired the pair—were responsible for the filming, and the subsequent change. And, again: The fact that there’s almost certainly not going to be a Solo sequel renders at least some of this academic. (Also, “sucked into the vacuum of space” still sounds pretty dead, but we grant that it’s less certain than what’s depicted in the film.)