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How Ron Howard Shaped That Major Solo: A Star Wars Story Reveal

Contains spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story

Darth Maul fans, give a round of applause to Ron Howard. 

Few fans expected Solo: A Star Wars Story to turn heads and boggle brains, but it did late in the movie when Emilia Clarke's double-crossing Qi'ra gives none other than Darth Maul a call. It was previously reported that the appearance of the ex-Sith Lord, who's actually credited simply as "Maul" in the Star Wars standalone, was "too secret to ever name" and wasn't included in the film's script. As it turns out, Solo: A Star Wars Story director Ron Howard is the one to thank for picking Emperor Palpatine's former apprentice as the character to bring back to the big screen. 

When Howard hopped aboard Solo to replace original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the identity of the real mastermind behind the Crimson Dawn syndicate hadn't been decided. The creatives had a list of characters who could potentially play the criminal kingpin, whose involvement in Solo was written "initially written in a rather generic way," but Howard pushed hard to have Maul fill the role. 

"There was a lot of uncertainty as to who that character would be ... It just sort of said 'Boss.' And I thought when I came in, I assumed they knew who it was and they were just keeping it under wraps. And they didn't. But Maul was listed as one of the candidates. And I lobbied hard for that," Howard explained to Slashfilm. "I thought that made a lot of sense to me. I found that character to be really effective."

The filmmaker continued, revealing that he asked his son Reed — who is a "dedicated Star Wars fan" and "not in the business" like Howard's daughter, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom actress Bryce Dallas Howard — about the possibility of having Maul be in Solo to gain some third-party insight. 

"Without asking directly and giving anything away ... I just whispered that possibility and he just thought that would be incredibly cool. And so for that generation, I thought, well that was gonna be a pretty interesting idea. And doing a little more research and understanding sort of how the character had worked elsewhere, I thought it was good," said Howard. "And the Kasdans [Solo's screenwriters] were on board with that."

He also added that they shot the Maul sequence twice after realizing "it wasn't quite Maul enough" the first time around, when Maul wasn't wielding his signature double-bladed lightsaber. During the final version of the scene, a few eagle-eyed viewers noticed that Maul has mechanical legs — explaining how he survived getting sliced in half in 1999's The Phantom Menace

Of course, fans who have kept up with non-movie installments in the Star Wars franchise have known the Maul didn't actually die, as he made a comeback in the animated series Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Still, the villain's inclusion in Solo marks his first appearance in a live-action Star Wars film in nearly 20 years, and sets up the opportunity for him to pop up in future entries down the line.