Q: Why isn’t Billy Dee Williams playing Lando Calrissian in the new Star Wars trilogy?
Jason Koch, of Belleville
A: So many characters, so little time.
That’s the only explanation Williams himself could surmise even though his work as the smooth-talking smuggler constantly ranks among the top dozen favorites in the “Star Wars” universe.
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“I do not know the reason,” he told Star Wars Interviews in 2015 as the previous installment, “The Force Awakens,” was being released. “I think the character of Lando just didn’t fit into the story line. I saw the movie and loved it and can see why Lando wasn’t in it. If they asked me to come back for (“The Last Jedi”) I would love to do it, but right now I have not been asked.”
Nor was he, but it’s not like he has been forgotten. Even as “The Force Awakens” was about to hit the big screen, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan teased fans by telling Vanity Fair, “Right now, there’s no Lando Calrissian in this movie. But Lando I don’t think is finished in any way, shape or form.”
As good movie sequel writers know, the test for Lucasfilm has been to achieve a delicate balance between adding new plot lines to keep the franchise growing and yet including enough endearing past elements that have kept fans buzzing since “A New Hope” debuted on May 25, 1977. In other words, there had to be a logical reason for Lando to show up in the latest trilogy, and the writers apparently have not found one important enough without detracting from the new sagas of Kylo Ren, Rey, Finn, etc., that are driving the latest post-“Return of the Jedi” trilogy.
Still, if you follow “Star Wars” websites, you know that many fans would like to at least threaten those writers with a lightsaber or two for leaving Lando’s fate hanging. Here we have a guy who in “Empire Strikes Back” betrays his old friend Han Solo only to redeem himself by helping rescue both Han and Luke before leading the attack on the second Imperial Death Star.
But what happened to him after we leave him partying on the Forest Moon of Endor in “Return of the Jedi”? Even if they couldn’t work in an actual appearance of Williams in “The Force Awakens,” the least they could have done was include a line that he had perhaps been killed in some other galaxy far, far away. After all, they kept bringing us up to date with Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie, etc., fans argue. Lando was nearly as charismatic a character and deserved some kind of fitting sendoff.
One theory is that by remaining coy about Lando’s ultimate fate, it will make fans even hungrier for “Solo,” another “Star Wars” prequel that will focus on Han Solo before he has his fateful meeting with Luke and Obi-Wan in the Mos Eisly Cantina in “A New Hope.” Due out on the 41st anniversary of the first Star Wars movie release, it will star Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian. Thus, some are speculating that this movie followed by “Star Wars IX” in 2019 might allow Williams and Harrison Ford to rocket off into the sunset in style and bring the saga full circle.
You wouldn’t get an argument from Williams, who once told The Hollywood Reporter, “When I go out and do conventions and stuff like that, even though people know me from all the other things that I’ve done, certainly (Lando) takes precedence. I just never thought of anybody else being Lando. I just see myself as Lando.”
As for Glover, he had only the simplest of advice.
“I was like, ‘I’ve always felt like this character could do this, and he represents this, and I kind of feel like he comes from here, and it’s very obvious he has a lot of taste, so maybe he grew up seeing that from afar?’” Glover remembered telling Williams when the two met for lunch. “He just let me ramble on and on, and then finally I was like, ‘So, what do you think?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I don’t know about all that. Just be charming.’”
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Answer to Sunday’s trivia: It apparently has become legend in some circles that the Brothers Alou — Felipe, Matty and Jesus — once all started a game in the San Francisco Giant outfield. But some legends are simply myths. While they did all play outfield together in three games in 1963, they never started a game together. On Sept. 10, however, Manager Al Dark did have them bat consecutively before Felipe was traded to Atlanta the following year.