Thandiwe Newton as Val

Thandiwe Newton Slams Star Wars for Killing off Her Character in Solo

"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?”
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The 2018 Star Wars spinoff film Solo: a Star Wars Story was both a critical and commercial disappointment. But what really bothered me about the film was how it utterly wasted its female characters. The most egregious mistake by far was introducing Thandiwe Newton’s badass criminal Val, only to unceremoniously kill her off minutes later. Newton was also displeased with her character’s demise, which she discussed in an interview with Inverse.

It turns out that Val’s death wasn’t originally scripted, but rather a change that was made during the film’s tumultuous production. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) were fired after they were already three-quarters of the way through principal photography, and replaced with veteran director Ron Howard. The change was allegedly due to creative difference between Lord and Miller and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan.

Newton spoke of her experience, saying

“I felt disappointed by Star Wars that my character was killed. And, 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’ — not because of me, not because I wanted to come back. 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?”

Newton has been a refreshingly frank voice among actors in recent years, speaking candidly about her experiences with sexism and racism within the film industry. She discussed her plans to retire before being cast in Westworld, and how she was initially put off by the nudity and the nature of the role.

“Part of the abuse that I’d suffered in the industry was directors who lied about how my nudity was going to be used and got me naked in ways that were inappropriate. I’ve also been physically sexually abused. And so, they asked me to reveal my body at a time when I wanted to retreat, [especially because] I had a six-month-old baby when I started shooting Westworld.”

However, once she realized the themes explored in the first season, she changed her mind.

“But when they described what we were going to use it for, it was literally the whole notion of martial arts: use your enemy’s strength against them. That is what the first season of Westworld was, and in it was the liberation of a brown woman. If you want to really understand how cruel and how destructive humanity is, look at the experiences of most brown women in the world. You don’t get lower than that in the pecking order of what’s fucking important. To be able to use that, and literally empower this character through her truth, with everything that I’ve wanted to do with my career. And that was why I wanted to leave the film business, because I felt like I wasn’t able to do that.

Then, Westworld happened. And I wasn’t expecting anything from it. Of course not. I would have done it for nothing. I needed it for myself. And that character ended up captivating people. It was so beautiful. This spring suddenly burst from the ground. And I got to actually release that, finally.”

Newton currently stars in Reminiscence, which was written and directed by Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy. The film is currently in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

(via Inverse, image: Lucasfilm/Disney)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.