The actor behind Lando Calrissian is recalling having to defend the character to outraged ‘Star Wars’ fans: “Nobody died!”
“When I would pick my daughter up from school, the kids would run up to me and say, ‘You betrayed Han Solo!’” said Williams, 86. “I'd go on an airplane and the airplane stewards would say, ‘You betrayed Han Solo!'”
Shortly after Lando’s introduction to the Star Wars galaxy in 1980’s Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, there is indeed a betrayal. The character is revealed to have struck a deal on Cloud City with Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) that allowed his old friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to be frozen in carbonite.
Williams said he received negative feedback from various fans “for a lot of years. So finally, I said, ‘Look, think about the whole situation. You're up against a pretty formidable character in Darth Vader. And then there's, of course, Boba Fett. And these people were invading my space and I had to bargain with them.’
“But the bargain at least prevented the complete demise of Han Solo and his friends,” he added, calling the character’s arc a “pivotal, classic, dubious hero moment.”
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Williams recalled “explaining all this stuff” to outraged fans. “I finally said to people, ‘Look, I'm tired of explaining all of this.’ I said, ‘Did anybody die? Nobody died!’ I think that was a clear indication that Lando was trying to figure something out and he was trying to figure out primarily how to hold onto his situation without the complete demise of his friend.”
The actor, also known for his critically acclaimed work in 1972's Lady Sings the Blues and 1989's Batman, reprised the role of Lando in 1983 sequel Return of the Jedi and in the later trilogy’s 2019 conclusion The Rise of Skywalker.
A younger version of the character, played by Donald Glover, appeared in 2018’s Solo. The multihyphenate has a project centered around Lando in the works that began as a Disney+ series and has since become a feature-length movie, Lucasfilm confirmed in September.
“He’s like, ‘Just be charming,'” Glover told PEOPLE in 2018 of meeting Williams ahead of filming Solo. “I took what he said… and amped it up.”
Soon Williams will release a new memoir, What Have We Here? (available Feb. 13), that encompasses his life as a husband, father, grandfather, painter and actor of nearly eight decades.
“I saw how absurd my life has been at times. And how fortunate it's been,” Williams told PEOPLE in August of the book’s writing process. “I had fun reliving those memories. I hope it brings back memories for readers, too.”
Williams last appeared in an episode of And Just Like That... season 2.
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