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Meet Han Solo: 12 Fast Facts About Alden Ehrenreich

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images
JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

Alden Ehrenreich may not be a household name yet, but give it a minute. The 26-year-old Los Angeles native has been turning heads (and stealing scenes) since making his feature debut in 2009 with Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro. Now, after months of speculation and rumor-swirling, it's finally been confirmed that the up-and-coming actor is about to embark on the role of a lifetime and put his own spin on one of the most iconic characters in film history.

At this weekend's Star Wars Celebration in London, it was officially announced that Ehrenreich (pronounced "eye-ren-rike") has indeed landed the coveted title role in Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s Star Wars spinoff, Han Solo: A Star Wars Story. While we wait to see how well Ehrenreich fills Harrison Ford's knee-high boots, let’s get to know a little more about your new favorite space smuggler, who shoots first and knows you love him.

1. STEVEN SPIELBERG DISCOVERED HIM … AT A BAT MITVAH.

In a story that Ehrenreich will no doubt have to repeat many, many times over the course of his career, his road to Hollywood began in a rather unique place: at a Los Angeles bat mitzvah. Ehrenreich—then 14 years old—and his friends made a short movie for the guest of the honor, which was screened at the event, where Steven Spielberg happened to be in attendance.

“It's a piece of sh*t," Ehrenreich told Rolling Stone of the movie. “It's a video that this girl asked us to do. I mean, there wasn't a script: We would go and just film whatever made us laugh. I'm this 14-year-old, skinny little kid with long hair. I break into her house, try on her clothes and make up a song. All of this is just us literally taking a camera and going like, 'Okay, ha ha, do this.' We showed it to our parents—'We're gonna play this at her bat mitzvah!'—and they were like, 'You look like an idiot in this. I don't think you should really do that.' We didn't care.”

Apparently, neither did Spielberg.

“I got a call afterwards from these giggling girls from school who told me that he had really liked the movie,” he told New York Magazine in 2009. “Pretty soon, the DreamWorks people had gotten me an agent, and by now I’ve gone on hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of auditions.” That meeting also landed him his two earliest gigs, one-off performances on Supernatural and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

2. HE LEARNED TO ACT FROM THE MARX BROTHERS.

“When I was a little kid, my parents would show me Marx Brothers’ films and westerns and stuff like that,” Ehrenreich told ComingSoon.net in 2012. "That’s where all my desire to be an actor comes from and probably most of my understanding of acting comes from for sure. I love movies.”

3. HE CO-FOUNDED A FILM AND THEATER COMPANY.

In 2009, while a student at NYU, Ehrenreich and his friend/fellow actor Zoë Worth founded The Collectin, a small film and theater company that (according to its website) “experimented with new techniques for writing and performance” via weekly workshops with writers and directors.

4. HE LANDED HIS FIRST FILM ROLE BY READING A PASSAGE FROM THE CATCHER IN THE RYE.

In 2009, Ehrenreich made his big-screen debut starring alongside Vincent Gallo in Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro (“He has been my favorite director for a long time,” Ehrenreich said). But being chosen to work with one of Hollywood’s true heavyweights was no easy task. “The Coppola audition was the craziest,” he told New York Magazine. “He first had me read from Catcher in the Rye. Then we had screen tests at his Napa vineyard. Then I got a call to go to Argentina, where I had another four days of screen tests—improvs at cafés and ‘directing’ a group of Argentine actors. I asked him a lot about Marlon Brando. ‘He was a very dignified man,’ he said. Period.”

5. HE HAS ONLY MADE A HANDFUL OF FILMS, BUT HAS ALREADY WORKED WITH SOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST CELEBRATED DIRECTORS.

In the seven years that Ehrenreich has been making movies, he has completed a total of eight films—yet managed to work with some of Hollywood’s most legendary directors within that time. In addition to Coppola (who he has worked with twice, first in Tetro, then again in 2011’s Twixt), the young actor has been directed by Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine), Joel and Ethan Coen (Hail, Caesar!), Park Chan-wook (Stoker), and Warren Beatty (in an upcoming, and still-untitled Howard Hughes biopic).

6. EVEN HE’S NOT SURE WHEN WARREN BEATTY’S HOWARD HUGHES MOVIE WILL MAKE IT INTO THEATERS.

When asked earlier this year about Beatty’s film, which reportedly completed production in 2014 but has yet to set a release date, all the actor could say was that Beatty’s "editing it … That's pretty much all I know."

7. HE MADE OUT WITH NATALIE PORTMAN IN A PERFUME COMMERCIAL.

In 2011, Ehrenreich appeared alongside Natalie Portman in a Miss Dior Chérie perfume commercial. Perhaps not coincidentally, the commercial in question was directed by Sofia Coppola. (A year earlier, he appeared—uncredited—as a party guest in her film, Somewhere.)

8. HE HAS BEEN DUBBED “THE NEW LEONARDO DICAPRIO.”

More than once. And by people who matter. Though Tetro was met with mixed reviews, Ehrenreich received a lot of praise for his performance. In Roger Ebert’s three-star review of the film, the noted critic wrote: "In his first major role, Alden Ehrenreich, the newcomer playing Bennie, is confident and charismatic, and inspires such descriptions as ‘the new Leonardo DiCaprio.’” (No word on what the old Leonardo DiCaprio thinks about that.)

9. HAN SOLO ISN’T HIS FIRST BRUSH WITH AN ICONIC CHARACTER.

Back in 2012, Ehrenreich was among the frontrunners to take over the role of Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. (Dane DeHaan eventually landed the part.) Other sources report that Ehrenreich also auditioned for the role of Peter Parker.

10. HE DOESN’T TAKE “NO” FOR AN ANSWER.

Ehrenreich’s real breakthrough came earlier this year, playing a Gene Autry-type actor in the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! But he almost never even read for the part. "I don't think the Coen brothers had any idea of who I was," Ehrenreich told Rolling Stone. "My agent sent me the script, and I read it and just loved it. I asked if I could audition, and we were told that I really wasn't right for the part. So, we just asked again, and [the Coens' people] said, 'You can make a tape.' And then I asked again if I could come in, and they said okay. I went and read for the casting director, and then she had me come back and read for the Coens twice."

11. LEARNING HOW TO USE SPAGHETTI AS A LASSO HAS BEEN HIS TOUGHEST JOB YET.

Playing Hobie Doyle in Hail, Caesar! came with a lot of prep. “It felt like being an old studio actor,” Ehrenreich said. “I had all these different jobs to do. It was a regiment. It started with the trick roping, then the gun twirling, then horseback riding.” But of all the tricks he had to learn, “the biggest challenge was learning how to twirl a piece of a spaghetti like a lasso for a scene where he’s trying to impress a date,” wrote The Wall Street Journal.

12. HE DOESN’T WORRY ABOUT BEING TYPECAST.

At least he didn’t in 2012. “I haven’t worked enough to worry about getting typecast,” he told ComingSoon.net, “but ... as a film lover [I] didn’t want to be working with the bad guys. I didn’t want to be making a movie I thought was contributing to a lower base of movies that I just didn’t think were helping people really. Some movies I think present ideas of the world that just don’t help people with their lives. They just present things that are fleeting or stupid. So that’s what I’m careful about—making sure I’m part of something that is saying something that I think is valuable in the world of people not necessarily in the world of art.”

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
iStock
iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

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2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

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3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

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Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

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4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

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5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

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7. UNA GRILL; $139

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MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

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8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

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9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

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10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

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12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

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Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

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13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

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14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

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Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

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15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

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Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

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16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

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Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

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17. HAMMOCK; $174

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Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

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18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
11 Things You Might Not Know About Johann Sebastian Bach
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images

Johann Sebastian Bach is everywhere. Weddings? Bach. Haunted houses? Bach. Church? Bach. Shredding electric guitar solos? Look, it’s Bach! The Baroque composer produced more than 1100 works, from liturgical organ pieces to secular cantatas for orchestra, and his ideas about musical form and harmony continue to influence generations of music-makers. Here are 11 things you might not know about the man behind the music.

1. PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT WHEN TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY.

Some people celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 21. Other people light the candles on March 31. The correct date depends on whom you ask. Bach was born in Thuringia in 1685, when the German state was still observing the Julian calendar. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the dates by 11 days. And while most biographies opt for the March 31 date, Bach scholar Christopher Wolff firmly roots for Team 21. “True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700,” he told Classical MPR, “but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid.”

2. HE WAS THE CENTER OF A MUSICAL DYNASTY.

Bach’s great-grandfather was a piper. His grandfather was a court musician. His father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter, and kettledrum player. At least two of his uncles were composers. He had five brothers—all named Johann—and the three who lived to adulthood became musicians. J.S. Bach also had 20 children, and, of those who lived past childhood, at least five became professional composers. According to the Nekrolog, an obituary written by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "[S]tarting with Veit Bach, the founding father of this family, all his descendants, down to the seventh generation, have dedicated themselves to the profession of music, with only a few exceptions."

3. BACH TOOK A MUSICAL PILGRIMAGE THAT PUTS EVERY ROAD TRIP TO WOODSTOCK TO SHAME.

In 1705, 20-year-old Bach walked 280 miles—that's right, walked—from the city of Arnstadt to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear a concert by the influential organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He stuck around for four months to study with the musician [PDF]. Bach hoped to succeed Buxtehude as the organist of Lübeck's St. Mary's Church, but marriage to one of Buxtehude's daughters was a prerequisite to taking over the job. Bach declined, and walked back home.

4. HE BRAWLED WITH HIS STUDENTS.

One of Bach’s first jobs was as a church organist in Arnstadt. When he signed up for the role, nobody told him he also had to teach a student choir and orchestra, a responsibility Bach hated. Not one to mince words, Bach one day lost patience with a error-prone bassoonist, Johann Geyersbach, and called him a zippelfagottist—that is, a “nanny-goat bassoonist.” Those were fighting words. Days later, Geyersbach attacked Bach with a walking stick. Bach pulled a dagger. The rumble escalated into a full-blown scrum that required the two be pulled apart.

5. BACH SPENT 30 DAYS IN JAIL FOR QUITTING HIS JOB.

When Bach took a job in 1708 as a chamber musician in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he once again assumed a slew of responsibilities that he never signed up for. This time, he took it in stride, believing his hard work would lead to his promotion to kapellmeister (music director). But after five years, the top job was handed to the former kapellmeister’s son. Furious, Bach resigned and joined a rival court. As retribution, the duke jailed him for four weeks. Bach spent his time in the slammer writing preludes for organ.

6. THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS WERE A FAILED JOB APPLICATION.

Around 1721, Bach was the head of court music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Unfortunately, the composer reportedly didn’t get along with the prince’s new wife, and he started looking for a new gig. (Notice a pattern?) Bach polished some manuscripts that had been sitting around and mailed them to a potential employer, Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. That package, which included the Brandenburg Concertos—now considered some of the most important orchestral compositions of the Baroque era—failed to get Bach the job [PDF].

7. HE WROTE ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COFFEE JINGLES.

Bach apparently loved coffee enough to write a song about it: "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" ("Be still, stop chattering"). Performed in 1735 at Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, the song is about a coffee-obsessed woman whose father wants her to stop drinking the caffeinated stuff. She rebels and sings this stanza:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

8. IF BACH CHALLENGED YOU TO A KEYBOARD DUEL, YOU WERE GUARANTEED TO BE EMBARRASSED.

In 1717, Louis Marchand, a harpsichordist from France, was invited to play for Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and performed so well that he was offered a position playing for the court. This annoyed the court’s concertmaster, who found Marchand arrogant and insufferable. To scare the French harpsichordist away, the concertmaster hatched a plan with his friend, J.S. Bach: a keyboard duel. Bach and Marchand would improvise over a number of different styles, and the winner would take home 500 talers. But when Marchand learned just how talented Bach was, he hightailed it out of town.

9. SOME OF HIS MUSIC MAY HAVE BEEN COMPOSED TO HELP INSOMNIA.

Some people are ashamed to admit that classical music, especially the Baroque style, makes them sleepy. Be ashamed no more! According to Bach’s earliest biographer, the Goldberg Variations were composed to help Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling overcome insomnia. (This story, to be fair, is disputed.) Whatever the truth, it hasn’t stopped the Andersson Dance troupe from presenting a fantastic Goldberg-based tour of performances called “Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.” Sleep researchers have also suggested studying the tunes’ effects on sleeplessness [PDF].

10. HE WAS BLINDED BY BOTCHED EYE SURGERY.

When Bach was 65, he had eye surgery. The “couching” procedure, which was performed by a traveling surgeon named John Taylor, involved shoving the cataract deep into the eye with a blunt instrument. Post-op, Taylor gave the composer eye drops that contained pigeon blood, mercury, and pulverized sugar. It didn’t work. Bach went blind and died shortly after. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to botch more musical surgeries. He would perform the same procedure on the composer George Frideric Handel, who also went blind.

11. NOBODY IS 100 PERCENT CONFIDENT THAT BACH IS BURIED IN HIS GRAVE.

In 1894, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Leipzig wanted to move the composer’s body out of the church graveyard to a more dignified setting. There was one small problem: Bach had been buried in an unmarked grave, as was common for regular folks at the time. According to craniologist Wilhelm His, a dig crew tried its best to find the composer but instead found “heaps of bones, some in many layers lying on top of each other, some mixed in with the remains of coffins, others already smashed by the hacking of the diggers.” The team later claimed to find Bach’s box, but there’s doubt they found the right (de)composer. Today, Bach supposedly resides in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church.

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