Someone call up M. Night Shyamalan for the film adaptation rights because the Billy Dee Williams twists just keep coming.
After clarifying that he didn’t mean to come out as genderfluid — and doesn’t know what the word means — the Star Wars actor now says it was a mistake for Lando Calrissian to be pansexual in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. In fact, he even blamed the character’s sexuality for the financial misfire’s anemic box office haul, as the Ron Howard-directed film took in less than a third of what fellow spinoff Rogue One made two years earlier.
“I think that’s the reason they didn’t have the success they could have had,” Williams told the music magazine Rolling Stone in an interview published online Thursday. “Because they were going for something that was topical, instead of an adventure that’s far beyond those questions.”
Williams took particular issue with the idea that his iconic character — who was played by Donald Glover in the attempted franchise expander — could be in love with not only someone of any gender, but even droids as well. In Solo, it’s suggested that Calrissian has a torch burning for L3-37, a robot companion played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. (Note: If one were to fall in love with a machine, a Fleabag bot is a solid choice.)
“If you’re talking about this huge, incredible story, why lock yourself into this tiny moment between a character like Lando and his robot friend?” he asked.
But with all due respect to Mr. Williams, Lando practicing the love that dare not bleep its name is hardly the reason Solo tanked. The film was released six months after Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, which proved to be the most divisive entry in the Star Wars franchise’s history. And while new Star Wars movies were once a novelty, releasing so many spinoffs and TV series back-to-back risked a level of fatigue that even the most successful film series in history couldn’t withstand.
What’s more, Glover’s performance was the only aspect of Solo that everyone seemed to agree upon liking. The film earned a lukewarm 70 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but his take on Lando was widely acclaimed. Time praised the actor’s “unruly, charismatic elegance,” while Entertainment Weekly called him “easily the best thing in this good-not-great movie.”
But Williams’ hypothesis that LGBTQ+ representation hurt the Star Wars franchise will soon be put to the test. While director J.J. Abrams shot down hopes that Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) would consummate their bromance in the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, he hinted the film has a queer character.
“[I]t was important to me that people who go to see this movie feel that they’re being represented in the film,” he told Variety.
While Abrams wouldn’t give any specifics about which characters in the film are LGBTQ+, the tease doesn’t appear to have affected box office projections. According to BoxOffice.com, The Rise of Skywalker is on track to take in $680 million domestically, which would make it the fifth highest-grossing film ever in the United States. I’d say Star Wars is doing just fine, Billy Dee.