[Warning: Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story follow.]
It was the surprise character appearance so unexpected, it actually confused the hell out of people. Yes, the reveal of Darth Maul (“It’s just Maul now, actually, thanks”) in the final ten minutes of Solo: A Star Wars Story threw enough people that we actually published an entire piece on why you may want that news spoiled before you see the movie, if you haven’t watched The Clone Wars or Rebels TV shows. But even if you already knew the character survived getting cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace, it was still an unusual choice to have him pop up via hologram to be the big villain behind Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos. And as it turns out, the reason for his inclusion was very simple: The writers thought the character was cool as hell.
“I’ve [always] been a big Darth Maul fan. He was my favorite character in the prequel trilogy and I was determined that Dryden was not the top of the food chain,” says Jon Kasdan—who co-wrote Solo with father Lawrence—in a new interview with io9. “We both wanted the criminal underworld to feel way bigger than we could see in this movie. And that Han would be a minnow surrounded by sharks.” That there’s a larger crime syndicate out there than just the operation Qi’ra takes over is kind of the whole point, for the Kasdans. “The larger theme is everybody works for somebody,” Lawrence Kasdan added. “Evil or good, you’re not in control of your destiny, which is very important to us.”
“Everybody serves some greater God or is mastered by something,” Jon added, which is probably a very relatable feeling when you’re being employed by Disney. It’s unclear whether Maul, who is again played by Ray Park (and voiced by Sam Witwer, who played the character on the two animated series), was in the film prior to Ron Howard taking over and essentially remaking most of the movie, but from the sound of it, it wasn’t until the Kasdans submitted their script that his visage made an appearance. “It was a sneaky-ass process that I was fighting for all along,” says Jon, though if he wanted to sneak in a truly surprising cameo, revealing Watto as Dryden’s boss would have really blown some minds.