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New Han Solo film director Ron Howard is 'beyond grateful' and hopes 'to honor the great work already done'

"Star Wars" fan Ron Howard is "beyond grateful" to add his voice to the Lucasfilm franchise and hopes "to honor the great work already done" on the upcoming Han Solo film, which he inherited from directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

The Oscar-winning director proclaimed his love for George Lucas' universe and eagerness to take the helm on Twitter on Thursday following the official news that he would replace Lord and Miller on the untitled project after they were surprisingly ousted over creative differences with Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. (The directors reportedly strayed from Kasdan's script and disagreed over tone.)

The origin story, which stars Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo and Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian, is already six months into production. Howard, 63, referred to his involvement as "a little opportunity that came my way" during an onstage discussion at the Cannes Lions festival Friday.

"I've been around the 'Star Wars' universe from the beginning. When I was being directed by George Lucas on 'American Graffiti' in 1972, we were standing out in front of Mel's Drive-In in San Francisco where we were shooting," Howard said (via Deadline)."And I said, 'Do you know what you think your next film might be?' And he said, 'Yeah, I want to do a science fiction movie, but a really fun one like "Flash Gordon" with the effects of Stanley Kubrick's "2001."' I thought, 'That sounds like a kind of crazy idea.'"

The "Happy Days" alum and his wife stood in line for two hours the day "Star Wars" was released in 1977: "It was all the things you dream you're going to experience in the movies."

So moved by what they had seen, they immediately stood in line for another 90 minutes to watch it again.

"So many people involved with the 'Star Wars' franchise are friends, so it's gratifying to be able to lend my voice to the universe — coming in when it's already been in production and there is a great amount of work done," Howard said onstage.

The prequel film also stars Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Joonas Suotamo. Production is set to resume on July 10, and the film is still expected to hit its previously announced release date of May 25, 2018. Since much of the material has already been completed under Lord and Miller, it's unclear how the Directors Guild of America will handle who receives credit on the finished work.

Howard, who had been approached by Lucas to direct "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" but declined, said of his dozens of directorial efforts, he is "probably" most proud of his own 1995 space odyssey, "Apollo 13." And as he finally prepares to launch into a galaxy far, far away, he's just happy that he's still working.

"This is what I've always dreamed of. I love to work… But I’m not quite the self-starter that you think I am. I need a little push and then go into a world whether its Formula One or outer space, and now the 'Star Wars' universe," Howard said. "I'd like to work for a long time. There's no one thing except to do what I've been doing and find ways to hopefully do it better."

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