After more than a year of anticipation and just a few short months before release, Star Wars fans were finally treated to their first look at this May's spin-off about the early days of Harrison Ford's iconic smuggler Han Solo.

Set many years before George Lucas's original trilogy, Solo: A Star Wars Story stars Alden Ehrenreich as the scruffy, youthful nerf herder alongside Donald Glover and Joonas Suotamo as pals Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca.

Director Ron Howard and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy revealed that much of Ehrenreich's performance was down to his predecessor, Ford, who acted as an advisor to the production team.

"What [Ford] did so beautifully for Alden was he talked a lot about what he remembered when he first read Star Wars, and what George had done with Han," Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly. "Who the character was and the conversations he had for so many years with George about how that character developed.

"He gave Alden that kind of insight which was invaluable. There were several times in the course of making the movie where Alden would actually recount some of the things that Harrison had pointed out. I think that was really, really helpful to him."

In January 2017, Ford and Ehrenreich were spotted grabbing lunch together to discuss the film ahead of its production.

In a separate interview with EW, Ehrenreich described the meeting and Ford's customary dry wit. "He said a great thing when I met him - 'Tell them I told you everything you needed to know, and that you can't tell anyone.'

"I wanted to meet him because I just felt generally it wouldn't be right to do the movie without some kind of contact with him, and I'm really glad I did. He was very, very supportive. And it's just cool to have lunch with Harrison Ford."

Ford also met Howard, who took over as director following the high-profile firing of original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller halfway through filming.

"Harrison's a very thoughtful actor and an artist and I wanted to know what he learned about the character," the Oscar-winning director said.

"He said that Han is always torn between that sense that he was, in a way, an orphan, and therefore both yearned for connection with people and struggled with it at the same time. I thought that was pretty interesting.

"'Han has proven that he can survive but he's never sure he's quite as smart as he needs to be...' Change that. He's not really 'smart', that's not the word he used. Han's not as on top of it as he needs to be. So he wants to give the appearance of [control] but in fact, he's often scrambling.

"I think Harrison played that beautifully and Alden and I talked about both of those ideas a lot."

Ford is not on board in any official capacity but appears to have offered his input out of goodwill to the franchise that helped make his name and which he departed with the death of his character in 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Solo: A Star Wars Story also stars Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Paul Bettany. It will be released on 25 May.

Solo A Star Wars Story
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo with Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca. Lucasfilm