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Alden Ehrenreich Says His First Steps Toward Playing Young Han Solo Have Been ‘Trippy’

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Todd Williamson/Getty

Alden Ehrenreich admits he’s been enjoying doing his homework to prep to play iconic spacefaring scoundrel Han Solo for an upcoming standalone Star Wars film – even when it’s gotten “pretty trippy.”

The actor, who’s made a name for himself this year with impressive stints in the Coen brothers’ Hail Caesar and Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply, landed the coveted role of the beloved smuggler and Rebel — first made famous by Harrison Ford — in a story set before the events of George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy. Ehrenreich won the role over dozens of Hollywood hopefuls after a successful series of screen tests for filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie).

“The main thing was just getting ready for the screen test,” Ehernreich told PEOPLE at the world premiere of Rules Don’t Apply at the American Film Institute’s AFI Fest. “My one screen test was on the Millennium Falcon — which was really cool — with Chewbacca. That was pretty trippy!”

After his initial immersion in a galaxy far, far away, Ehrenreich’s also gotten a taste of the world of Star Wars fandom, which has further fired him up.

“Getting to be around that world, now I’ve been around the fans a little bit, and just feeling the love, the real genuine love that people have for this franchise, is really exciting to me,” he said. “And also, just being able to work on this particular movie, with this character … That’s really the pleasure for me, is the job that I get to actually do on the day-to-day level. Yeah, I just can’t wait!”

Although the glamorous world of Old Hollywood he’s inhabited in both Rules Don’t Apply and Hail, Caesar! seems literally light years away from the Star Wars landscape, Ehrenreigh says there’s a certain wish fulfillment he’s found in each environment.

“I think it’s part of a kind of love that you have for the time period that for me comes from movies,” he says. “It doesn’t come from history books, certainly. It comes from the movies I grew up with and loving were the movies of that time, of that era. So getting to walk into that, almost into the movie in that sense, was really a dream come true … I felt like it was the closest I’d ever get to be a part of the kinds of films that made me want to be an actor in the first place.”

The as-yet-untitled Han Solo film, which recently cast Atlanta’s Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian, is expected in theaters in 2018.