Star Wars Wookie Here! Peter Mayhew Returns As Chewbacca For STAR WARS: EPISODE VII written by John Bierly April 7, 2014 Fresh off of last week’s bombshell that STAR WARS: EPISODE VII is already filming with its script and most of its cast finalized (via The Hollywood Reporter), we didn’t even have time to get 12 parsecs into the Kessel Run before news arrived today (also from THR in an exclusive report) that the original Chewbacca, 69-year-old British actor (and professional gentle giant) Peter Mayhew, will return for his fifth cinematic mission as everyone’s favorite Wookiee in the first episode of the new trilogy. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This news is just too much fun, and yet another indication that director J.J. Abrams fully intends to honor the original characters as he simultaneously takes us to new corners of that long ago galaxy so far, far away. It’s also another bit of proof that the Expanded Universe of novels and comics has truly been purged from official canon in the wake of Disney’s purchase of STAR WARS from George Lucas. Chewbacca was killed off in the 1999 novel VECTOR PRIME to great and furious fan outrage after a moon fell on him (and I only wish I were making that up), and his presence was sorely missed in the books that followed. (Books that, to this reader, at least, continued to get darker and more miserable with every new storyline, though Timothy Zahn’s THRAWN TRILOGY remains in frequent rereading rotation, and I especially love the scene in HEIR TO THE EMPIRE where Chewie whisks a pregnant Leia though a harrowing escape from assassins on the Wookiee homeworld.) Anyway, I’m so happy to know that Chewbacca lives, because he was one of my favorite characters of the original trilogy. Until I was 4 or 5 years old, I thought his full name was “Chewie Chewbacca” because everyone called him “Chewie.” One of my favorite emotional beats in The Original Trilogy is when Chewie ambushes Luke with a heartfelt hug at Echo Base on Hoth, and we all know that, despite Han Solo’s bravado, it was really Chewbacca who brokered the deal with Obi-Wan Kenobi to get Luke and the droids off of Tatooine. (“Chewbacca here is first mate on a ship that might suit us.”) And as for fellow fans who are my age, did any of the rest of you LOSE YOUR DAMN MINDS when Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker and Mayhew’s Chewbacca and the droids showed up on a 1980 episode of THE MUPPET SHOW? I lost mine. Still looking for it. I’m just as happy for Mr. Mayhew, too, whose warm and welcoming demeanor has made him a favorite at STAR WARS conventions. You should follow him on Twitter, where he frequently Tweets rare photos from the sets of the classic trilogy. STAR WARS EPISODE VII: WHO CARES WHAT ELSE IT’S CALLED BECAUSE CHEWIE CHEWBACCA’S BACK blows the roof off the theater near you on December 18, 2015. What are your own favorite Chewbacca moments? Wookie Here! Peter Mayhew Returns As Chewbacca For STAR WARS: EPISODE VII was last modified: February 20th, 2016 by John Bierly Related Star Wars: The Force Awakens 5 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest John Bierly previous post CAPTAIN AMERICA Is A Global Box Office Giant next post Star-Lord States His Legendary Case In First GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Clip You may also like Be a Force For Change, Be In... May 21, 2014 Christopher Miller & Phil Lord Tapped To... July 7, 2015 STAR WARS: EPISODE VII Coming December 2015 November 7, 2013 Open Forum: STAR WARS: EPISODE VII –... December 16, 2015 It’s Here! The STAR WARS: THE FORCE... November 28, 2014 Report: Felicity Jones In Talks For STAR... February 3, 2015 STAR WARS: EPISODE VII Adds Nyong’o &... June 2, 2014 Josh Trank Will Direct A Stand-Alone STAR... June 4, 2014 STAR WARS Available On Digital HD This... April 7, 2015 Brand new ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars... November 17, 2016 Michael Lalaian My opinions on where the expanded universe fits into all this has vacillated quite a bit since the announcement that Disney would be making more Star Wars films. I’m something of a density/continuity nut (which is why Back to the Future Part II is my favorite), so seeing this entire universe, warts and all, being thrown out does make me feel a little uneasy. But at the same time, as you point out, it got a little too dark, and a little too reliant on killing off characters for shock value. Who isn’t dead? Chewbacca, Mara Jade, nearly all the Solo children… it just got exhausting and unpleasant at some point. However, despite all that, there are a few things I hope stay, such as the Thrawn Trilogy, most of the Knights of the Old Republic stuff, and the Legacy comic book series. Beyond that… I’m not sure. We’ll see what happens. p.s., how in the world did you miss the Captain America: The Winter Soldier round table? It was like listening to a burger review without you! John Bierly I was rotting away at the day job during the Cap show, Michael! I put some of my thoughts in the comments section of the podcast article. The good thing about the previous Expanded Universe continuity being jettisoned is that it gives us variety. You can still always revisit the stories you loved the most. I didn’t like DARK EMPIRE, for example, because I found it too grim, but some people prefer it to the original Zahn trilogy, which is my own personal favorite. So it’s all still there to be enjoyed. And the movies will give us even more new stories… with Chewbacca still alive, thankfully. I did think the books got way too dark and ugly as they progressed, for all the reasons you mentioned. STAR WARS, to me, is fun fantasy. When the books began turning into hard science fiction with brutal character deaths, I checked out. I have no interest in stories where the Solo kids are getting killed, killing each other, killing Aunt Mara and leaving Uncle Luke a widow, etc. That’s some ugly, nasty stuff, and it’s not STAR WARS to me. But, as I said before, those stories are still there for those who enjoyed them. Even for the one dude somewhere who somehow enjoyed THE COURTSHIP OF PRINCESS LEIA. May the Force be with him. Yeesh. stock My own personal favorite moments are when Chewie bellows at the door closing in ESB, puts Threepio back together in the same, chokes Lando, and is rather indignant at losing holo chess with R2. I hope Mayhew’s up to putting the suit back on. I bet it weighs a ton. John Bierly That’s why I love ESB the most. I think it’s the best of the three for romance, mythology, and character. Chewie is the secret emotional weapon in that movie, from hugging Luke in the hangar to the scenes you mentioned. And I wonder if they’ll mostly use Mayhew for closeups. Just looking at the top photo I used in the article, there’s so much of Chewie that comes from Mayhew’s eyes. There was a casting call a few months back for a tall, lanky man, so I’m wondering if someone else will do most of the physical performance and Mayhew will do the closeups. You make a great point about the suit probably weighing a ton, and Mayhew recently had surgery on at least one of his knees. Either way, I’m glad they’re giving him the gig. Makes me happy. stock Me too. At 69, and around 7 feet tall if I’m remembering right, its probably tough to be running around without a hair suit. Right off the bat, I have lowered expectations for this series. One because of the prequels, and two, because for me, the mythology was completed with ROTJ. I know of the books. Haven’t read them, but I did read about Chewie dying in one. IMO, a warrior’s death, protecting Han, Leia, and their kids would be a valiant way for the character to go, and add a little depth to an otherwise light-weight space pirate yarn. After all, gunfighters, warriors, and men of action dying in their beds of old age is a little anti-climactic. And every once in a while, even people who love mythology, need to be reminded that very few of us live forever. If you die for someone, or something you think worth dying for, you’re lucky. Chewie doesn’t have to die, of course, but I’d like to think that’s how he’d want to go out.