Playing Chewbacca Is A ‘Dream’ For This ‘Star Wars’ Actor, But It Sounds Like A Nightmare

Senior Pop Culture Editor
02.21.19

LUCASFILM

Peter Mayhew played Han Solo’s arm-ripping sidekick Chewbacca from the original Star Wars to 2015’s The Force Awakens, where he shared the role with Joonas Suotamo due to chronic knee and back pain. It’s a mentally and physically demanding performance, as Suotamo revealed in an Instagram post where he went through the steps of becoming the seven-foot-plus Wookiee.

“Playing Chewbacca is a dream. But sometimes there were days that were more demanding than others,” he wrote. “On interior sets there might not be any real airflow and the hairs would just trap all the heat to the fur and cause a slow temperature rise. While filming I would perform my bit and we would go again many times – usually this would take from an hour to 2 hours. On scenes requiring 3 hours I would sometimes need to start conserving my energy, which unfortunately meant having to reserve some of my jokes for after filming.”

Suotamo took over for Mayhew entirely for The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story, as well as the upcoming Episode IX (meaning he never had to wear this rejected prototype mask). Speaking of that still-untitled movie: Disney film chief Alan Horn was recently asked whether Episode IX would get Star Wars “back on track,” following Solo‘s disappointing box office total. “I have not seen a cut of it yet, but I watch dailies every weekend and send [director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy] a note every weekend,” he replied. “It’s a big deal, and it’s going to be terrific.” As for what the next Star Wars movie will be following Episode IX, Horn said, “It’s all in discussion.” Disney has options.

Star Wars: Episode IX opens on December 20.

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