Peter Mayhew is back as Han Solo’s partner-in-crime, Chewbacca, and the actors fans welcome him back in Star War VII. The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Mayhew is officially the first original Star Wars trilogy’s cast member, which is currently under J.J. Abrams direction, after Disney had bought LucasArt for $4 billion in 2012. The 7-foot-3 Mayhew, 69, had originally played Chewbacca in Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977 and continued to play the same role in the remainder two films. Despite having some health issues, Mayhew will reprise the role of the furry, loyal, gladiator-like Wookiee that may challenge the British actor. Star Wars fans can breathe easier since many were concerned that Chewbacca will be a computer generated image (CGI) rather than a real actor like in the original series.
On April 2, Alan Horn, Disney’s chairman, said that the film crew had already started filming and most of the cast were set, including a few familiar ones whose names will not be revealed yet. Star Wars: Episode VII is tentatively scheduled to be released in theaters on December 18, 2015. Actor Adam Driver will be playing, at this point, an unknown villain. The original heroes, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher, will reprise their roles as the former Rebel Alliance leaders. However, fans should not make “welcome back” signs yet since the casting for Star War VII isn’t completely set in stone. Other than R2-D2 and Mayhew’s Chewbacca, there is no guarantee who will be returning.
Those who are new to the Star Wars saga may not know who and what the “giant ape” is that Mayhew plays. Chewbacca is a Wookiee, a race of tall, furry simians that inhabits the planet Kashyyk, that is mostly covered with giant forests where the trees grow to one kilometer high. The Wookie wields a bowcaster, a crossbow-like weapon that shoots explosive energy packs, and almost always carries a bandolier of ammunition that wraps over his shoulder that could wipe out a squad of battle droids or storm-troopers. Even though Chewbacca has enough strength to tear the limbs off of an Imperial officer, he is a warrior with a conscience and a heart who will do anything to protect those whom he considers a friend or family.
While he was exploring the galaxy, slavers captured Chewbacca and sold him to the Empire. After spending an unknown length of time in a slave-labor camp, Chewie was rescued by a young Han Solo. Because of the heroic act by the smuggler, Chewie proclaimed a “life debt” to Solo, which was a Wookiee oath that turned Chewie into Solo’s personal bodyguard. They soon became close friends and Chewie served with Solo on various “missions” aboard their spaceship The Millennium Falcon. Since then, the duo had teamed up with Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi to rescue Princess Leia, joined the Rebel Alliance to destroy the first Death Star, and performed heroic acts that defied the tyranny of the Galactic Empire.
It is not certain whether Mayhew will be doing most of his own stunts and action sequences in Star Wars VII, but nonetheless, fans will most likely bring a welcome wagon to invite Chewbacca and all of the original cast members back from Return of the Jedi. As long as Chewie isn’t a CGI character, Disney won’t upset Star Wars fans, or Wookiees.
Opinion by Nick Ng