There’s a disturbance in the Force. The Star Wars family lost one of their own when the original Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew, died last week at 74. There’s since been an outpouring of love and homage paid to the actor who portrayed the lovable Wookie for almost 40 years.
Peter Mayhew’s apprentice, Joonas Suotamo, who shared the Chewbacca role with him in The Force Awakens before completely taking on the role for The Last Jedi, Solo: A Star Wars Story and The Rise of Skywalker, has joined in to pay tribute as well. Suotamo reminisced about working with the icon with these words:
Joonas Suotamo talked about the memorable time he shared with Peter Mayhew to The Hollywood Reporter when they worked together for the 2015 Star Wars film. It looks like Mayhew set up a Chewbacca boot camp of sorts for him to teach Suotamo how the character moves and acts – including to lead with the chest. Suotamo continued by describing how the actor felt about passing the character to him:
George Lucas cast Peter Mayhew for 1977’s A New Hope, and he reprised the role for the entire trilogy whilst keeping his other job at a hospital. Due to his love for the character (and Chewbacca’s global popularity), Mayhew made his living in the role and through public appearances. In a recent tribute, Lucas said he was “more like a Wookie than I originally imagined a Wookie to be.” Mayhew reprised the role in Revenge of the Sith among other reappearances.
Joonas Suotamo closed out his recent words about his Wookie mentor by saying:
This is so sweet! The two developed a great relationship and Joonas Suotamo got to get to know Peter Mayhew as he genuinely was. The new Chewbacca actor joined in tribute after Star Wars actors including Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill reacted to his passing. Mayhew died soon after suffering a heart attack and had undergone spinal surgery last year to improve his mobility. The actor was over seven feet tall due to a connective tissue disorder called Marfan Syndrome.
Joonas Suotamo was a Finnish basketball before taking on the role of Chewbacca, and he towers at 6'11''. He was approached while the search was on for a very tall man with blue eyes and the role fit the bill for him. Chewbacca will live on in Suotamo when he reprises the role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on December 20.
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Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.