Interview with Joonas Suotamo, The New Chewbacca, in Business Insider

joonas1The Force Awakens brought back a number of characters from the original trilogy. But outside of Han Solo, none had more screen time than the walking carpet himself, Chewbacca. Due to health reasons, the 71 year old Peter Mayhew was unable to complete the rigorous task of filming for some scenes. In order to allow Chewie to be his typical spry self, a second Chewbacca was cast. A young man to wear the suit and fill in for those action scenes that Mayhew was unable to perform.


Business Insider interviewed that second Chewbacca, 29 year old Joonas Suotamo. Suotamo, a native of Finland and a former college basketball player was found through a worldwide casting call looking for 7 foot tall men with blue eyes who cold mimic the movements of the iconic character. After a lengthy casting process Suotamo was selected.

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Suotamo studied film while playing basketball at Penn State, but gave up acting due to the limitations his height put on his casting options. After he graduated college he returned to Finland where he was selling insurance over the phone and playing some basketball on the side, but when a casting call went out his coach immediately thought of him.

“I was told to send in an audition tape of me doing a caveman impression,” said Suotamo, who went to his old high school after the students had left for the day and had his girlfriend film his performance.

At that point, Suotamo acknowledges, he had no idea which movie he was auditioning for.

“When I got the first few documents to sign, I could decipher it was ‘Star Wars,'” Suotamo said. He found that the film title on the paperwork, “Foodles,” matched internet rumors of the alias the “Star Wars” production was operating under.


Suotamo is remaining silent on just how much of him and how much of Mayhew made it into the movie, but the article does give a comment from JJ Abrams on the nature of the relationship between Mayhew, Suotamo, and Chewbacca.

“He had this love and respect and connection for this character of Chewie all his life,” Abrams said of Suotamo to Yahoo. “The fact that he got to play Chewie in so many scenes was a powerful thing for him, but Peter was often there while Joonas was doing this, almost as a consultant.” Chewie

As to whether Suotamo will return for Episode VIII?

When asked whether he was signed on to play Chewbacca in future “Star Wars” movies or replace Mayhew when the actor retires from the role, Suotamo gave a cryptic reply: “I would assume things will stay the same.”


But one thing he’ll say for certain: “I’m not planning to go back to selling insurance.”


For the full article, including comments from Suotamo on what it was like to film the now iconic confrontation between Kylo Ren and Han Solo, as well as what it was like on the set the day that Harrison Ford broke his ankle, check out Business Insider.


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60 thoughts on “Interview with Joonas Suotamo, The New Chewbacca, in Business Insider

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Cue the bitching they he didn’t move enough like Mayhew.

    • January 7, 2016 at 7:41 am

      Not bitching, but we’ve been noticing it since ’83 when editing switched between PM and his stunt double. It’s inevitable – yes, PM is sadly not physically able to handle the physical strain of shooting anymore, but Chewie has always moved like PM, the suit was built around his frame, the head was made for his face, and it’s just always going to be noticeable when someone else is in there.

      • January 7, 2016 at 1:04 pm

        When did he have a double in 83? And what percentage even really noticed, even now?

        • January 8, 2016 at 3:41 am

          You weren’t there for it then? His double did a fair amount of the Sarlaac sequence (think of the hanging, and rocking, and exploding…) And people weren’t bitching, but yeah, fans were saying they could tell when it’s not Mayhew in the suit.

          • January 8, 2016 at 4:22 am

            First I’ve heard or noticed it, but intellectually it makes sense to get a stunt guy to do those things like that back for ROTJ, Depends on what you define as bitchin’. Very few fans.

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    You mean move enough like a 70+ yr-old guy? Wookies live longer than humans, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with finding a younger guy to take up the mantle. I didn’t see anything wrong with his performance, but yeah, I see what you mean that now ppl will be looking for something to bitch about.

    • January 6, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      They want him to move exactly, down to every mini-nuance like Mayhew did in the originals.

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    A Chewie stand-in I can forgive…but R2-D2 just wasn’t the same without Kennie Baker inside… 😉

    • January 6, 2016 at 11:31 pm

      haha! I did see in the credits, last time I watched, that Kenny was an Artoo Deetoo consultant though!

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    I thought Gwendoline Christie was in the space ape suit?

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    he did a good job i thought , i actually wondered during the “putting explosives on some things” scene if it was peter or not but that had more to do with knowing his age than anything to do with how he moved.

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    “I love that Wookie” – Maz.

    How old do Wookies live?

    • January 6, 2016 at 11:39 pm

      About 400 years I think.

      • January 6, 2016 at 11:47 pm

        Chewie is like 234 in this movie. Wookiees have a lifespan of around 500 years.

        • January 7, 2016 at 3:13 pm

          Is the 500-year wookie lifespan still canon?

      • January 6, 2016 at 11:56 pm

        Yeah, the last time I checked, Wookies live 400-550 years or so. Unless Disney has changed that.

    • January 6, 2016 at 11:43 pm

      Interesting tidbit: In the novel she says – “That’s one sweet Wookiee.”

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    How much was Suotamo?
    Look at it this way: Peter Mayhew needs a cane to walk around these days. He has needed one for the past few years.
    It’s probably safe to say that any time Chewbacca was standing, walking, running, etc, it was Suotamo, and the few times Chewbacca was seated (Falcon Med bay, Resistance med bay), it was Mayhew.

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    I was wondering about how Chewie climbed that ladder to set the explosives! I was hoping that Peter Mayhew was that much better with his legs, but welcome to the new Chewie! As long as he stays in character!

    • January 7, 2016 at 7:35 am

      Bingo – that’s the shot in particular that pulled me out and made me think “that’s not the way PM moves; that doesn’t look like Chewie”.

      • January 7, 2016 at 7:25 pm

        I am OK with replacing Peter Mayhew if needed, as long as the replacement acts like the Chewy we know and love.

        • January 8, 2016 at 3:38 am

          Oh, of course, I agree, but you have to admit, climbing the ladder was obviously not Mayhew – not Mayhew in the ’70s and ’80s, certainly not Mayhew today. Just reality – no two people move exactly the same way.

          • January 8, 2016 at 4:24 am

            Even Vader walking down the ramp on Endor Shuttle landing was not Prowse, nor was it Anderson. But I didn’t know that until I read the book this week.

          • January 11, 2016 at 3:06 pm

            OK, If the actor acts similarly, then. Phew!

  • January 7, 2016 at 12:04 am

    I suspect the new Chewie actor will be utilised extensively for the Han Solo Spin-off movie, alongside the new Han.

    • January 7, 2016 at 1:05 am

      that will take a few minutes to get used to. 😉

  • January 7, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Wooohoo! The new Chewie! He’s already won over Mayhew.

  • January 7, 2016 at 12:18 am

    I bet Mayhew was only in costume for pictures and scenes where he was seated.

    • January 7, 2016 at 1:02 am

      Yep, basically, Chewie in Falcon cockpit, Chewie in Falcon med bay, and Chewie in Resistance Med Bay = Peter Mayhew.
      Chewie in everything else = Joonas Suotamo.

      • January 7, 2016 at 1:48 am

        Well the article does say many scenes were shot with BOTH Mayhew and Suotamo, so I suspect there might also be a few closeups of Mayhew in there during some of the standing and action scenes (like the two times Chewie loans Han his bowcaster for instance). And then the editor just mixed and matched according to whichever take looked best.

  • January 7, 2016 at 12:29 am

    I thought this was common knowledge?

  • January 7, 2016 at 12:38 am

    I, of course, wasn’t thinking who was Chewie while watching the film, but I can swear now that when Chewie looks at Rey in the Falcon cockpit – it was Mayhew. He has a particular way of moving Chewie’s head (and the scene is similar to the one we saw in BTS).

    But, nothing gave away that it wasn’t our old beloved Chewie, so Joonas did a great job. Welcome to Star Wars!

    • January 7, 2016 at 2:40 am

      It probably was Mayhew in that shot, since it was a sitting scene.

    • January 7, 2016 at 5:19 am

      Agreed, loved that moment. New (old) Falcon smell…

  • January 7, 2016 at 1:08 am

    that new dude is handsome.

  • January 7, 2016 at 1:13 am

    Oh my goddess! My heart is all a flutter with the gorgeousness that is Joonas, I’m gonna swoon…

    • January 7, 2016 at 2:02 am

      He looks too spacey in that image, tbh. Like he just got beaned on the head ten times. But maybe I’m being critical because I’m not into guys. xD

    • January 7, 2016 at 2:25 am

      Your not so bad yourself.

  • January 7, 2016 at 2:04 am

    They both did a great job. I particularly like the scene where Chewie made sure Han remembered to wear his coat. Like, maybe Han is getting a bit older & Chewie has started looking after him a little more — but subtly. I don’t know, it was a short little scene but it made them seem like old friends.

    • January 7, 2016 at 2:20 am

      Thank you! I was the only person in my crew seeing the movie who
      noticed that scene too. I love that Chewie didn’t want Han to be cold
      (or to complain about it) 🙂

      • January 7, 2016 at 10:39 am

        Not sure about that jacket. Though I know Chewie complained of being cold earlier when they were outside while Han was reprimanding Finn. But I think Chewie gave him the explosives??? Like, “Here Han old buddy. You plant those dangerous explosives, not me.” (in Wookie speak of Shyriiwook, of course). Ha! Ha! Ha! What you think?

  • January 7, 2016 at 3:38 am

    My favourite Chewie moment – Finn turns to him and says (referring to Han) “what, is he some kind of a war hero or something? And Chewie just shrugs. A perfect little Chewie moment that had to have been Peter.
    I would guess that all the stationary Chewbacca shots would be Mayhew, and everything else the new guy.

    • January 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      My favorite Chewie moment was when the Pirate guys confront Han, Han gives them B.S., and then the other guys show up, and Han’s like “Have I ever let you down?”
      And the other guys be all like “YES”
      and Chewie kinda nods to Han like “yeah you have”

  • January 7, 2016 at 3:46 am

    The only thing that made me wonder was of course seeing how immobile Peter Mayhew is these days and seeing scenes with Chewie being quite active in the film. Without knowing Mayhew’s fitness I’d not have known which is a good thing. I actually loved Chewie in TFA more than any other film he’s in. Has the best moments here by far, and I love the scene with the nurse. So funny.

  • January 7, 2016 at 3:52 am

    Love Chewie and love Mayhew, but I know he’s getting old and broke down…someone that tall almost always has problems later in life getting around. I know he’s going to be retiring at some point soon. I’d actually be suprised if he does another film. New Chewie will be fine, I’m sure.

  • January 7, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Welcome, Newbacca!

  • January 7, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Obviously it was Suotamo when Chewie steps in to rip-off Unkar Plutt’s arm in Maz’s castle. That scene really took me out of the movie.

    • January 7, 2016 at 9:14 am


      • January 7, 2016 at 10:32 am

        It was in the deleted scenes of the movie. You’ll probably see it once they release a “Director’s Cut” that is close to almost 3 hours. Enjoy it then!

    • January 7, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Every single scene when Chewie was standing was newbacca…

      Sitted down or injured original chewie

    • January 7, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      How could you have seen that if the deleted scenes haven’t been released yet?

  • January 7, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Well, I loved Chewie the entire movie. He’s always been one of my favorite characters, but especially in this one. The performance felt great throughout. So, I say welcome! It’s good to know the furry mantle is in good gigantic hands.

  • January 7, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Where is Suotamo in the movie credits ?

  • January 7, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    I think in close-ups it’s probably Mayhew. In the side-by-side pic, Suotamo’s eyes look slightly bluer.

  • January 7, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    You can tell it wasn’t Mayhew just from how he moved but I guess there isn’t much they can do about that other than comp his upper body with this guy’s legs which probably would have looked really off like Anakin riding the Shaak.

    • January 8, 2016 at 5:14 am

      Interesting you say that because I was thinking the same thing, but I was thinking it in a good way. I love Peter and if it was up to me he would be Chewie for ever, but he has stated before that he’s not really an actor. Suotamo on the other hand actually acted out the scenes, it felt good to see Chewie be funny and angry and even cold. He did a great job, no need for CGI limbs.

  • January 7, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    This explains why Chewie ignored Leia and didn’t give her a hug upon returning from Starkiller base.

    • January 8, 2016 at 5:08 am

      She didn’t really make an effort either…

  • January 8, 2016 at 2:14 am

    wow! what a great story! this is what the Chewbacca comic SHOULD be about! good for you Joonas Suotamo!!

  • January 8, 2016 at 5:07 am

    Sounds like a good dude and he did a great job, so I hope that when the time comes he gets the job for as long as Chewie is around.

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