Peter Mayhew Didn’t Become Chewbacca, Chewbacca Became Peter Mayhew
Star Wars creator George Lucas recently spoke about Peter Mayhew in wake of the Chewbacca actor’s passing. Lucas scrolls through many familiar anecdotes about Peter and Chewie you may have already heard through the years. But there is one touching aspect to all of this that was new to me. Chewbacca was originally intended to be an animalistic and ferocious beast, but the character wound up taking on the personality of the seven foot three inch gentle giant that filled his furry shoes. With the help of quotes from George Lucas, here is my tribute to Peter Mayhew.
Imagining and creating a character is one thing, bringing it to life is another. As George Lucas explains, Chewbacca, initially imagined as a big ferocious beast, wound up being much different once he found the man for the job. Via The Hollywood Reporter:
He (Mayhew) was more like a Wookiee than I originally imagined a Wookiee to be. Originally, I envisioned Chewie as some big ferocious beast, but Peter’s Chewie wasn’t really ferocious. No matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t ferocious. He would be your best friend until he got angry, then stand back. He was a gentle giant.
As you may know, George Lucas created Chewbacca based on his malamute Indiana, a large-breed dog that would accompany George on his travels, sitting alongside him in the car as his co-pilot. Chewbacca is essentially the loyal family dog who loves those around him unconditionally – or as Peter Mayhew always put it, he was the crew’s teddy bear, or security blanket, there to make everyone feel safe.
Lucas found Mayhew through his casting director, in the most unusual of places. While Lucas was expecting to find a basketball player, they wound up coming across a hospital attendant in a small English town.
Mayhew often said he believed he got the job by carrying out a proper-mannered English greeting. When somebody enters a room, you stand up to greet them. Well that’s exactly what he did. As George Lucas entered the room to meet him, Peter immediately stood up. George Lucas gazed up at the seven foot three blue-eyed man and told him he had the job.
Lucas knew characters who didn’t have traditional facial expression had to show their emotions through their bodies and movements, and he had a certain style in mind for Chewbacca.
We call it mime casting because it’s really about people controlling their bodies. You’re not really looking for the voice — you put that in later…Darth Vader had to strut. 3PO had to be malleable, because the suit constricted his movements. And Chewie needed to lumber, which Peter did perfectly.
In the recent teaser for The Rise of Skywalker, Luke Skywalker’s voiceover ends by saying, “We’ll always be with you…no one’s ever really gone.”
When you think about the fact that Peter Mayhew didn’t become Chewbacca, Chewbacca became Peter, Luke’s quote stands true. As long as the lovable furry protector continues on adventures through the galaxy, Peter will always be with us, because he is Chewbacca, and Chewbacca is Peter.
“Peter was a wonderful, wonderful man. He kept his job in the hospital through the first three movies. But he fell in love with the character…He was very gentle, very sweet, very easy to get along with.” – George Lucas
C-3PO once said “Let the Wookiee win”, but it’s hard to let the Wookiee win when he already won our hearts many years ago.
Rest in Peace, and thank you Peter Mayhew.
George Lucas Quotes via: THR