Everyone knows the big three actors from the original Star Wars trilogy: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford. For the more hardcore Star Wars fan, there are a few more names that go with those three: Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew. C-3P0, R2D2 and Chewbacca were never parts where the actors showed their faces, but they were just as vital to the original set, and to the movies going forward. That’s why Peter Mayhew, despite his advanced age (77) and health issues, campaigned for stepping back into the big furry suit for one more go when Disney announced they would be making Episode VII.
Talking to Australia’s Bmag, as he prepped for an appearance later this month at Brisbane’s Supanova Pop Culture Expo, Mayhew spoke of how proud he was to be returning to the franchise, and how moved he was to see the fans react to Han and his return at the end of the second trailer.
“When I saw it, I had 7,000 people around me. We were at Star Wars Celebration, and George said… no, JJ said, ‘Do you want to see a trailer?’ And everybody says, ‘Yes, please’. The lights go out in the hall, I’m looking up at the screen, and I’m thinking it’s just going to be the sand dunes and blah blah blah. But then Han and Chewie are there, and the line is, ‘Chewie, we’re home’. And everybody in the hall is crying, or laughing, or cheering, or whatever. And I just thought, ‘Wow. How can we not have a success when you get 7,000 people reacting like that?’
“Even the Lucasfilm people, even [producer] Kathleen Kennedy, she’d been up on stage all day, and she was crying. I was standing six or eight feet away from JJ, and he was just going, ‘Hmm… I like this’. It was terrific. It was a terrific thing that we were able to do, and it was such a good way of getting it out to all these people. It was marvellous. It was one of those moments… it gives you pride in what you’ve established.”
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Unlike Ford, who has gone on to a huge movie career, Mayhew never planned on stardom and had no pretensions to a career. He worked as a hospital orderly before being cast, and has spent most of his post original trilogy career sticking close to the fandom and the franchise. Still, his bond with Ford from that time never wavered.
“Harrison’s one of the guys,” he says. “We’ve been friends for a long time, and he’s always been about giving advice and talking things through. He’ll ask what you want to do, and he’ll tell you how he wants to do it, too. He’ll say, ‘No, let’s try [the scene] this way… don’t look over there, look over here’. Just little things. He’s got a really soft voice, but I know he’s very interested in what’s going on, not only as an actor, but almost as a director. And as a friend!
“There was a marvelous camaraderie on the set, right the way down to all the guys who were working as part of the crew. It couldn’t have been better.”
Mayhew also enjoyed working with the new actors, especially John Boyega and Daisy Ridley. He praises Boyega’s sense of humor as helping him through the process for the first time. As for Ridley, he unfortunately compares her a little to Natalie Portman, who was notoriously stiff and wooden in the prequel trilogy. But he says as things have gone along, she’s really loosened up.
[W]e watched her blossom, from a quiet young lady, into the girl who was there at Star Wars Celebration. She had blossomed; she was beautiful and full of personality. I think she’s got a lot of personality still to come out, and if the right movies come along, she will do very, very well.”
Star Wars: The Force Awaken opens on December 18th, 2015. Forty-Five more days!