The Wookiee is a special kind of creature in the Star Wars universe. We’ve seen nothing like them before. But over the years, people have grown fond of them — especially the No. 1 Wookiee of them all, Chewbacca.
Like all Wookiees, Chewbacca is extremely tall. And that meant George Lucas had to find a person tall enough to fit the bill. Enter Peter Mayhew, a British actor who had been working as an assistant at a hospital prior to his casting. Mayhew, in the 1970s, was 7 feet 3 inches, which made him perfect for the role. Mix in the Wookiee language of throaty growls that he helped to perfect, and Chewbacca was born.
Since, the late actor has played Chewbacca in every live-action appearance up to 2015’s The Force Awakens, when he gained a new protege. As he aged, scenes were handed down to Finnish star Joonas Suotamo, who was a basketball player prior to him coming onto Star Wars for the sequel series. Suotamo’s height is listed as 6 feet 11 inches (though he’s said he’s 7 feet tall), which is just a few inches shy of Mayhew’s peak height, but he was the perfect match nonetheless.
Of course, we always see Chewbacca on screen in costume. But what do the two actors look like behind the mask?
Chewbacca actors unmasked
The tall man to the left in the photo below just happens to be Peter Mayhew. In this throwback photo, Mayhew is posed next to George Lucas, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill and Kenny Baker.
Here’s Mayhew a few years later, still tall as ever, posing with his family at the premiere of
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
And alas, we have Mayhew posing with his protege, Joonas Suotamo, at the premiere of The Last Jedi.
This bonus feature from The Force Awakens is a great way to see the two in action. Mayhew explained that a knee surgery affected his walking, and as such, Suotamo would have to step in for many of the scenes. Still, it’s great to see both of them here, lending their talents to the role of Chewbacca. And it’s quite funny to see the two men walking around in the big, fuzzy costumes!
Mayhew passed away at the age of 74 in 2019, and it’s good to know Suotamo is here to carry on his legacy as Chewbacca.
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