21 December 2019 02:44

Simon Thomas This Morning Peter Mayhew

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Joonas Suotamo Explains The Importance Of Chewbacca In ‘Star Wars’

Given everything that Joonas Suotamo inherited from his predecessor Peter Mayhew, the "cool shirt" may not seem like the most notable of hand-me-downs. While shooting Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in the Jordanian desert, the hairy body of a Wookiee wasn't always the most comfortable place for Suotamo to be trapped inside. So the 33-year-old, 6'11 Finnish actor was grateful when a crew member presented him with his mentor's "cool shirt." "We went in a time of year when it was not as hot as it could be," says Suotamo, in an interview with Postmedia in Pasadena. Whatever material the "cool shirt" was made of, it apparently did the trick for the actor in helping him survive the blistering, Jordanian sun as he took on the role of Han Solo's fiercely loyal if short-tempered sidekick for the fourth time. It turns out the garment had been acquired for Mayhew during production of 2015's The Force Awakens, which was also the film where the Chewbacca baton was officially passed to Suotamo.

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He was enlisted to be a body double for his predecessor, but also performed some of the more physical scenes because Mayhew was recovering from knee-replacement surgery. Eventually, Mayhew relinquished the role to his successor, who would go on to play him in three more films. During an interview a few weeks back to promote The Rise of Skywalker, which hits theatres Dec. 19, much of the conversation was dedicated to praising Mayhew. When the actor passed away, Suotamo penned a poignant tribute in Time Magazine, suggesting the role Mayhew originated in the first Star Wars film back in 1977 would always be intrinsically linked to the actor because his personality shone so brightly beneath the Chewbacca suit. After filming the Force Awakens, Mayhew spent a week working with his successor in one-on-one "closed session" for what Suotamo called Wookiee boot camp.


They would watch footage from the original trilogy and Mayhew would offer his insights about the character and how he should be played. There was a definite art to the physicality and Mayhew's unique approach to the character, Suotamo says. He was always a part of Star Wars. Of course, it hard not to attract attention when you are nearly seven foot tall. In 2013, Star Wars producers contacted the Finnish Basketball Association for help finding someone who could be Mayhew's body double.

When a basketball scholarship brought him to Pennsylvania State University, he chose film studies over theatre because he figured there would be a dearth of roles available to tall thespians. "The fact that I was interested in acting and could portray different demeanours and act a certain way, that had nothing to do with it initially," he says. In the past five years, Suotamo has portrayed Chewbacca in four films: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Solo: A Star Wars Story and now the Rise of Skywalker, which writer-director J.J. Abrams says will be the final chapter of the nine-movie, 40-year Skywalker trilogy. It did not leave the actor with much time to pursue other roles. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theatres Dec. 19. Han Solo's trusty (and excessively hairy) sidekick Chewbacca has remained a staple of the "Star Wars" franchise. At first helmed by the late Peter Mayhew, who died in April of this year, Chewbacca was soon taken over by Joonas Suotamo following his appearance in 2015's "The Force Awakens" as a body double. In an interview with ScreenRant, accompanied by C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels, Suotamo conveyed how tall Chewbacca truly stands in the "Star Wars" universe. Not merely the trusty friend of Han Solo, nor even the Wookie warrior from Kashyyyk, the character has had an ever-lasting imprint on "Star Wars," having echoed the Chewbacca sound in all of the trilogies and even in 2017's "Solo: A Star Wars Story." "I think it has to do with the total totality of 'Star Wars,' and that he's been that presence on screen," explained the Chewbacca actor. Daniels, who recently explained his own tear-jerker moment on filming "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," added weight to Suotamo's words, saying, "[Chewbacca's] a very comforting companion." Despite relatively negative "Star Wars" review scores thus far, "Episode IX" marks as a close to the Skywalker saga, possibly even ending Chewbacca's long journey throughout the galaxy far, far away. As "Star Wars" characters go, Chewbacca may well be one of the most iconic of the creatures, which only grows with the inclusion of Babu Frik in "The Rise of Skywalker" and the highly beloved Baby Yoda in "The Mandalorian." "To me, that is the perfect design," said Muppet director and writer Kirk Thatcher on the design of the Chewbacca costume in an interview with The Washington Post. Even down to the character's costume design, Chewbacca seemingly conveys friendship and, as Daniels put it, comfort. He may not be every fan's favorite character, yet the Chewbacca sound remains among the most iconic noises in "Star Wars" and may well echo the character's legacy beyond "Episode IX." "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" releases everywhere Friday. Joonas Suotamo is 'open' to a Star Wars return Finnish star Joonas Suotamo has admitted he is "open" to making a 'Star Wars' return in the future Joonas Suotamo is "open" to making a 'Star Wars' return. The 33-year-old actor has played Chewbacca in the 'Star Wars' saga and although he's not currently attached to any future projects with the sci-fi franchise, Joonas has revealed he'd be keen to reprise the role in the years to come. Speaking exclusively to BANG Showbiz at the European premiere of 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' on Wednesday (18.12.19), Joonas – who replaced Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca – shared: "I will have to wait and see. But the Finnish star – who features alongside the likes of Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and John Boyega in the new film – is also keen to broaden his ambitions as an actor. Joonas stands at almost seven-feet tall and has been suggested as a potential future Bond villain. Asked about the prospect of starring in the money-spinning movie franchise, Joonas replied: "We'll have to put in some work to make that happen."