Joonas Suotamo Remembers Peter Mayhew for

Joonas Suotamo, the actor who plays Chewbacca in the most recent Star Wars films, talks about Wookiee Boot Camp and his memories of Peter Mayhew for

For people to remember something, it needs to be unique. Peter Mayhew, who died April 30 at 74, made Chewbacca unique just by being real — even though Chewie happens to live in space in a fantastical world. Even though the character easily loses his temper, at his core is the warmth, loyalty and friendship that Peter brought to Star Wars. That’s the mixture of shades we see when we look at Chewbacca — he’s a complete being. So Peter created something that we will always remember.

I first met Peter on a sunny day in a backlot at Pinewood Studios, a day or two before we started filming The Force Awakens. We were in his trailer, and as he stood up, I realized what a gigantic man he was. And as I talked with him, I realized what a big heart he had. He generously told stories and encouraged me — we were going to bring Chewbacca to life together for The Force Awakens. To this day, no one knows which scenes I did and which he did for that movie, except the crew. It was a very warm, very exciting time.

After Force Awakens, we spent a week at what we called Wookiee Boot Camp. We would watch old footage of Peter as Chewbacca, and he would explain why he did the things that we see in those legendary scenes. He was very generous with the information. I appreciated that so much, because it was a delicate situation stepping into his shoes, to become the character that he had been all his life. Always in my mind has been the objective to honor the character he created, because I’m as big a fan of the series as the next guy. To bring dishonor to anyone who had been a part of starting these great movies would be very disappointing.

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James is an active member of the Star Wars collecting community, and is the Brand Director for Jedi News. James is also the host of the Star Wars Collectors Cast, and co-host of RADIO 1138 on the Jedi News Network.