12/06/2012


Chewbacca is one of the most beloved characters in Star Wars. Loyal and lovable, ferocious but gentle, he's a powerful warrior as well as an expert mechanic. He's like a giant teddy bear who could rip your arms off, but would give you a hug instead. Here are ten facts about our favorite walking carpet that may surprise you.

1. The First Wookiee Wasn't in Star Wars - The first mention of a Wookiee in film was not Star Wars. It was Lucas' first scifi movie, THX-1138, and it was an accident. Lucas hired some voice actors to add dialogue in post-production, including a DJ named Terry McGovern. At one point, a robot cop voiced by McGovern says, "I think I just ran over a Wookiee on the expressway." When Lucas asked about the line, McGovern said it was just a joking reference to a guy he knew named Wookiee (although the real guy apparently spells it Wookey). The name stuck with Lucas and he ended up using it again in Star Wars.

2. Chewbacca's Appearance is a Rip-Off - In early concept art, Chewbacca looks more like a lemur with long fangs. However, Chewbacca's final appearance is stolen, uh, based on an illustration by John Schoenherr for George R.R. Martin's novelette "And Seven Times Never Kill a Man" in the July 1975 issue of Analog Magazine. Even Chewbacca's crossbow-type bowcaster weapon came from this illustration. The only major changes made to the original drawing were to add a bandolier. Later, while building the mask for Chewbacca, they added a protruding jaw.

3. Darth Vader Could Have Been Chewbacca - Bodybuilder David Prowse originally was Lucas' pick for Chewbacca, but Prowse turned it down. Prowse decided he would rather be Darth Vader, because he wanted to play a villain. Prowse went on to play the body of Vader while Lucas had to a search for a suitable replacement.

4. The Actor Got the Job By Standing Up - According to actor Peter Mayhew, who stands over seven feet tall, he got the job as Chewbacca just by getting up. He went to the audition and was sitting on a sofa waiting for George Lucas. When George walked in and Mayhew stood up, Lucas said, "I think we've found him."

5. Chewbacca Almost Wore Pants - The studio wanted to put clothes on Chewbacca, because they were concerned that he's essentially naked. They kept sending notes and concept designs with Chewbacca wearing shorts and baggy pants. Lucas insisted on keeping Chewie a nudist.

6. Chewbacca's Voice is a Menagerie - The distinctive voice of Chewbacca is a triumph of sound design. Mayhew did growl on the set, but Chewbacca's voice was created by sound effects guru Ben Burtt by mixing noises from walruses, bears, tigers, camels and badgers.

7. Chewbacca is Man's Best Friend - Lucas has said that the idea for Chewbacca came from his dog, an Alaskan Malamute. When he rode with his dog in the passenger seat, the dog looked larger than a person. Lucas said he thought that would be a funny image. Incidentally, this is the same dog that inspired the name for Lucas' other creation, Indiana Jones.

8. The Star Wars Holiday Special Never Dies - The infamous Star Wars Holiday Special focused on Chewbacca's life on his home planet, Kashykk. Most of it is flat-out terrible, but none more so than the introduction of Chewbacca's "family": his father Itchy, his wife Malla, and his son Lumpy. Given the ludicrous nature of this backstory, one author tried to change it, and was told he couldn't. Despite the fact that Lucas publicly disavowed the Holiday Special and actually had very little to do with it, the special has been made canon.

9. Mayhew was Irreplaceable - Mayhew put in a lot of effort on his performance as Chewbacca, studying monkeys, bears, and gorillas at the zoo for ideas on movement. One day, Mayhew came down sick, so they shot some footage with the stand in. All the footage with the stand in had to be scrapped, because he couldn't match the body language of Mayhew.

10. Why Chewbacca is Dead - Chewbacca was killed in the 1999 novel, Vector Prime. The reason is that the editors wanted people to take the books more seriously, so they decided to kill off a major character. They sent Lucas a list of characters they wanted to kill and asked him to choose one. Lucas responded by sending a list of characters they couldn't kill. Chewbacca wasn't on that list. Author R. A. Salvatore was ordered to kill Chewbacca against his wishes, and apparently has received death threats over it.

What did you think of the list? Anything else you can add about Chewbacca?
[Image Source: VisualNews]

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4 comments:

Pat Dilloway said...

Chewie with pants was definitely a dumb idea. Silly studio suits never know when to butt out. I didn't mind that they killed him in the book so much as the way he died was so stupid. I mean getting crushed by a moon? Hey I didn't see that moon coming...um, yeah. Though if it were Jar Jar a moon would be too kind.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That holiday special COULD die and we'd be all right with it.
Knew the idea came from Lucas' dog, but didn't realize how unoriginal the design was for Chewbacca. Agree putting clothes on him would've been dumb. He's wearing fur, people!

Tony Laplume said...

The only actor who doesn't embarrass himself in the Holiday Special (besides Mayhew) is Harrison Ford. That's the only explanation you need for how everyone's careers went forward.

Colin "Fitz" Biggs said...

I never knew they killed Chewbacca. Harsh.

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