Things are a changing – new Star Wars villains are on the horizon, Han Solo is younger and not quite set in his ways, and even the Millenium Falcon is newer (have you seen the cloak closet?). One thing remains the same – our favorite Wookie.
Well, I guess I should say that Chewbacca is younger in the new Star Wars epic film, SOLO: A Star Wars Story, but he looks the same – something that will make fans instantly feel they are in familiar territory while still learning how this whole thing started – how Han and Chewie met, the famous Kessel Run, and more.
Though younger, released trailers already have shared that Chewie is 190 years old at the time of SOLO.
Chewie is so loved, but questions remain and I’ve gone in to share with you all the scoop – who plays Chewbacca. Yes, unbelievably, I had an interview with a Wookie!
(Disney invited me to California on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for our coverage of events. As always, all opinions are my own.)
Who Plays Chewbacca? – Interview with a Wookie!
When original Chewbacca actor, Peter Mayhew, stepped aside and retired from Star Wars, Disney was in a bind.
Think about it, they were looking for someone 7 feet tall, with blue eyes, who could withstand the heat of a Wookie suit, and oh, did we mention the Wookie language?
How many people in this world could possible fit that description?
Not surprisingly, Disney turned to basketball players in the hopes someone could be the next Chewbacca. The Finnish Basketball Association helped them find Joonas Suotamo, who has played Chewbacca in the last three Star Wars films…The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and now SOLO: A Star Wars Story.
Not only did I get the opportunity to sit down with newcomer Suotamo for an exclusive interview, but I also had the rare privilege of seeing Peter Mayhew in person at the Star Wars SOLO premiere. He sat literally a few feet away from me as I chatted with friends during the premiere after-party.
Born to Play this Role – From Basketball to Hollywood
I had no idea Chewie played basketball! Not only that, but Joonas Suotamo wasn’t an actor, never had wanted to be an actor, nor was he trying to be an actor.
Chewbacca literally fell in his lap.
Joonas was 7 feet tall.
Joonas had blue eyes.
Joonas was Finnish, which means a “rich sauna tradition” that allowed him to be able to take extreme heat, something that would come in handy with Chewbacca costuming.
Joonas was a professional basketball player, allowing him a bit more body awareness with movements.
So, without knowing what the part was (WHAT??!!??), Joonas said yes to a part in Star Wars. He took a calculated risk and boy did it pay off.
From basketball to Hollywood – the stuff of dreams.
You could tell Joonas Suotamo is relatively new to Hollywood, though on his third Star Wars film.
He’s a 7-foot tall kid having the time of his life. Okay, he’s not actually a kid, but the father of a new baby who he can’t wait to grow up and share this Star Wars universe with.
But Joonas’ smile was contagious. His life has taken a turn that he never saw coming, and he’s enjoying every minute of it. If left to his own devices, I have no doubt he would have stayed and continued talking to our group of bloggers for as long as we wanted. But alas, the world needed him.
Talking Wookie, Harrison Ford, and the Smell of the Millenium Falcon?
Joonas may have checked off all the boxes with Chewie’s physical characteristics (and thanks to a little Wookie bootcamp with Mayhew), but did he speak Wookie?
Talk Wookie to Me
So when did he learn Wookie?
In the 24 hours after he learned he was set to meet Harrison Ford the next day? WHAT??!!??
FUN FACT: When Joonas met Ford, his nerves were getting the best of him and he actually blurted out that he hadn’t been born when they made the original films. Oh, that didn’t go over well with Ford (Ha!), but they worked through that.
May I just add that Joonas Suotamo made my day when he spoke Wookie to us. YES HE DID!
The very first time that Joonas Suotamo stepped on the Millenium Falcon was the first day of Harrison Ford shooting in The Force Awakens.
It was emotional for everyone and Joonas recalls many crying.
The Millenium Falcon is part of everyone’s childhood and even my inner geek came out while flying next to Chewie above!
FUN FACT: Joonas says the Millenium Falcon has a distinct smell to it, like a hardware store. You know, just like a car has that new car smell. He recalls it’s something that Mark Hamill has described too.
Discovering Who Chewbacca is in SOLO
We do learn so much about Han and Chewie in SOLO: A Star Wars Story. We find out if there are other Wookies, but I’ll leave it at that. I never spoil things for you – Solo Movie Review – No Spoilers!
Joonas describes Chewie in SOLO –
Chewie kind of he walks around with worry on his shoulders, because he doesn’t know where this road will take him. And this movie also shows what that new life for Chewbacca is going to be and if he will take that. And it was very interesting to do, because he doesn’t have any kind of structure in his life at that point.
And we talked with Alden. We talked a lot about the arc of their friendship and how to start that journey together so that the audience will see the development and also the downs and the ups of that relationship. And it was very important to get right, because we all wanna see how that relationship started.
I know it would be a bit intimidating to meet a 7-foot tall Wookie in real life, right?
It’s one reason Joonas Suotama actually carried something in the bag Chewie always has around him.
It’s not empty after all. Chewie has sweets in there, candy for children who are initially scared of him in person.
It’s a different Chewie than we’ve seen before in some ways. I was surprised at times. But at the core, Chewie is the same Wookie we’ve always loved. He’s the same loyal friend to Han Solo, and one of the biggest reasons you need to see the movie this week! But not the only, oh, not the only. Jaw dropping moments, I tell ya!
If you want to make some Chewbacca OREO Cookie Balls, scroll down, as I’ve got a step by step tutorial!
About SOLO: A Star Wars Story
Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo befriends his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and meets the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes. The film stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Paul Bettany.
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY opens in theatres May 25th.
Take a look…
Alden Ehrenreich Interview:
Ready my exclusive Alden Ehrenreich Interview – Han Solo!
Check out my recap of the SOLO premiere – the celebrities, the after-party, and the Millenium Falcon details!
Now for some extra Star Wars fun…
EXTRA FUN: Get in the Star Wars mood by creating these incredible Star Wars Themed OREO Cookie Balls