SHOW ME THE WOOKIEE!
|Name: Peter Mayhew
Alias: Chewbacca the Wookiee
Homeworld: Yorkshire, England
Political Affiliation: Rebel Alliance
Weapon of Choice: Bowcaster
Vehicle of Choice: Millenium Falcon
We'd like to thank Ben Stevens from the Dallas Toy Show. Without his gracious invitation, we would never of had this wonderful opportunity.
Friday, March 14, 1997, Darin Smith, my wife, and I (Scott Chitwood) all got to have dinner with Peter Mayhew. You may know him as Chewbacca!
We arrived and walked into the dining room. There near our table was Peter. Now I am 6 foot 6 inches tall, so I rarely ever look up to anyone. I had to look WAY UP to face Peter! He was 7 foot 2 inches tall. His hands were absolutely huge. When we shook hands, his hand totally engulfed mine! His fingers were about 1" in diameter!
After introductions, we talked for about 2 hours. We covered a lot of subjects, but I'll try to relate them to you as best I can remember.
Since we had seen the RETURN OF THE JEDI SPECIAL EDITION that morning, we asked if he had seen it yet. He said No, but that he had seen the other two. He asked what we thought of the new scenes and we told him we thought they were a tremendous improvement. He said that he was glad to hear it and that he had been really impressed with the new effects in the previous Special Editions. He really loved the new views in Cloud City.
He also mentioned that the scene with Jabba the Hutt in SWSE was his very first scene playing Chewbacca. Peter said that he was a bit worried to find out that his very first scene was going to end up on the cutting room floor. He said that his playing Chewbacca was really a test run, and if George did not like Chewie, the Wookiee would be replaced with another character and the scenes would be reshot. Mayhew said that he realized he was replaceable, but that he would know pretty quickly if they did not like his performance. He said after a few weeks, he was still there, so he decided they liked what he was doing!
We then asked Peter the question on everyone's mind.....Will he be in the prequels? Peter said that he had no word from Lucasfilm yet, but that he had heard Lucas had done a TV interview the week before and that George said they were bringing Peter back to play in the prequels. Mayhew said he expected to go back to England and find a letter from George waiting for him. He sounded VERY confident.
We asked Peter if he had read any of the books. He said that he had read most all of them, but that he had a hard time finding the time to do it. I asked him what he thought about the portrayal of Chewie in the novels. It turns out that he is a Star Wars purist! His personal opinion was that only what George Lucas writes is official Star Wars canon. Everything else is just someone else's take on the story.
We asked him what George Lucas is like. He said that George was very quiet, but very smart. He said that George, at the close of filming, did not care for the parties, but that Lucas could really party when he had to! Peter said that he really loved working with George because he was willing to listen to the actors input. Peter said many directors just want you to do it their way or no way, but George listened to everyone's ideas. He was very open minded.
Darin asked who his favorite director was. Mayhew said that every director had his own characteristics and that they were all enjoyable. He said Kershner knew exactly what he wanted in a scene and made sure the film was done right. He said that Richard Marquand was very considerate of the actors in costume. He would do a shot, and if it didn't work, he would do it again then work with what he got. He was very aware of the uncomfortable costumes and did his best to get good shots quickly.
We asked Peter about the marketing of Star Wars. Was it too much? He said no, that he liked it except for the shoddy products. He said that he particularly loved the beautiful artwork. He loved the Topps cards, the Hildebrandts work, and the posters. That was his favorite.
I asked if he got free Star Wars toys. He said that he would get one of everything. I asked if he was running out of room, but he said no. He would make a lot of appearances at Children's Homes and Hospitals, and that when he would go, he would grab boxes of the toys and give them to the children. He said he would enjoy watching their faces light up!
I asked him about filming in Norway. (I myself had lived there for 4 years.) He said it was cold and wet. (Yep, that's Norway!) Peter told us about how they would get on a train and ride up to the remote town. He said that there was nothing around and that the town was really only there to store railway equipment. Peter said they were snowed in, but when they got worried, the hotel told them they had enough supplies for 6 months. He said Harrison Ford made his way there by riding a snow-plow train! Peter said it was so bad there that the famous Taun-Taun slicing scene was filmed in the hotel parking lot! It took them several days, but the weather was so bad they just did it right there next to the hotel.
He also told us that when he filmed in the snow, he was pretty warm. However, when he got in the snow, it clung to his costume! When he went into the heated tent to take it off, he said he took off the boots, the the mask, then he noticed a cold wet feeling. The snow on the suit was melting! He quickly took the costume and hung it up, but it was all wet. He said it looked like a wet dog.
We asked him about any other mishaps he had. He said that during the filming of them running through Cloud City, the floors were very slick. He had the 40 lb. C3-PO on his back, and he had slick leather boots on under the costume. He said as he rounded the corner, his legs went one way and 3PO went the other! He fell and was not a happy Wookiee. He said everyone was more worried about 3PO than him! He took some time off and came back OK.
He also told us about his scene with Billy Dee Williams. Billy came up to him and said, "Peter, please don't hurt me!" Peter said, "Don't worry, I won't even touch you." So in the scene, he just put his hands around Williams' neck without touching, and the costume hair hid the rest!
My wife asked him about the trash compactor scene. He said it was true he didn't want in the water. It really did stink! The water had diesel and oil in it to make it look gross. He said they told Mark Hamill that, no matter what he did, not to open his mouth or eyes under water! So in the Dianoga scene, Mark just goes under and back up real fast, but they edit it longer. Peter said that he found himself a narrow 2x4 ledge to stand on out of the water and he was OK!
We asked him about the Hoth set. He said that what they had done was put glue on the walls, then throw salt on the glue to make it look like snow! He said they did the icicles the same way. He was very impressed with the clever tricks they used.
Darin then asked Peter about the 'Tarzan Yell' in Return of the Jedi. Peter said that it was not really a Tarzan yell. It was in fact Wookiee language. Very upset Wookiee language! After all, Chewie was in the middle of a battle, he probably hadn't had lunch. A very bad combination for a Wookiee!
Peter also told us about how in the woods he was told not to stray too far from the set because they were in Bigfoot country. He said he listened to them because he didn't want to face a double barrel shotgun!
He also told us that in Yuma, when they built the set for the Sail Barge, they removed all the desert scrub, which they later had to replace (the government told them to.) While there, he used his stunt double for the first and only time. It was for the scene where the skiff gets hit by a blast and tips over with Han and Lando dangling over the side. He said it was a nice little break. He just laid out with a cool drink and watched Harrison and Williams and his double put on the show!
We asked him if he was hot there, but he said no. All he had to do was face the wind and he was cooled down.
I asked Peter what Harrison Ford was like. He said they were really good friends on the set. He said he felt it carried over to the screen in their characters relationship. I asked when he saw Ford last and he said he had not seen him since ROTJ.
I asked what he had done since ROTJ. He said that with the money from the films, he started a bed frame company. It was a nice little business, but he closed it down in order to start the tour circuit. He didn't have enough time for both. I asked what he did for hobbies. He said that he liked to play golf, but that he wasn't able to play with his friends a lot. When they are off of work on the weekends, he is often gone on tours. Peter said he wasn't really good at many sports because of his height (except for basketball).
|I asked Peter if he ever got on the internet. He said
that he, Bulloch, and Baker had done a chat on AOL the night before. He said that other
than that, he doesn't get on much. I asked if he would get a homepage or an e-mail
address. He said he had someone that would do both for him, but that he wasn't really
interested in it at this time. He had the ability to learn the stuff, but not really the
need at the moment.
Well, that's most of the interesting stuff that Peter Mayhew told us. We kind of kept him from eating, but he was VERY kind and friendly to us and answered all of our questions. He's really a sharp fellow and a lot of fun to talk to. Thanks Peter! And May the Force be with you!
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