Peter Mayhew will suit up again as Chewbacca for 'Star Wars Episode 7'
Okay, so can we finally stop asking how much of the Expanded Universe they're planning to use in "Star Wars: Episode VII"?
In 1999, "Vector Prime" was published as part of the "New Jedi Order" series of novels. In it, author R. A. Salvatore secured his place on my enemies list by killing Chewbacca as he tried to save Han Solo's son Anakin. I am a lifelong shameless fan of Han Solo's friend and business partner, and I've always felt like they treated Chewie badly. In the first film, I've never understood why he doesn't get a medal at the same time as Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. It's like they think he's Han Solo's dog instead of his co-pilot. Killing him made headlines, but it didn't make for a good book, and it seemed really short-sighted of them to eliminate the character.
Thankfully, those books no longer matter. If you're a fan who spent a lot of time and energy on the Expanded Universe novels, I sincerely hope you enjoyed them and that they were part of your personal "Star Wars" experience, but I think it's important that the films don't feel bound to adapt those stories or treat them as canon. These films have to be able to surprise us, and if it's just a matter of them creating a big-screen checklist of things that fans already know, what fun would that be?
I'm curious to see what it means when they say that Peter Mayhew is playing the part again. Mayhew's a beloved figure in fandom, and I certainly have huge regard for the guy. But he's had health issues in recent years, and I'm not sure that's what they have in mind for a returning Chewbacca. Would they put him in a motion capture rig and handle Chewie that way? I'm glad it's him, as I definitely think there is something essential about the way he physically plays the character that is a big part of Chewie's appeal.
The real news here is that this is all the news we have so far, even as the film begins production without a finished script or a complete cast. Alan Horn gave probably the most detail we've heard yet in a short chat with The Hollywood Reporter, saying that most of the cast is in place and that the screenplay is finally where it needs to be. Earlier reports had the action taking place 30 years after the event of "Jedi," but Alan Horn's comments were confusing since they seemed to suggest the opposite, saying the story will pick up "where 6 left off -- and where 6 left off is 35 years ago by the time this is released."
I'm sure that by the time "Star Wars Episode VII" finally hits theaters, we'll be so buried under marketing materials that we'll be crying mercy, but for now, every little crumb of information seems like a huge deal because of how little has actually been confirmed.
"Star Wars Episode VII" is due in theaters December 18, 2015.