‘Star Wars: Episode 7′: Chewbacca Recasting Rumors & Abrams Talks Cumberbatch [Updated]

Published 2 years ago by , Updated September 24th, 2013 at 5:18 am,

Star Wars Episode VII Fan Logo Star Wars: Episode 7: Chewbacca Recasting Rumors & Abrams Talks Cumberbatch [Updated]

Thirty-six years have passed since filmmaker George Lucas released Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, which obliterated box office records and cemented that the dawn of summer blockbusters had begun (after Jaws ushered in the era two years earlier in 1975). Sci-fi/fantasy movie culture has since then evolved from niche entertainment – with the occasional breakout hit like Star Wars – to a mainstay of present-day cinema, thanks to franchises like Lucas’ and the birth of the modern comic book superhero film genre.

Star Wars: Episode VII is finally becoming a reality, as a project that features some of the biggest names in the tentpole entertainment industry (including, new Lucasfilm president and executive producer Kathleen Kennedy) working to make a Star Wars installment that can meet the expectations of modern audiences – yet, at the same time, recapture the infectious sense of wonder, optimistic worldview and authentic whiz-bang spirit that Episode IV possesses (i.e. the quality that’ve endeared so many people to the film over the past four decades).

Kennedy, in hopes of accomplishing that goal, spent a month tempting director J.J. Abrams, who’s been itching to make a Star Wars movie for some time (as anyone who’s seen his Star Trek films can attest). Together, the pair are collaborating with Oscar-winner Michael Arndt – a screenwriter/co-writer on Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3Oblivion and the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – on a story that will introduce new blood to the galaxy far, far away, but also bring back some old friends to help connect the Star Wars of the past with the future. However, a couple of your favorite (former) members of the Rebel Alliance and/or Galactic Empire may be brought to life by different people.

Han Solo Harrison Ford Star Wars 7 Star Wars: Episode 7: Chewbacca Recasting Rumors & Abrams Talks Cumberbatch [Updated]

Peter Mayhew, who portrayed Han Solo’s Wookie companion Chewbacca in Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI (and cameoed in Episode III), recently had both of his knees surgically replaced, in the hope that it will allow the 69-year-old fan-favorite (who stands 7’3” tall) to walk again, after two years of being wheelchair-bound. Unfortunately, due to his physical condition, it would seem that Mayhew won’t be reprising as Chewie in the third Star Wars trilogy – even though a newly-released Episode VII casting call (via Den of Geek) suggests that the character will be returning (albeit, with a different actor wearing the costume):

“Male, 7 ft to 7.3 ft tall with a slim/thin build and upright posture. Not too worked out or too ‘thick set’ especially in the shoulders. Broad facial features would be a bonus.”

The casting description – released by Walt Disney Pictures/LucasFilm/Bad Robot for (officially) “Untitled Studio Feature” – could very well be for another Wookie altogether, maybe even an Episode VII character inspired by Lowbacca; who, in the Star Wars “Expanded Universe,” is Chewie’s nephew, a Jedi Knight trained by Luke Skywalker and friend to Han and Leia’s adult children, Jacen and Jaina. However, given the rumors that a Han Solo origins movie is being developed (and the possibility that Chewie will make an appearance in Episode VII and beyond), the more logical assumption would be that the search is on for a younger actor to replace Mayhew and play Han’s ever-loyal “walking carpet” hereon out.

Update: W. Ryan Ziegler, who is putting together a documentary called Standing In the Stars: The Peter Mayhew Story about the eponymous actor’s recovery from surgery, passed on a message to Bleeding Cool from Mayhew, who said “I intend to pursue the role of Chewbacca for Episode VII.” For our money, we hope his efforts work out and he’s able to appear in the next Star Wars film (and beyond).

Star Wars 7 Benedict Cumberbatch Sith Star Wars: Episode 7: Chewbacca Recasting Rumors & Abrams Talks Cumberbatch [Updated]

Ford, Fisher and Hamill are (unofficially) confirmed to return for Episode VII, while the latter two are reported to have started getting back into shape for the film around three months ago (Hamill’s friend/actor Robert Englund has since confirmed as much). Meanwhile, the wheels continue to spin on the casting rumor discussion, with regard to Benedict Cumberbatch as a potential candidate, in particular.

Here is Abrams’ non-comittal response, when asked about Episode VII casting (and the Cumberbatch rumors) by LA Times staff writer Yvonne Villarreal:

Cumberbatch is rumored to play a Sith Lord in the new Star Wars trilogy, but there has also been talk about a female villain (Sith?) being introduced in Episode VII. Abrams previously cast the Sherlock actor as an iconic antagonist in this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness, but the director knows better than to rule out such a promising contender at this point in the guessing game. Besides, as far as concerns about type-casting go, Cumberbatch as a red-eyed Sith warrior – who enjoys the sheer pleasure of drawing power from his anger – would be a far cry from (SPOILER WARNING!) his turn as a more sympathetic version of Khan in the Star Trek sequel.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness Star Wars: Episode 7: Chewbacca Recasting Rumors & Abrams Talks Cumberbatch [Updated]

The growing list of people who’ve (according to various sources) either auditioned for a role in Episode VII – including, Alex Pettyfer, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Liam McIntyre, Ksenia Solo, Saoirse Ronan, David Oyelowo and Michael B. Jordan – or are heavily rumored (like Cumberbatch), is a testament to what Abrams said about the difficult nature of casting the film. On the plus side, the relatively diverse lineup shows that even the Star Wars franchise is changing to keep up with the times in the geek community (without abandoning tradition, at the same time) – something that bodes well for the next era in the mythological space opera.

Are you excited by the possibility that Chewbacca may be returning to the Star Wars universe, for more than just the (unconfirmed) Han Solo origins spinoff movie? Do you think that Abrams’ coy reply is a signal that Benedict Cumberbatch will eventually join the cast for Episodes VII-IX – or is the director just humoring us?


Star Wars: Episode VII is tentatively slated to reach theaters by Summer 2015, though it could wind up delayed until the Winter Holiday Season.

Source: Den of Geek, LA Times

Follow Sandy Schaefer on Twitter @feynmanguy
TAGS: Star wars
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Sympathetic?! The dude crushed in an admirals head and killed hundreds if not thousands in that movie!!!!

    • Ha, emphasis on *more* sympathetic.

    • Yeah, the admiral who was trying to setup an entire starship crew and kill hundreds upon hundreds of innocent people he was sworn to serve just in order to “justify” a war with the Klingons.

      Yeah, he was a real peach.

      • What is the point in your posting this…?

        • I think he was trying to point out that even though Cumberbatch’s character killed him, it’s not as if the admiral himself was “good guy” so that doesn’t necessarily make Cumberbatch’s character “evil” by that action alone. Basically….he had it coming.

          • My statement wasn’t about about the actions of the admiral. All I said was he crushed in a dudes head. And he didn’t do it because he thought Marcus was a bad guy?

            • @ Trey

              Sorry but you posted a question mark on the end of that last sentence. Is this to imply that you don’t know if he is evil or not?

              • No, I meant it was meant as sarcasm because I was stating Khan didn’t kill Marcus because he was evil, but for own personal reasons. Just because a character is ‘evil’ doesn’t mean that whomever killed them is any less of a bad person.

                • @ Trey

                  True… but an individual should also consider his motives. In the movie all of his actions were governed by his attachment to his “family.” The only thing that made him a bad guy was that he was willing to kill our main hero (Kirk) because he wanted his crew back.

                  Although Spock does refer to his previous jobs from 300 years back about basically his dictatorship abilities. However I would follow Kahn as apposed to Kirk any day because I don’t agree with the communistic ways of the Federation so I wouldn’t say Kahn is an evil guy but more of a grey villain.

                  • I’m not denying your claims or anything..

                    This all just stemmed from a response by “Matt” made under my initial comment which made no sense and was sarcastic and pointless.

              • I’m Ron Burgundy?

      • +1

      • damn, robocop’s head got smashed in that film

    • SHAQUILLE O’NEAL FOR CHEWY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LMAO

      • Isn’t this a Star Wars story?

        • Hahahaha. Right?

  2. Wonder if JJ was vying for the Star Wars gig when he was doing Star Trek? Or he just put R2D2 in for the fun of it?

    • If nothing else, he was living his SW fantasy vicariously through ST.

  3. My two cents: we really don’t need any more freakin’ wookies.

    Also, Abrams should get Cumberbatch to play the role of the female villain.

    • Whatt??! Why not??? Seeing more Wookies would be awesome!! I would love to see a Jedi Wookie.

      • @ Justin K – I agree about the Wookies with you. However, you are not taking this opportunity to ask about the female villian? I am kinda afraid to ask, but I will anyways…

        @ Flyover Cow – How could he play a female villain when he is a guy? You mean like “Cumberbatch: Queen of the desert (planet Tatooine)” and he is dressed in drag the whole time? No really, what does that mean?

        • Regarding wookies, I just prefer human characters. The aliens do make the galaxy more colorful, but I like my main characters to be human. Just personal preference. Also, wookies are kind of inherently goofy looking aren’t they? I think I would just laugh if they put a wookie with a lightsaber on the screen.

          Regarding Cumberbatch, that was supposed to be a little sarcastic. I mean, the guy’s rumored for pretty much every role these days. It wouldn’t surprise me if people were saying that he was being cast as a female villain.

          • I heard that Ksenia Solo is up for a role. She’s fantastic and she’d make a really good female villain.

  4. A Wookie Jedi Knight??? Im on board for that!!

    • I think it would be cool to see other races of jedi as opposed to humans. The Clone Wars cartoon had a wookie padawon.

      • Chewie doesn’t kick much ass when it’s alluded that a 7ft plus walking carpet can rip your arms out. A big growling, 7ft wookie with force powers and a light sabre, man that’s cool. But, making a wookie sith……. Can you imagine :)

  5. Actually Peter Mayhew owns part of the Chewbacca character. He has confirmed with Lucas that he alone can play the character of Chewbacca but since the rights shifted to Disney I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

    • He can ride in the wheelchair and use force power on people, like a furry Charles Xavier

      • Professor Chex.

        • Is that like Captain Crunch?

          Maybe the Lucky Charms leprechaun is an Admiral too.

  6. This will anger all the Star Wars geeks (shrugs) does it really matter if Mayhew returns as Chewbacca? If they got another tall actor ,and actor is a stretch for playing Chewbacca, and never told us it was Mayhew, would you have ever known? He has no speaking parts , so why does it matter?

    • Mayhew/Chewbacca has a very distinct gait and mannerisms. Hard to imitate.

    • Your point is valid. Although it would be nice to know the original actor is playing the character, if he cannot, due to his bad knees, then a replacement should be cast. Han Solo and Chewbacca are an iconic couple, of sorts.

      • Yes they both are. The characters should return and preferably played by the original actors. For Solo, Harrison is a must. Only he can play an older Solo since Ford already is. But with Chewbacca, Mayhew is not that important. He has no speaking parts & is covered in costume. Anoher tall actor could practice mimicing his walk & movements & be ok with it. I mean James Bond has changed, Batman has changed, etc. Does it matter if Chewbacca changed also?

  7. I just wish they would move on already from the same characters and go ahead and make a Knights of the Old Republic movie.

  8. Get Ronan, McIntyre, B. Jordan, and Cumberbatch. Also, DeHaan.

  9. Just get on with it!

  10. No, George Lucas didn’t release “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”. he released “Star Wars”.

    • Except it said “Episode IV – A New Hope” in the opening title crawl.

      • In the edited version, not the original.

  11. Really looking forward to this I am a bit bummed it won’t be the originals actor as Cherie at least it sounds like that but it sounds necessary given his current medical condition.

  12. Great, now we will have a second person trying to take my money for a signed Chewy pic at conventions!

    • *Chewie*

  13. I’d like to see Benedict Cumberbatch, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson, and Michael B. Jordan

  14. If Peter Mayhew can no longer play the part, I still think Lucas/Disney should pay him homage by creating a character for him. A pilot or a Jedi training a young Wookie.

    • Is Ewan MacGregor’s uncle still alive?

      I’d love to see Wedge Antilles back in a brief cameo.

  15. If Benedict Cumberbatch is cast I will see the movie just because its Star Wars, JJ directed it, and it has Cumberbatch in it!

  16. Bring back Chewbacca!!

  17. I’m usually very against recasting of any kind, but Chewbacca is too important to leave out. If Peter Mayhew is physically incapable of playing the part, then recasting is probably better than retiring the character altogether.

    Killing him offscreen as a means of justifying his absence doesn’t do the character justice, and Chewbacca would never leave Han if he were alive.

    Personally, I think Chewie, being as long-lived as he is, is a perfect glue to hold the new movies together with the old ones. Once the movies shift focus off the Old Team and on to the new, Chewbacca could take on a protector role for Han’s kid(s).

  18. If Chewbacca is going to be in the new film my concern is that the movies still follow along with the time line and stories in the books. To do so would be a slap in the face to everyone who have read the books thinking yes this is the Star Wars continuity. If it isn’t then I don’t even want to see it made. In the end if they do and it is Chewbacca then it gives us a basic time line of when the movies will take place.

  19. It needs droids!

  20. if anyone remembers, dark horse comics had chewbaccas son lowbacca as a jedi.

    • I believe that Lowbacca is his nephew, IIRC.

  21. btw lucas created star wars, he also destroyed it. time to put this star wars to bed now…we don’t want ep 7,8,9. its just a money making racket!
    its lost its magic.
    I WAS THERE IN 77…i know what i am talking about!

    • I agree about George Lucas, but have you read any of the Expanded Universe novels or comics? In my experience, they capture the feel and appeal of the original films, and were doing so years before the prequels were released. For my part, anyway, I still believe that Star Wars has the potential to tell good stories, and with Lucas out of the chair, that may actually happen.

  22. No to Cumberbatch, he’s already done the villain thing and he certainly doesn’t look Jedi-worthy. He really didn’t strike me as very athletic with that turkey neck of his in Into Darkness. Sure his voice is all seething, but I want a complete Sith or a complete Jedi. Darth Maul on the other hand was all physical and pretty garbage at acting (sorry Ray Park, you had your shot at redemption with Toad in X-Men, we all know how that went).

    Anyhow, I REALLY hope they don’t use this guy. There are far better choices out there and it would be cool if there were more relative underdogs/unknowns cast for villains. The heroes are already pretty squared away and the film can rest it’s weight on their chops and shoulders. Ian McDiarmid was a nobody before Star Wars, outside of the Brits and stage. He killed it as the Emperor. I love when they take older actors and give them fantastic parts. Look at Bryan Cranston, he absolutely owns Walter White, but all he was before was Malcom’s Dad. I’d like to see an unconventional choice like that.

    I do however agree with going British, it just sounds right for Star Wars villains.

    • He crushed a man’s head like a grape with his bare hands. He personally decimated an entire group of Klingon warriors. And he just oozes charisma and menace.

  23. Cumberbatch would be a great choice. His action scenes in Star Trek were very good. He looked kick ass in the behind the scenes too.

  24. Really do we still need a spoiler warning about Into Darkness and Benedict’s role after its been released on retail? He’d rule as a sith though.

  25. I’d like to see Cumberbatch in other role, is a versatile actor, enough villain in this franchise.

  26. Hello everyone, My name is John Reece and I have been raised with a love and passion for Star Wars. With that said I think this could an opportunity for me because I am 7’2 with a slim build and a broad face. I would appreciate any help or advice the IGN community could give me in reaching out to Lucasfilm/ Bad Robot/ Disney.

  27. I have no problem with Chewie needing either a cane, crutches, or a wheelchair, but as was said upthread, Mayhew plays Chewie with very idiosyncratic movements and a very distinctive gait (it’s why he was brought in to consult on the Clone Wars episode featuring Chewie).

    Besides, JJ’s done enough damage via recasting. Time to put him a time out.

    BTW, I’m still expecting him to try one power play too many and get his happy ass booted off the project, forcing Spielberg to take over at the last minute.

  28. and someone crapped on my porch i think it was a miami dolphin