Chewbacca, faithful sidekick and very brave boy, can be found in theaters now in Solo: A Star Wars Story, but our furry friend is far more than duty-bound BFF to Han Solo. In his long, long life, Chewie has seen and done a lot of things. From galactic smuggler to Wookiee warrior, this hairy fellow has amassed quite the resume and quite the fan-base to go along with it.
Now he's reached the grand total of 8 appearances in Star Wars films, it's about time we thought about what goes on under the hood.
Played ably by Peter Mayhew, with a little assistance from Joonas Suotamo for the action sequences in the more recent films, Chewbacca stands at an impressive 8 feet tall. Earth-side, it's clear that Chewbacca is one popular dude given that his name comes in at 18, 359th most popular baby human names (yes, really).
So just what is behind the magic of Chewbacca's huge and hairy body? How does he keep his hair looking en fleek? What makes those baby blues pop? And just what is it that he keeps in that fancy belt of his?
For the answers to all these questions - and more - read these 20 Weird Facts About Chewbacca's Body.
20 Chewbacca's got skills
What with all the prequels, sequels, and stand-alone stories etc, it's probably worth setting the facts in place before we really get into the ins and outs of our dear pal Chewbacca. Most of us are aware that Chewbacca and Han Solo go together like chips and guac, but nobody knows for sure how this beautiful friendship came about – at least as far as the canon goes, anyway.
Just how did Chewie and Han come to be such good buddies? Fans of the expanded universe probably know all there is to know already. Those who don't can watch Solo.
What we do know is that the latest film is set during the terror reign of the Empire and that we get to see why Han Solo turned out as he did.
What we already understand of the Chewie/Solo relationship is that Solo keeps him around for a reason. Beyond being indebted and honour-bound, Chewbacca is a pretty mean engineer and helps to keep the Millennium Falcon running.
Don't forget, Chewbacca is the dude who managed to reassemble C-3PO from the scrap pile in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This is one Wookiee worth his weight in gold.
19 How does his face work?
One of the beautiful things about the original Star Wars movies was that most of the special effects were made using models and miniatures. True to the first film's fairly low-budget origins, Chewbacca's costume was low-key. The whole thing was designed to be relatively simple, just a simple three-piece affair with separate feet, a body suit, and a mask.
Chewbacca's mouth moves mechanically along with the actor (Peter Mayhew) as he speaks - much like the mechanism on show in the infamous Chewbacca Mom mask video.
Goerge Lucas, let's not forget, is the man behind Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic, the companies he started in 1975. Responsible for huge innovations and great leaps in possibilities during the making of the Star Wars films, ILM has gone from strength to strength with groundbreaking and landmark work on Jurassic Park, The Avengers and the Star Trek movie franchise (shhh, don't mention Star Trek here!).
ILM is still going strong today. With 15 Academy Awards, 15 BAFTAs and countless nominations for technical and effects awards around the world, Lucas' dream has grown into a star player. ILM is even responsible for that iconic scene at the end of E.T. when Elliott and E.T. fly across the full moon.
18 He looked completely different in concept art
Chewbacca might well be one of the most recognizable and well-loved Star Wars figures of the modern age, but he could have turned out very differently. According to an original rough draft of the film, Chewbacca started life as a "huge grey bushbaby with fierce baboon-like fangs."
By 1974, Chewbacca had acquired his ammunition bandolier thanks to Ralph McQuarrie and by 1975, the original concept art has a very odd Lemur-like Chewbacca that is nonetheless recognizable from the head down. Between the first and second drafts of the script, Han Solo turned from green-skinned alien to the with a pilot for hire with a touch of bad boy charm. So too did Chewbacca have a bit of a make-over.
By the time creature designer Stuart Freeborn came on set in 1976, Chewbacca had started to resemble the furry friend we know and love today. George Lucas had made the decision to cast a big man in a suit for the role, and this is certainly what drove the overall final look of our favourite Wookiee. And so, on the morning of Monday April 12th, 1976, Han Solo and his faithful friend Chewbacca, made their entrance into the Star Wars world.
17 He Has a son
If one Chewbacca isn't enough for you, fear not. Chewbacca is actually father to his own mini-me: Lumpawaroo.
Lumpawaroo is a young Wookiee male and his parents are Chewbacca and his wife Malla. Prior to the liberation of his home planet Kashyyyk, Lumpawaroo was enslaved during the Age of Empire along with the rest of his species.
Lumpawarroo, or Waroo as he is known affectionately, had a pretty rubbish start in life as a slave and later on ended up being abandoned by his father. Thankfully, Chewbacca was at the heart of Kashyyyk’s liberation and this is also where father and son were reunited after years apart.
Chewbacca’s son and heir first appeared in 1978’s Star Wars musical spin-off named The Star Wars Holiday Special.
He has appeared in plenty of canon-linked works of fiction and made an appearance in the canon for the first time in Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy of novels penned by Chuck Wendig, all of which take place after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi.
In these literary expeditions, Waroo is every bit the hero as he works to free enslaved children and rid the planet of the last signs of the evil empire. In a desperate moment, just as Waroo is about to be eliminated for his efforts, he is rescued by dear old Dad. The pair have a happy reunion, despite the years between them and the old adage rings true: like father, like son.
16 16. How old is Chewbacca?
Wookiees are known to live long, long lives. Though you probably didn't pick it up from the original films, Chewbacca is well over two hundred years old. It has been revealed in Solo: A Star Wars Story that Chewbacca was already 190 years old when they met. Solo, as is traditional, translates Chewbacca's answer for the audience: "190 years old? You look great!"
With a nineteen-year gap between Star Wars: Episode III - Return of the Sith, and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, and Solo: A Story Wars Story coming just after the end of events in Revenge of the Sith, best guesses would put Chewbacca at between 202 and 203 years old in the original trilogy.
As of Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi, Chewie is over 230 years old.
What we do know is that the tree-dwelling Wookiee species live incredibly long lives - up to around 400 years. This means that the Chewbacca we know and love is in the prime of his life and has many more adventures ahead of him. Chewbacca looks to keep himself in good condition aside from the odd skirmish here and there so who knows what the future may have in store?
15 The Chewbacca Costume Put Peter Mayhew's Life In Danger
During filming for 1983's Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi, actor Peter Mayhew was warned not to go wandering around in costume during location shoots. The cast and crew were on location in California's Redwood and National State Park forests to shoot the Endor scenes. The Forest Moon of Endor, home to similarly be-furred Ewoks - unwitting helpers in the creation of the Death Star - was of course, the site of the battle of Endor, a huge bust-up between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire.
There were some legitimate fears that Mayhew, in costume, could be mistaken for a Big Foot and that he might find himself being injured by hunters looking for a big catch.
The story is not without its foundation in "truth." The California Redwoods are infamous as being home to the origins of the Big Foot legend. The creature was thought to have first been sighted in 1958, after a series of mysterious encounters.
Nearby town Willow Creek is now home to the largest Bigfoot museum going. If that's not enough for you, Willow Creek also hosts the largest annual festival celebrating their home-grown mythical beast. You've got to admit, there are some striking similarities between our pal Chewbacca and his big-footed brethren.
14 Wookiees need LOTS of calories
A healthy Wookiee like Chewbacca needs a lot of calories to keep his body and flowing locks in good condition. At 8 feet tall, this makes a lot of sense. While Han may have frequently commented on Chewie's need for food during their time together, it seems this massive calorie requirement may be the reason Chewbacca is happy to turn to foraging in nature. Poor little porg.
The porg's journey from cute co-pilot side-kick to lunch might seem tough, especially if you own one of the plushy versions, but nature is tough. This is how the animal kingdom rolls.
In all seriousness, there is no incontrovertible proof that Chewie did eat the porg, but judging from those tell-tale feathers sticking out of his mouth? We'll let you decide.
So what else do Wookiees eat? Chewbacca has been known to chow down on, or at least be seen to lick his lips at, animal carcasses hanging around on Endor in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. While we may never know for sure, we could make an educated guess and say that whatever Chewbacca wants to eat, he does, without worrying about his waistline.
From intergalactic rescue missions, to charging about with Ewoks and a little porg-watching in between, this guy burns more calories than a stint in the gym could ever replicate.
13 Chewie's suit was designed by Stuart and Kay Freeborn
The original costume for Chewbacca was designed by the husband and wife team Stuart and Kay Freeborn. Stuart Freeborn was a special effects and make-up artist who worked on some notable films including 2001: A Space Odyssey, and of course, Star Wars. For 2001, Freeborn made the ape suits for the unnerving Dawn of Man sequence which perhaps went on to inspire his work on the costume for Chewbacca.
Freeborn was also responsible for other Star Wars creatures small and large, hero and villain. He created both Yoda and Jabba the Hutt. Yoda was apparently modelled on Freeborn's own features, with a smattering of Einstein - a fitting characteristic for the wise old man of the franchise. Yoda stood out at the time for his expressive features and this undoubtedly helped audiences around the globe to relate to his grammatically confusing words of wisdom.
Freeborn combined puppetry and animatronics in order to create his cast of monsters and aliens. Many argue that this is what gave those original Star Wars outings the charm and character that makes them stand out in the canon.
Freeborn's other gift to cinema was of course, the Superman disguise. Freeborn came up with the idea to switch the parting in Christopher Reeve's hair from one side to the other depending on whether he was playing Superman himself, or Clark Kent. Freeborn sadly passed away in 2013.
12 Chewbacca has blue eyes
Have you ever looked deep into the eyes of a Wookiee? No? You should try it some time. If you were to do so, you would find that Chewbacca actually has a beautiful pair of bright blue peepers, courtesy of actor, Peter Mayhew.
It's those baby blues that unquestionably add to the character's overall warmth and approachability.
Unusually for an actor, Mayhew is only required to wear the tiniest amount of make up thanks to the Wookiee mask that covers him during shooting. Mayhew must have black make up applied in rings around his eyes in order to help his real eyes blend in with the eye holes of the suit - which makes for amusing off-camera candid photos.
Mayhew's blue eyes and height were the only features of a casting call for a Chewbacca stand-in. Finnish Joonas Suotamo climbed on board to help Mayhew, who is now getting on in years, with the more physical aspects of the role. Mayhew is now 80 years of age and now walks with a cane. Chewbacca, on the other hand, is handily in the prime of his life - and hopefully won't meet the same fate as his dearly, departed friend, Han Solo.
11 Chewbacca was based on a pet dog
Chewie wasn't based on any just any old pet dog. George Lucas based the design for our lovable fur ball on his very own pet pooch.
Indiana, an Alaskan malamute dog, lived with his human during the '70s and was fond of sitting up on the passenger chair of Lucas' car like a person, and so, Chewbacca was born.
Of course, the name of Lucas's dog might well sound familiar to you, and so it should. Indiana was also the inspiration for one Dr. Henry Jones Junior.
It didn't take long for Peter Mayhew to land the role of Chewbacca for himself, as he has said in an interview: "I sat down on the sofa waiting for George. Door opened and George walked in with Gary behind him. So, naturally, what did I do? I'm raised in England. Soon as someone comes in through the door, I stand up. George goes 'Hmmm...' Virtually turned to Gary and said 'I think we've found him.'" Mayhew is here referring to his mighty stature.
With that, Mayhew was able to say goodbye to his career as an orderly in a British hospital, and hello to life as one of the Star Wars Franchise's most well-loved characters.
10 Chewbacca is played by a very tall man
Peter Mayhew has played Chewbacca right from the start. Thanks to his impressive 7'3" height and sparkly blue eyes, Mayhew was the perfect fit for the character and Lucas made the casting decision within seconds of meeting the actor for the first time.
Mayhew says the process of turning himself into Chewbacca doesn't take long: first, he puts on the body section of the costume, then waits until cameras are rolling before pulling on the mask because it gets pretty hot, pretty quickly.
Mayhew began his career as a hospital orderly in the UK and has ended it being one of the most unrecognizable actors playing one of the most recognizable film characters in existence. Through his Wookiee career, he has got to work with some heavy-weight stars including fellow Brit, Alec Guinness, and of course, fellow Millennium Falcon pilot, Harrison Ford.
Mayhew says that landing the role of Chewbacca changed his life for the better. He has had an influential role in one of the most successful film franchises of all time and has had a multitude of glamorous experiences and opportunities as a result.
Perhaps because Chewbacca is so furry and friendly, the character is super-popular with children. Mayhew says that one of his most enjoyable gigs is Chewbacca's appearances at children's events such as for sick children in hospitals and meet and greets at fan events.
9 The Chewbacca costume is made from real animal fur
Mayhew's Chewbacca costume has a base of mohair (made up of rabbit and goat fur) and gets its lustrous lengths from real yak fur. As of Episode III, the suit also now features a high-tech water-cooling system to enable longer filming stints and a more comfortable experience for the wearer.
During Chewbacca's conception, Lucas and Freeborn worked to create a friendly guy who could be fearsome when he wanted. They had in mind a combination of a monkey, a cat, and a dog – all animals that are known for their ability to switch between cute and cuddly appearance, and fearsome predator depending on their environment.
In one interview, Freeborn says: "Chewbacca was a fascinating one... It was fun making a monster that looked friendly and nice for a change, instead of being menacing."
The fur for the Wookiee costumes in the prequel films was supplied by National Fibre Technology, a company that provides hair for: "Anything with long hair that jumps out, scaring you" according to its owner, Fred Fehrmann.
Fehrmann has also revealed how the original Chewbacca costume was painstakingly made by hand-threading and tying individual fibers into thousands of holes into the mohair base. Thankfully, these days the process of constructing a Wookiee is much faster because the hair is supplied pre-prepared as a fabric - mostly.
8 Chewbacca has changed his look over the years
Although Chewbacca may hail from a planet far far away in a galaxy long ago, his costume was constructed Earth-side and just a stone's throw (and a plane ride) away from the behemoth film manufacturing zone of Hollywood. Wookiee hair these days is supplied on a roll of fabric by National Fiber Technology who are based in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
According to the guys that provide the hair for Wookiee costumes and similarly hirsute creatures for stage and screen, Chewbacca has upped his style game over the years.
He's slimmed down and has had some serious color work done.
National Fiber and Lucas Film were in talks about the color of Wookiee hair for over a year before the six types of hair were actually produced.
Production then took five months and is made with the help of ancient wig-making machines. The colours used are browns, greats, olives, and blacks and remnants still hang in the factory on wookiee hooks today.
Because the costume is made to form fit actor Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca has become thinner in recent films from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. National Fiber is also responsible for The Cat in the Hat and the gorillas from George of the Jungle, amongst a plethora of other furry friends from the big screen.
7 Chewbacca's voice is truly unique
Do you speak Wookiee? Chewbacca’s unique voice is actually a mix of recordings of many any animals - among them walruses, lions, camels, bears, rabbits, tigers, and badgers. The base sound is a black bear from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California, known as Tarik.
Star Wars, perhaps more than other sci-fi franchises, has created a lot of characters who are famous for their voice and the way they speak. Vader, Yoda, Chewie are definite faves when it comes to doing film impersonations, everyone knows someone who can do a great Yoda, right?
Chewbacca has Ben Burt, sound designer, to thank for his particular vocal style.
Limited by a lack of articulated lips, Burt landed on bears as early inspiration as they make vocalizations from the back of the throat without needing to move their lips.
Burt went on an animal recording hunt all around California looking for friendly bears and happy walruses to record in the hope of blending the sounds together to come up with something unique. He separated all the sounds out and arranged them into emotional categories and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how Chewbacca and the Wookiees found their voice.
If you're desperate to speak Wookiee yourself, there are plenty of video tutorials out there - go on, be the Wookiee you've always dreamed of being.
6 He has retractable claws
We all know that Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk, but did we know that our favouriteWwookiee also has retractable claws just like a cat? Chewie uses his claws for climbing and other clingy scenarios.
Because Kashyyyk is a tree-covered planet, Chewbacca and his retractables are well adapted to suit his native environment. The planet appeared on the big screen in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith but was originally penned to be the planet around which the Death Star was constructed.
Wookiees are a tall species of bipeds. Humanoid with front-facing eyes and a body shaped just like ours, Wookiees are also gifted with a well-developed sense of smell, sharp fang-like teeth, and a sense of loyalty that just won't quit. They are also said to be a species of tree-climbers hence the claws and are well-suited to a life outdoors, up in the trees.
Having a dog-like sense of smell, cat-like retractable claws, and an upright walking position makes Wookiees a glorious mix of many friends from the animal kingdom. This, of course, is totally logical. George Lucas did base the lovable fuzzball on his pet dog after all. It makes perfect sense that a Wookiee from a galaxy far far away wouldn't quite be exactly like humans.
5 The Chewbacca Mom Mask
It must be one of the finest moments in an actor's career: the day they are immortaliszd in plastic to be played with and thrown around by children for years to come. The day they are made into a tie-in figure.
Chewbacca has been made into countless toys for children, and adults alike. Now that Disney owns the franchise, the amount of Chewbacca toys and products of various kinds are off the chart.
You can buy Chewbacca cuddly toys of all shapes and sizes, clothing, stationery, bed warmers, figurines, collectable figures, lego Wookiees, bobble heads, jewellery, masks - oh yes, let's talk about the mask.
One woman from Texas went viral in 2017 when she filmed herself laughing while wearing a new Chewbacca mask.
37 year-old Candace Payne inspired a nation of shoppers to run out for their own mask in the hope of achieving the same joy.
Payne delighted viewers with her video because, as she says in her own words, "it's all love." Payne's laugh is infectious as is the delight she takes in her moving Wookiee mouth and the added Wookiee sound effects. Part of a birthday gift to herself after a tough shopping trip, Payne bought it for her son but very quickly decided it was too fun not to keep for herself.
4 What does he keep in his belt?
Well, just as we've always wanted to know what was in the Pulp Fiction briefcase, what MC Hammer stowed in his fanny pack, and why Indiana Jones was so attached to that hat, one of life's great mysteries is just what Chewbacca keeps in that bandolier he wears across his chest.
We know this for sure: the Wookiee has one of the most stylish intergalactic accessories around. It's the envy of the Wookiee population across the galaxy.
Originally designed for members of the military, the bandolier is meant to keep spare ammunition and is composed of lots of separate pouches in which to store bullets and whatnot whilst on missions. Of course, a hungry Wookiee might also choose to keep a spare snack or three handy, or perhaps a brave boy badge? Perhaps some handy multi-tools for the errant Millennium Falcon?
In Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, Han Solo has a go at Chewbacca's infamous boltcaster and proclaims it a great weapon. Because this is Chewie's weapon of choice, he needs to carry a serious amount of blaster bolts.It makes sense to keep them handy.
Some might argue that the bandolier actually lends Chewbacca an air of style and panache, and who are we to argue?
3 Darth Vader was almost Chewbacca
Did you know that Chewbacca almost turned to the dark side? Well, not quite - however, it is correct to say that the role of Chewbacca was almost taken by David Prowse, otherwise known as Darth Vader's physical form. At 6' 5", Prowse was originally offered his choice of either Vader or Chewbacca but given he was a bodybuilding champ, Vader definitely won out with Prowse's imposing physical form.
Now Chewbacca has been swapped for a second time. Now that Mayhew is in his golden years, and he has health difficulties associated with Marfan syndrome (the cause of his great height), the time has come to pass the fur down to a younger generation. As stated earlier, the honour of taking Chewie into the unknown Star Wars future goes to a young Finnish basketball player by the name of Joonas Suotamo. C
rucially, Suotamo has the necessary height blue eyes to go with the role. And what better way to get started than to save the life of Han Solo? On Suotamo's first foray into the character, it was he who helped to lift the malfunctioning Millennium Flacon door up from Harrison Ford's trapped leg. Chewi and Solo 2.0!
As Peter Mayhew has hung up his Chewbacca costume now, it is Suotamo we see in the Solo movie.
2 Serious styling game
It takes a lot of work to keep a Wookiee looking his best and Chewbacca has the best styling game of all. Those long flowing locks and luxurious tendrils don't just look after themselves you know.
The hair department of the Star Wars creature effects team has some serious weaponry at their disposal, and with Maria Cork at the helm, this is one tight ship. Hairsprays, tangle teasers, moisture sprays, curling irons, hairdryers, brushes, combs - you name it, the team has it.
To keep the suits clean between filming stints, a mixture of vodka and tea-tree oil was used to sanitize without incurring lots of drying time. It turns out that a good old tangle teaser is the best thing to tackle a bad case of "Wookiee butt" too.
There are four and a half Chewbacca suits on set. The half suit is in tip-top shape for close-up work. Anecdotally, it is said that the costumes wore out because so many people wanted a hug from Chewbacca while on the set of Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Simon Pegg is said to have asked for a cuddle without shame.
A Wookiee has to look his best, you know!
1 Reconstructing the Chewie costume for TFA
Because it had been a long time between Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, and Chewbacca's previous outing on screen, all the Chewbacca costumes needed to be remade. This was done with the help of six months of suit build time and lots of references to the original costume's construction, particularly in the face area.
The new suits are still made of yak hair with some mohair for softness around the face, but they are helped along by the addition of hand-knotted durable lycra - a little bit like an inter-galactic wig.
It is at this time that Joonas Suotamo was also brought on board to take over some of the more physically demanding scenes to give Peter Mayhew a break. In his twenties, Suotamo spent a lot of time rehearsing Mayhew's signature moves - the head wobbles, the knee bend during walking and so on.
Under Mayhew's careful tutelage, Suotamo has carefully learned to take on the role in a kind of Wookiee apprenticeship or bootcamp scenario before taking over the whole role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Because Suotamo is a little shy of Mayhew's 7' 6", he did have to wear build-ups inside his shoes. Bless.
Do you know any other weird facts about Star Wars' Chewbacca? Let us know in the comments!