Star Wars: Episode VII is happening at last and will hit theaters a decade after the last installment in the cosmic adventure property created by George Lucas. It's not been officially confirmed yet, but the main cast members from the original Star Wars movie trilogy (a.k.a. Episodes IV-VII) - Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford - are all expected to play significant roles in the film, blazing the trail for a new generation of heroes to take the lead in Episode VIII and beyond.
Fisher has spilled the beans on her return for Episode VII multiple times in spite of director J.J. Abrams' "mystery box" pre-production approach, while Hamill very much looks like he's been getting in shape to play the older version of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. Elsewhere, Anthony Daniels has been playfully teasing his return as golden-plated protocol droid C-3PO, opposite his trusty astromech droid companion R2-D2.
THR is reporting that Peter Mayhew is also returning as the 7'5'' (or so) tall Chewbacca, the seasoned wookiee warrior and companion to former smuggler-turned rebel hero Han Solo (Ford) from the original Star Wars trilogy. There should be more official confirmation on that front, as production on Episode VII has already partially begun.
There was previously some back and forth, on the matter of whether Mayhew would be physically able to reprise his iconic role in the next Star Wars installment. Shortly after rumors emerged asserting that he might be replaced in the Chewbacca role (which he reprised in Episode III), Mayhew passed on a message to fans, claiming "I intend to pursue the role of Chewbacca for Episode VII,” having undergone double-knee replacement surgery in order to regain his ability to walk. Then, about a week ago, news emerged that Mayhew won't be attending the 2014 Comicpalooza Con, which takes place at the time as Episode VII will be shooting - and thus, breathed new life into rumors about his involvement with the film.
We're glad to hear that Mayhew is fit enough to reprise as Chewbacca in Episode VII; depending on how the film plays out, it could be one of the last times (if not the last time) that we see the older iteration of the character in the cinematic Star Wars universe.
POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD!
There are rumors that the Episode VII storyline - based on a script written by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) that was drawn from an earlier draft by Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) - might take a number of cues from the Star Wars "Expanded Universe" literature. As EU fans are aware, Chewie's last chronological appearance was in R.A. Salvatore's Vector Prime novel; that's the first installment in the New Jedi Order series (which takes place 21-26 years after Return of the Jedi), and sees the character sacrifice his life in order to save Han and Leia's son Anakin.
It looks safe to assume there will be pivotal differences between the EU canon and how things play out in Episode VII, seeing how the latter is confirmed to take place over 30 years after Return of the Jedi and Chewie is apparently still alive. Nonetheless, there's a chance that everyone's favorite wookiee might meet his demise onscreen sometime during events in Episode VII-IX. The same could be true for other older citizens of the Star Wars universe, but we'll save that uncomfortable discussion for another day...
No matter what happens to Chewbacca in Episode VII (or subsequent Episode installments), it might not be the last time we see Han's "giant, walking carpet" in action. Disney and Lucasfilm have confirmed that spinoff films that will be released in the years between Episodes (so that there's a new Star Wars film opening in theaters each year) are in development, with a Han Solo origin movie heavily rumored to be one of the first coming down the pipeline.
So, again, there's a fair chance that Mayhew as Chewie will have one more Star Wars film in his future besides Episode VII - since, really, what would a Han Solo origin adventure be if it didn't bother to show how the scruffy-looking scoundrel met up with his big, furry partner? (Whether or not it differs from the explanation in Ann C. Crispin's Han Solo origin book trilogy, that remains to be seen.)
Star Wars: Episode VII opens in U.S. theaters on December 18th, 2015.
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