The Wookiee Speaks

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Dragon Con 2017
Dragon Con 2017

I’ve been to my share of cons, but I’ve got nothing on Peter Mayhew. The man who has been Chewbacca for four decades is a regular on the con and Star Wars fan circuit, meeting and communing year after year with the people who love him—and whom he clearly loves as well.

Case in point: When asked by a fan at Dragon Con 2017 “An Hour with a Wookiee and a Bounty Hunter” panel to make the Chewbacca sound (a request that got a collective audience groan), Mayhew replied with a very emphatic “NO.”

And then he did it anyway.

This was my first time seeing Mayhew in a panel. From the start, you can’t help but be impressed with the man’s dedication to Star Wars and its fans—just the act of walking is not an easy task for him these days, but he gets to the chair no matter what.

He was joined by Daniel Logan, the actor who played Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones, and the relationship between these two men was striking. They never shared screen time or even behind-the-scenes screen time, but their work together at cons over many years has forged a deep friendship—even described by Logan as approaching a father-son relationship, to which Mayhew agreed.

After that tender moment, Mayhew gave the crowd a treat by forcing Logan to give him a fist-bump across the panel table, allowing us a glimpse of the size disparity between their two fists—think a robin’s egg vs. a grapefruit—and getting a rueful laugh from Logan.

Mayhew got all the typical fan questions—what was your favorite scene? (Answer: the chess game in A New Hope) Who was the biggest prankster? What do you think “makes Chewie Chewie?” He took them all in stride, offering long answers and many anecdotes about the shooting process in London.

Perhaps most interesting was Mayhew’s response to a fan’s question about what he thought of the newer Star Wars films; Mayhew grumbled a bit and said he “better not respond, “perhaps the biggest surprise of the panel. He also echoed J.J. Abram’s own stated regrets about the lack of a Chewie-Leia scene at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which many felt robbed the bereft Wookiee (or audience) of a much needed mourning scene.

I left the panel quite happy with the experience. I was even inspired to read up about Mayhew a bit more and was delighted to discover that his first film role was as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, a Ray Harryhausen tour-de-force and one of my childhood favorites.

I hope Mayhew returns for Dragon Con 2018, and considering the thunderous applause that ended the panel, I know I’m not the only one.