martes, 29 de marzo de 2011

Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew reveals his love of outer space's best known wookiee
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HE has spent years dressed as the most famous furball in the galaxy but Peter Mayhew has finally escaped the costume of Chewbacca from the Star Wars films.

The 7ft2in actor became famous for playing the Wookiee in four blockbuster Star Wars films, but he has just completed by far the most enjoyable stint of his dream role - voicing a cartoon version for a television spin-off.

The 66-year-old actor from London was drafted in to help bring Chewbacca to life for the Star Wars animated series The Clone Wars.

As he only had to provide the voice, Peter swapped the heavy, hairy suit for shorts and a t-shirt at creator George Lucas's studios in California.

Peter admitted that while he never complained about wearing the uncomfortable suit, it was a real joy to be able to complete his latest version of the role without the shaggy uniform.

He said: "The original suit was heavy and warm and the trick was to get in and out of it as quickly as possible.

"It was made of yak hair and mohair, which was knitted together by some little old ladies.

"It was my job so I wouldn't complain but the shorter the time I spent in it, the better.

"When I came back for Revenge Of The Sith, it was an amazing new suit. It was water cooled and was relatively easy to wear.

"When they asked me to do the Clone Wars, it was great because I just had to walk into the studio dressed as myself. I sat there with the sound man and we recorded the growls in different ranges."

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Former hospital porter Peter was recruited by director Lucas in the mid-seventies because he needed someone tall to fill the part of Han Solo's best friend and co-pilot for the original sci-fi trilogy.

Along with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker, Peter became part of the famous line-up that entered pop culture history when the first film smashed box office records in 1977.

He then reprised his role in The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, returning to his job at the Mayday Hospital in London between films.

Since Return Of The Jedi, he has spent his career as a professional Star Wars hero. He attends conventions and reprised his role for other projects such as the 2005 prequel Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith.

Now he's back for the Clone Wars finale, which gets its first screening this Saturday on Sky Movies Premiere.

Peter got his big break as an actor just months after he made his screen debut as a minotaur in Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger.

Having now made a 34-year-career out of Star Wars, Peter said he felt honoured that George Lucas picked him in the first place.

"It was a real gift of a job and George makes you feel part of the Lucas family," said Peter.

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"I love Chewie. He's the teddy bear, the best friend, the security blanket, everything that a youngster needs to feel secure. It's something I can always be proud of.

"When we finished Star Wars, there was a doubt whether the second film would come out but it was a huge success and it was great to go back.

"The Empire Strikes back was a great time to wear the suit. We filmed the Hoth scenes in Norway, so I was in the best costume when it was 20 below.

"When we filmed the Return Of The Jedi forest scenes in Oregon, I was told I wasn't allowed to wander around in costume because we were right in Bigfoot country.

"I was worried people would see me through the trees and aim at me.

Because I was scared of a shotgun going bang, bang, I heeded the warning."

Peter also revealed that on the Return Of The Jedi set, he was almost surrounded by an army of wookiees, who were the original choice for the furry natives that later became cuddly Ewoks.

He said: "The plan was they were all going to be wookiees but they decided to go with the Ewoks for the kids' audience. I loved the Ewoks, though, and in fact the guys who played them are among my closest friends, including Warwick Davies and Kenny Baker, who also played R2D2.

"I met Kenny on the first day of filming Star Wars and we've been close friends ever since. Kenny is 3ft8in and I'm 7ft2in, so work that out for yourself. We get some looks."

Peter, who met wife Angie at a Star Wars event in Arizona, added: "I've enjoyed working at conventions. It's not a bad job and I get to meet so many people who are delighted to meet Chewbacca. That's a lovely thing.

"It was wonderful to be asked to come back for Revenge Of The Sith. It was like going back to your old college as a visiting professor, seeing all the younger actors looking up to people such as myself and Ian McDiarmid, who played the Emperor.

"Then to be asked to do Clone Wars was fantastic. I hadn't seen much of it before but I really like them and they are on a par with the original movies in terms of quality."

When Peter originally brought Chewbacca to life, the distinctive Wookiee growls were created by Star Wars sound editor Ben Burrt, who mixed bear growls and dog barks with a bit of walrus and lion to bring the character to life.

But after being asked to do the famous noises at conventions for almost three decades, Peter had started practising and then at a fan event last year, let rip to a delighted crowd, which included Clone Wars sound editor Matthew Wood.

Peter said: "I was at a convention with Matt Wood and I'd always been very reluctant to do the voice.

"I just started larking around and Matt heard it so he and director Dave Filoni thought they could use it.

"They got me up to Skywalker ranch to see what we could do, and we got it sorted, hopefully it's pretty good.

"I think the fans are going to go absolutely crazy when they see the episode. There's a scene when he makes his first appearance out of some trees and growls, and it's just Chewie, the way you always remembered him.

"It will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up."

Peter returns to his role in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which will air at 5.30pm on March 26, on Sky Movies Premiere/HD.

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