LOS ANGELES—Shedding light on the iconic Chewbacca actor’s creative process amid news of his recent passing, George Lucas revealed to reporters Friday that Peter Mayhew had fully ad-libbed the decision to play the character as a nonverbal, fur-covered monster. “Originally, I intended for Chewbacca to be a loquacious, somewhat uptight academic who would converse at length about a number of convictions, tenets, and principles, but Peter, off the top of his head, brilliantly portrayed the giant, hairy creature as a formidable growling colossus,” said Lucas in a statement memorializing the actor, recalling how Mayhew had effortlessly transformed the rigid, erudite Wookiee into a massive, grunting beast. “Peter had this amazing vision and played the character as an incredibly strong and intimidating behemoth with a bad temper. Sometimes, you really need to let actors improvise and live within a character, and amazing things will happen. While I still stand by my original concept of Chewbacca as a high-strung neat freak who constantly cleans up after others, Peter really made the Wookiee his own.” At press time, Lucas released rare photos of Mayhew modeling the original cardigan, ascot, and pipe that comprised early versions of Chewbacca’s costume.
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