Chewbacca’s understudy has now become the new Chewbacca. At least for the Star Wars anthology film featuring Han Solo.
The man behind the furball suit? Meet Joonas Suotamo, a former college basketball player who stands just under 7 feet tall. While he appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the backup to longtime Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, he’s not expected to replace the actor in Star Wars: The Last Jedi or in 2019’s Star Wars: Episode IX.
He’ll star alongside Alden Ehrenreich, who has stepped in to play the younger Han Solo, the role originated by Harrison Ford in 1977.
Suotamo released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter calling the Wookie “one of the most iconic characters in the history of film.”
“Peter’s development and portrayal of this beloved Wookie has spread so much joy around the globe. Peter’s guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts, which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey.
“I aspire to make Peter proud, and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love.”
Suotamo is actually five inches shorter than Mayhew. But the height difference between Chewie and Han won’t be noticeable, because Ehrenreich is actually five inches shorter than Ford.
The 30-year-old was born in Finland, but played basketball for Penn State University as both a power forward and a center. He earned his degree from Penn State, and even played basketball professionally in Europe for a few years before looking to act full-time.
The Han Solo film is set for a May 2018 release, although there is some talk the film could be pushed to Christmas after the success of both The Force Awakens and last year’s Rogue One.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with Mayhew reprising his Chewbacca role, hits theaters Dec. 15.
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