As Han Solo once said, it's not wise to upset a Wookiee. So it's probably good news for all involved that Peter Mayhew, the 7-foot-3-inch British actor famous for playing the hairy hero Chewbacca, is now set to reprise his role in the highly anticipated sequel "Star Wars: Episode VII," according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Mayhew played Chewbacca, Solo's trusted co-pilot, in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, beginning with "Episode IV: A New Hope" in 1977, as well as in the most recent film, "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" in 2005.
The casting of Mayhew suggests that Chewbacca will be brought to life by an actor in a costume and makeup rather than computer-generated imagery, although the filmmakers could presumably go the performance-capture route used in movies like "Avatar" and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."
Speculation swirled that Mayhew would be returning to the "Star Wars" universe after he recently canceled an appearance at a Texas comic convention "due to filming" in May, which would fall squarely in the time frame when "Episode VII" is expected to be in production.
Last month, the official "Star Wars" website said the new film would start shooting in London in May, and Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn recently said that production on the movie was already underway.
Set for release Dec. 18, 2015, "Episode VII" is the first installment of a planned new trilogy from Disney and Lucasfilm, which will introduce a trio of new leads who have yet to be revealed.
Up-and-comers Ed Speleers ("Downton Abbey"), Jon Boyega ("Attack the Block") and theater actor Ray Fisher are reportedly among the contenders for a lead role as a Jedi apprentice, and Adam Driver is said to be playing a Darth Vader-like villain.
Along with Mayhew, other familiar faces expected to return in supporting roles are Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Solo) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia).
J.J. Abrams will direct "Episode VII" from a script by him and Lawrence Kasdan, after the two took over writing duties from Michael Arndt.
Abrams' presumed decision to make Chewbacca a flesh-and-blood actor could yield -- or avoid -- other consequences as well.
In George Lucas' "Star Wars" prequel films "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002) and the aforementioned "Revenge of the Sith," the decision to render Yoda via CGI rather than puppetry perturbed some die-hard fans.
As the filmmakers well know, it's not wise to upset them either.
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