Star Wars: Meet the Towering Stud Behind Chewbacca in The Last Jedi
Catch Suotamo in action in Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Dec. 15
Turns out, Chewbacca is pretty hot underneath all that fur.
The role of the beloved Wookie has long belonged to 7ft 3in actor Peter Mayhew. But now, Finnish actor Joonas Suotamo has stepped into the Star Wars galaxy to wear the iconic costume.
Suotamo, who stands at 7ft tall, has stood in as a body double to Mayhew in both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He will officially take over the role in the upcoming standalone Star Wars film, Solo: A Star Wars Story.
“Whenever Chewie is active, that was me,” Suotamo says in PEOPLE’s special issue Star Wars: The Ultimate Guide to the Last Jedi. “The first scene I shot was Han and Chewie walking into the Millennium Falcon in Episode VII.”
So who is the new Chewbacca? Here are 5 things to know about Suotamo.
1. He used to play basketball.
Suotamo took advantage of his unusually tall stature and played power forward for the Penn State basketball team until he graduated in 2009.
In fact, his days as an athlete are what helped get discovered for the part.
“The Basketball Association of Finland called me because they had been approached by casting from London. They were prepping to do the film, and they were finding it hard to find this seven-footer with blue eyes,” he says. “So they called every Scandinavian basketball association. Because I’d played in the youth national teams in my younger days, they were able to point me out to these people. I went to London for an audition, and that’s where it all started.”
2. He still can’t believe he’s in Star Wars.
Despite his recent rise to fame, the actor says he’s still struggling to accept that he’s part of one of the most iconic movie franchises.
“I didn’t believe in it until they called me and said I had the part,” he says. “Sometimes I still wake up thinking, ‘Where am I? What is this dream?’ I’m doing Star Wars films, I still don’t quite believe it. Normal life is very much the same for me as it was.”
Suotamo says he went back and binge-watched all the original films in order to master Chewbacca’s mannerisms.
“It was great just because he’s unique and the way he walks and the way he goes about doing things, that it was very difficult to learn,” he says. “And I’m still learning.”
3. He passed out after shooting his first scene as Chewbacca.
“You have to stay still for so long and if you forget to inhale deeply when they [put on the chest piece], you’re left with this little too few inches to breathe,” he says. “It was really intense.”
“I heard also Darth Vader, Dave Prowse, fainted when he was done, so I don’t have to feel too bad.”
4. He wants to make his own movies.
Suotamo graduated Penn State with a film degree.
“I still want to start making my own films,” he says. “I started a video production company and made corporate videos, edited them and collected gear. Then all of a sudden I was cast as Chewie, which was pretty great. I was watching JJ Abrams work, and learning about different things that go on to making these big Hollywood movies, so it’s been pretty awesome.”
5. He’s getting attention online for his good looks.
After Suotamo walked the red carpet at the Last Jedi premiere, the internet has become obsessed with the new Chewbacca.
But don’t get your hopes up — Suotamo is engaged and is expecting his first child with his fiancee in February.
The couple even had a Star Wars themed pregnancy announcement.
“Guess what? We are glad to announce that the owner of this porg will arrive in February 2018.”
Catch Suotamo in action in Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Dec. 15.