Chewbacca Was Barely In Star Wars' First Script

One of the more underrated aspects of the "Star Wars" saga is the sheer number of major characters who don't talk. Well, they do talk, but the audience is never able to understand them. R2D2 speaks in beeps and whistles, and we can only infer what he's saying based on how C3PO responds. It's a delightful bit of worldbuilding, implying so much about the inter-species relationships in this universe while never alienating us to the point where we don't get at the gist of what's going on. 

Chewbacca's another fun example of this: he speaks in growls, but his partner Han Solo always seems to have no trouble understanding him. It's mainly through body language and assumptions that we've come to the conclusion that Chewie's a loyal, kind-hearted character, someone we'd hate to see get blown up in a spaceship or put in chains. He's one of the few characters to show up in all three "Star Wars" trilogies, and quite possibly the only non-droid to survive the entire multi-generational saga. (Unfortunately Chewbacca's actor, Peter Mayhew, passed in 2019.)

Chewbacca's fame is particularly impressive when you consider that he was barely in the original script for the first movie. Some of that's the natural result of a character who can't speak human languages, but most of it's because creator George Lucas apparently wasn't fully sold on the Wookiee until after he got to see him in action. As Peter Mayhew explained to Starlog Magazine in 1997, Chewbacca was originally only in "three or four pages of the original Star Wars screenplay." As culture journalist Scott Chitwood recalled hearing from Mayhew, "his playing Chewbacca was really a test run, and if George did not like Chewie, the Wookiee would be replaced with another character and the scenes would be reshot."

Chewbacca: A lovable gentle giant

From the way George Lucas talks about Chewbacca today, you'd never guess that there was any doubt here. In 2019 he reminisced about his relationship with Peter Mayhew, and how Mayhew slightly altered his original vision of what the Wookiee was supposed to be like: "Originally, I envisioned Chewie as some big ferocious beast, but Peter's Chewie wasn't really ferocious. No matter how hard he tried, he wasn't ferocious. He would be your best friend until he got angry, then stand back."

Granted, Lucas has admittedly come under mild fire from fans over the decision to not give Chewie a medal at the end of "A New Hope." Why did Han get an award for helping blow up the Death Star, fans asked, but his Wookiee co-pilot didn't? Lucas addressed the anti-Wookiee allegations in a 1977 interview, explaining, "Chewbacca wasn't given a medal because medals don't really mean much to Wookiees. They don't really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies."

Medal or no medal, Chewie's clearly a valued member of the "Star Wars" family. The furry giant has survived two galactic wars and has played a role in seven out of the nine main "Star Wars" films. Chewbacca survived the first few weeks of the production of "A New Hope," and now he gets to live on in fans' hearts forever.