“The Gentlest Of Giants”: Peter Mayhew 1944-2019

Peter Mayhew Died On 30 April Aged 74.

“We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him” – Harrison Ford.

“He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.” Harrison Ford paid an emotional tribute to Peter Mayhew – the 7′ 3″ actor who brought Chewbacca to life in the Original Trilogy – who passed away at his Texan home on 30 April. Harrison remembered Peter as a “kind and gentle man,” and praised him for being “possessed of great dignity and noble character”.

Brad – like most, if not all, fans – loved Chewie too. So, today, on what would have been Peter Mayhew’s 75th birthday, here are a few words that just had to be shared. 

Let’s face it: where would Star Wars be without Chewie? And what would the Wookiee have looked like without Peter Mayhew‘s brilliant portrayal?  

The idea of having an alien, Sasquatch-like co-pilot seemed so instantly cool to me. Moreover, Chewbacca made me realise that in order to create great SF, you don’t have to adhere to the traditional tired-and-tested aliens-are-always-bad trope.

In 1975, Peter was working as a porter at King’s College Hospital in London, when he learnt that “an American director was at Elstree Studios making a sci-fi movie.” 

He would never forget those magical words:

“They’re looking for someone big.” 

“He was the gentlest of giants… What was so remarkable about him was his spirit and his kindness, and his gentleness was so close to what Wookiee is” – Mark Hamill.

“A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile,” Mark Hamill – forever-immortalised as Luke Skywalker – wrote on Twitter. “He just radiated happiness and warmth. He was always up for a laugh and we just hit it off immediately and stayed friends for over 40 years.”

Legend has it that 6 ft 6. Dave Prowse became the first actor to be considered to play Chewbacca, but he expressed a preference instead for Darth Vader (the iconic role for which he is best remembered). At Elstree, Peter Mayhew took one look at Vaderbut he expressed a preference instead for Chewbacca. “I looked at the character and said: ‘I can do something with that. That has possibilities.'”

Peter recalled waiting in George Lucas’s office: “He and [producer] Gary Kurtz walked in. I did the natural thing. I stood up. Basically, that was the interview. He turned to Gary and said: ‘I think we’ve found him.'”

The actor would go on to wear the shaggy yak-hair suit not only throughout the Original Trilogy but also as a memorable Special Guest Star on The Muppet Show! Lucas recalled him to Kashyyyk for 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith. And, of course, a decade later, arguably the greatest duo in SF movie history were reunited for The Force Awakens. 

However…

“Look, I can’t walk,” Peter informed incoming director: JJ Abrams. Double knee replacement surgery two years previously – necessitated by both age and height – had left the actor incapacitated as a physical performer. “I can do most things, but the only thing I can’t really do is walk. But I can do the facial expressions and everything else like that for Chewie.”

During 2015, in the months leading up to Episode VII’s release, fans and critics alike raved about the much-heralded return of Luke, Leia and Han, but – much to my dismay – nobody spared a thought for the Wookiee… 

Not surprisingly, this legendary character had little to do – the greatest duo’s comeback turned into a letdown. To me, Han’s demise was inevitable, but the fact that Chewie was deprived the moment to mourn was probably that script’s most significant error.

Peter himself summed up the secret of Chewie’s appeal: “The character itself is basically teddy bear. Security! People love security. I bet everybody had a security blanket of some sort during childhood, therefore this character represents the person who looked after you. 

“Chewie just grew – on the first movie he was a minor character; second movie, he became part of the good group, and the rest is history.” 

Peter Mayhew in-between filming that “sci-fi movie” with co-star Kenny (R2-D2) Baker (above);

and with make-up artist Stuart Freeborn (below)

“Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature – and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend, and I’m saddened by his passing” – George Lucas. 

“Too short for a Wookiee?”

Almost every school breaktime, Star Wars had to be reenacted in our playground. Yes! Due to my beautiful blond mane, yours truly would get to play Luke!! A rare sign of respect for an otherwise insignificant and shy comics-muncher who always sat at the back of the class.

That’s  almost every breaktime – REAL fights would break out between some boys as to who would be Han Solo – rebellion amongst the Rebellion. Sheesh! The Death Star would have cleared the planet and blown us all to smithereens well before we had to trudge back in for Maths class…

One time, seeing as it was his birthday, one kid received the privilege of playing the moping moisture-farmer. My reaction? To the sheer bewilderment of my playmates – was to immediately opt for the part of Chewie: the co-pilot with a crossbow. WICKED! 🙂

Bizarrely enough, we actually had a Mr. Peter Mayhew teaching at our junior school! He was incredibly tall, but there, alas, is where the comparisons ended. Of course, my year were staunch Star Wars fans, so those more rebellious fellas among our rabble could not resist lumbering along the hall right behind him, “making Wookiee noises” etc. Poor grouch: totally oblivious to this ultracool international pop culture phenomenon, he had absolutely no idea why all these pesky perishers were acting like that. 

Looking back, methinks: yeah, it was a fun prank to do 😉

I’d like to think that THE REAL Peter Mayhew would have been proud of us.

For he represented the best of Star Wars in its original – wondrous and inspirational – form. His boundless passion and positivity ensured him enduring popularity. That, and attending 20-30 Star Wars conventions a year. 

“Much of my personality has gone into Chewie, and people can pick those bits out,” he said. “There are quirky movements that nobody else does. I feel that I’ve put a great deal of Peter Mayhew into Chewbacca.”

 

“The big chance came, so I took it. Star Wars was such a unique opportunity that I couldn’t refuse. It’s an opportunity that only strikes once, so you might as well make the most of it.

“At least my costume was comfortable!” 

Peter Mayhew 19 May 1944 – 30 April 2019. 

 

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NetflixFest!: “Top Picks For Brad”

Behold! Brad The Binge-Watcher?! 

“Hi Brad! Thanks for joining Netflix. You’re all set to start enjoying TV programmes and films. We’re here to help if you need it” – Netflix. 

What do bloggers do when they don’t blog? 

They watch Netflix!

Yes, as a special birthday treat this year, Brad finally signed up to the top streaming service.

At last.

Had originally intended to join last September, but my laptop detected a virus so immediately denied access to the site. Besides, the urge to unwind “in front of the telly” after loooong increasingly-difficult days refuses to go away, despite hundreds of unappealing terrestrial and satellite channels now churning out a seemingly inexhaustible supply of the most insufferable pap!  

Lately, summoning the concentration and energy to sit through entire movies and novels has become an unnecessary pain (grief! Even the quality and quantity of my writing has suffered); therefore, the demand for individual TV episodes to offer me more taut writing and direction has become more pressing than ever. 

Okey-dokey, let’s see what Netflix served me during these past few weeks:

 

Takeshi Kovacs: “I didn’t ask you to bring me back into this world.” 

Laurens Bancroft: “All I ask of you is that you solve a murder.” 

Takeshi Kovacs: “Whose?” 

Laurens Bancroft: “Mine.” 

Heard some encouraging publicity surrounding Altered Carbona “futuristic thriller” based on the 2002 cyberpunk novel by Richard Morgan. It looked Blade Runneresque, but a tad rougher. Set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored, a prisoner, known as Takeshi Kovacs, returns to life in a new body and must solve a mind-bending murder to win his freedom.

Yeah, methinks, let’s give this a go.

However, after a brutal and brooding first half, the pilot episode proved too much of a hefty slog to sit through. Sheesh, if Brad WANTS to be belaboured continuously, monotonously, with unsavoury dialogue and uncontrollable violence, he can hang out any time @ Granny Turnip’s gaff down in our own village! For me, the whole point of watching Netflix shows during the late-night hours is the chance to ESCAPE into bizarre and/or intriguing (hopefully well-written!) worlds, away from the tedium, shocks and inconveniences of “real” life. 

The last slice of SF to bring an unsuspecting fella out of a 200-year carbon-freeze was Woody Allen’s Sleeper, an altogether more clever and rib-ticklingly funny adventure.

Takeshi Kovacs? 

Nah, gimme Takeshi’s Castle any day, man! 😉

 

BECAUSE BRAD WATCHED ALTERED CARBON:

Lost In Space:

This version of the classic ’60s series has been totally revamped for the SJW crowd to such an extent that the makers forgot that annoying little matter known as The Script… It took me FOUR attempts to slog through the pilot episode, so felt no compulsion to click onto Episode 2. It’s oh-so-woke it ‘urts…

The Umbrella Academy:

“What if Wes Anderson made a superhero movie?” This intriguing – and, let’s face it, one heckuvan irresistible! – pitch drew me towards this series (based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name), but the pilot episode’s languid pace proved to be such an unexpected struggle. A pity, as one really hoped to enjoy this…

But never fear! 

It still resides on My List, so there is plenty of time and opportunity to return and reassess it. Besides, Pogo is quite an intriguing character, so am looking forward to catch more of him 🙂

Suicide Squad:

Oh, Good Lord, no. Avoiding this rubbish at the cinema became one of my Greatest Achievements of 2016… 

 

The Royal Cake-Maker: “I think you will be very pleased with the revised cake, Your Highness!”

King Zog: “Nice likeness, competent lattice-work; moving down… Sugar columns seem structurally-sound; back looks good, and just a cursory glance at the bottom tier and it says: “Get Bent Dad.” Isn’t that- WHAT?!! 

BEAN!!”

Matt Groening’s latest animation project: Disenchantment, intended as animated fare for adults, caught my eye upon its release last August. 

Even me Mum laughed when she first saw the portrait of its goofy-toothed anti-heroine: Princess Tiabeanie (or Bean for short). Her co-anarchists: Elfo and Luci (that weird cat!) are irresistible; thankfully, the snazzy scripts are uproariously funny, with lines and visual gags delivered at a rate more rapid-fire than yer standard trebuchet. And it’s difficult to select a fav character – another promising sign! Hard to believe it’s received mixed reviews – roll on Season Two already!

They didn’t have to put Bowie on the trailer – this already held a high place on my Watchlist.

Actually, one had wolfed down the whole Season before completing the first episode of Altered CarbonPerhaps the latter should have invested in a laughing horse… 

Elfo: “You do the slightest thing here and everyone freaks out! It’s like they’ve all got peppermint sticks up their asses.”

Kissy: “Ooh yeah! Your whining really turns me on…!” 

The Elf King: “Kissy! What in humping heaven is going on?!” 

Kissy: “Nothing, father!”

The Elf King: “Weirdo doesn’t take his pants off for nothing! Elfo! This is the last straw! You’re going to be punished!” 

Elfo: “What are you going to do? Give me a paddling with a big wallypop?” 

 

BECAUSE BRAD WATCHED DISENCHANTMENT:

GLOW: 

From elves to leotards?? Now that makes sense… …

Suicide Squad:

Hey… didn’t we already-? How does enjoying a medieval fantasy cartoon make me want to watch THIS as well?! No Thank You! 

Black Lightning: 

Sure, why not? At the very least, it’ll be interesting to compare this with Marvel’s very own hot-headed, Harlem hard-hitter: Luke Cage.

OHO! Speaking of that bullet-proof bro… 

 

“Sweet Christmas!” – Luke Cage.  

Back in the day, one ish of Power Man and Iron Fist somehow found its way into my initial stash of comics, and into my heart. A considerable portion of my recent Bronze Age expeditions has concentrated on acquiring more ishs.

Why? 

In addition to being brash and super-tough, Luke Cage had an amusing penchant for yellow silk shirts and the peculiar habit of yelling: “Christmas!” during the more shocking moments of any of his action-packed capers. Both seasons of his TV series couldn’t possibly incorporate those particular character traits.

Or could they…? 

Mike Colter nails the indestructible titular protagonist, and the supporting cast – especially Alfre Woodard as the local corrupt politician and Mahershala Ali as her gangland cousin: Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes – are also impressive. And, of course, the theme tune is pretty slinky too.

It isn’t until the excellent Episode 4: Step Into The Arena, that we discover how Luke acquired his super-strength and bulletproof skin. Realising that he now has the power to punch through walls with his bare fists, he yes! – utters the above cool line. During his prison-break, he nabs some clothes from a washing line, including yes! – a yellow silk shirt. 

Ultimately, you’ve got one happy viewer here 🙂

Good gravy, Ms Evans – playing herself as one of the acts @ Cottonmouth‘s club – certainly knows how to get on the good foot!

Ain’t it funky now!

BECAUSE BRAD WATCHED LUKE CAGE:

Iron Fist: 

It’s great to learn that Luke’s partner in Heroes For Hire acquired his own TV series too, but personally, not too sure about the choice of actor for the titular role, though. Nevertheless, will sample the pilot and take it from there. Ta very much! 

Jessica Jones:

Bronze Age Boy here is unfamiliar with this particular modern Marvel character, but you can’t escape those rave reviews for this series, now into its third season. So, naturally, one is curious to find out what all the fuss is about.

The Defenders: 

Oh yes please! Despite NOT featuring Dr. Strange, nor Valkyrie (not even The Hulk!), once Luke and Jessica’s respective series have been gorged, then this will be the logical progression.

Suicide Squad:

Aww… and you were doing so well… …

 

Landry: “We’re not going to stay and fight?!” 

Godfrey: “There are too many of them! We must make sure the Grail is safe!” 

Landry: “What about Acre?!”

Godfrey: “All is lost. We meet at the docks. Get the Grail! NOW!” 

Personally, this next choice is rather special.

Templar History has fascinated me for several years. Here in Southern England, a 900-year-old Templar church still holds regular services in the adjacent village; and in the next town, what had served as the regional House of Templars lies at the bottom of the river (that changed course over 400 years ago.)

Fortunately, Knightfall (originally shown on History channel) made for engrossing viewing. Beginning with a suitably cinematic portrayal of the Siege of Acre in 1291, the ensuing drama of intrigue and infamy, brotherhood and betrayal, never lets up.

Of course, there is another – more urgent! – reason for gorging on this opening season. In an intrepid – albeit shrewd – piece of casting, Season Two is graced by the addition to the cast of none other than Mark Hamill! For the last few years, this first-generation Star Wars follower hoped to catch a wizened, bearded Master impart his sage advice to young initiates…

Never realized that such a joyous spectacle would come, instead, in the most unlikely form of a drama series set in medieval France! 

Worryingly, it’s been a whole month since completing Season One, and there’s still no dickie bird as to when Netflix plan to play Season Two. Hmm, would subjecting myself to Suicide Squad help… rectify this matter? Uff, seems such a hefty price to pay…

This, below, is just a sample of what we’re missing:

Say! Who gets the tingles when he says: “…an impenetrable force“?! 😉

 

BECAUSE BRAD WATCHED KNIGHTFALL

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: 

Sounds like it could be the title to my Autobiography… Actually, that esteemed tome will be known as:

“From Brad To Worse: How To Survive A Whole Night Stuck In A Flamin’ Elevator Wth Marky “Mark” Frickin’ Wahlberg” 

Harrowing reading? Uff, tell me about it…

Transformers: The Last Knight: 

BWAHAHAHAHA!! Oh go away… Actually, best move on pretty sharpish meself before they recommend

Suicide Squad:

GAH!! Phooey, fiddlesticks and flapdoodle!! (Oof, pardon my FrenchOh, fer cake’s sake, this is gettin’ RIDICULOUS. Honestly, what part of “No Means No” don’tcha fellas NOT understand…?!

Ash Vs. The Evil Dead: 

AHA! My dear Netflix, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

 

Ash: “Yeah, we were just passing through – thought we’d pop in and say hi!” 

Kelly’s Mum: “Why are you covered in blood?”  

Ash: “Um, we hit a deer on the way up here, and when I tried to pull it out of the grill, the sucker just exploded all over us…! So we had to cut it up with my chainsaw… arm.”

Kelly’s Pop: “I’m actually a hunter and I’ve never seen a deer explode.”

Ash: “Well, maybe you’re not huntin’ the right deer…”  

WAHEY!!

Now THIS is more like it!

Confession time: Ash Vs. The Evil Dead was my Second Main Reason for signing up to NetflixYou can probably guess what the First happened to be; let’s just say that: in forthcoming Posts, Things will be getting a whole lot Stranger on Bradscribe 😉

Ash Williams is one of the legendary characters in horror movie history and, as you may recall, holds an eternally-reserved place in Brad’s Badass Brigade Three decades after the original cinematic mayhem, this series opens with Ash Williams – played as always by the irrepressible Bruce Campbell – trying to carry on a “normal” life, hidden away in some deadend trailer park, “working” at a local DIY depot. Yet after some decidedly dodgy pot-addled shenanigans, the NecronomIcon is inadvertently opened once more, and a new wave of deadites lurch forth into our long-sufferin’ mortal plain.

And before you can say: “Suicide Squad is a right loada’ cobblers!!” Ash has reverted to his old uncompromising ways: shooting! slashing! mincing! and screwing! his trusty chainsaw back onto ol’ stumpy to gain the upper (ahem) hand.

Yay, the brawling badass with the boomstick is back!! 

And what a barmy, Bradshit bonkers – but brilliant! – bloodfest this series is too. It’s great to see Sam Raimi return to ensure that this wild and wacky ride works, and hear Bruce Campbell spout some truly hilarious one-liners in his own inimitable style. Such a supercool soundtrack too! 

It is one of those immutable laws: whatever Ash gets up to, Brad will always be keen to see what develops!

There was a time (many many moons ago, you understand!) when the goriest horror vids passed thro my rickety ol’ VCR; but, eventually, it seemed as though one had “grown out” of such explicit tomfoolery…

Nevertheless, the prospect of an Evil Dead TV series seemed just too groovy to resist.

Well, really!

A fella of my age?! Indulging in such an outrageous, gory, undeniably imbecilic freakshow?!

HELL yeah! Guilty as charged, baby! 😉

Ash: “You were right, no more running.”

Pablo: “It’s good to see you, Jefe!”

Ash: “Good to be back.” 

Pablo: “How does it feel?” 

Ash: Groovy…”

 

The Kinks – Supersonic Rocket Ship: MARVEL Music Monday

Welcome To New Asgard!

Move aside, there, Lebowski!” – Tony Stark

Thor: “Do you know what is coursing through my veins right now?”

James Rhodes: “Cheez Whiz?”