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From basketball to Star Wars: 'Chewbacca' actor shares his unusual path to stardom
TORONTO -- Suotamo’s path to Star Wars stardom could be considered unusual, to say the least.
The 33-year-old Finnish actor began his career on stage before he took a break from acting to play professional basketball in the U.S.
In 2008, Suotamo put his basketball and acting careers on hold to fulfill his Finnish conscription service where he achieved the rank of second lieutenant in the army.
Then, in 2013, Suotamo received a call that would change his life.
“I actually got a call from the Finnish Basketball Association in December 2013 and they had gotten a request for a blue-eyed 7 footer because there was a global search for Peter Mayhew’s body double,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
Standing at 6’11” tall, Suotamo fit the bill.
After four months of interviews, Suotamo was given the role of Mayhew’s body double in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was released in 2015.
For the next films in the franchise, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” Suotamo entirely replaced Mayhew as Chewbacca as the elder actor’s health declined.
“The best compliment I get is ‘I didn’t know the actor had changed’ because that means I’ve done my job right,” Suotamo explained.
Mayhew died from a heart attack at the age of 74 in April 2019.
In honour of his lifelong career in the films, from the original in 1977 to the “The Force Awakens” in 2015, the Empire Con Star Wars event in Los Angeles is holding a memorial for him on Saturday.
For Suotamo, taking over for Mayhew was an intimidating prospect.
“Peter was so beloved by the fans. He was a staple of the Star Wars community,” he said.