The Black List, an annual grouping of the most-liked unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, is out this week, and that means it’s time for the scripts at the top of the list to get a publicity bump and a chance at new life. Lots of promising scripts made the cut, but the most intriguing of the 73 by far is a new comedy about the making of Star Wars told through the eyes of Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew.
Titled simply Chewie, the script was conceived by Van Robichaux and Evan Susser, two members of L.A.’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, who were taken by the story of how Star Wars was made, and particularly how Mayhew came to be a part of it.
“We had been talking to each other about stories we’d heard over the years about how the making of Star Wars had been sort of a nightmare and had almost fallen apart at every step along the way,” Robichaux said. “So we were trading funny stories about it, and there was a line that we came upon that said, ‘Peter Mayhew, the British giant who played Chewbacca, worked in a hospital before, during, and after the making of Star Wars.’ And we just sort of were fascinated by this idea that he was trading his days back and forth between being on the set of Star Wars as Chewbacca and working as an orderly in a hospital.”
Using Mayhew’s orderly-by-day/Chewie-by-night story as a jumping-off point, the pair started to move the script forward, and even went so far as to track down Mayhew at Comic-Con to get a few more details about his life and work in the Star Wars universe. They asked him everything from the name of the hospital he used to work at to what his father did for a living. Mayhew is apparently such an old pro at the whole meeting-fans thing that he didn’t bat an eye at the questions, and that allowed Robichaux and Susser to finish their script.
Though Mayhew is the focal point of Chewie, the story will include the rest of the Star Wars cast as well, and include an exploration of Mayhew’s lunchtime bonding sessions with Princess Leia.
“Yes. They’re all characters. They all appear and play important roles in Peter’s life and in the script,” Robichaux said. “The relationship between Peter Mayhew and Carrie Fisher is something that people have really grabbed ahold of. Something that’s true is that they used to have lunches at the Chinese restaurant near the set. She would still be in costume, and he was about 7-foot-3, so they kind of really stand out in the middle of this Chinese restaurant.”
Adding to the amusing story of how Mayhew became a sci-fi icon is the feeling that, in Chewie, the phenomenon we call Star Wars doesn’t exist yet, and it’s in danger of dying before it ever has life. This will be a comedy about a ragtag group of unknowns struggling to make a movie that might not make any money. You know, the Star Wars story.
So, now that an appearance on the Black List has earned Chewie some attention, maybe it’ll get made after all. But first comes what might be the harder part: getting permission from George Lucas. The pair hasn’t tried to make that happen yet, but to hear them tell it they’ve produced a “loving portrayal” of Lucas, so maybe it won’t be too hard.
So we’ve got a movie on the table that will chronicle the making of Star Wars from a comedy perspective. That means casting, so start putting together your dream list!