Premise: (from Black List) A satirical behind the scenes look at the making of Star Wars through the eyes of Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca.
About: Chewie landed in the Top 10 on 2011’s Black List and is probably the most high-profile script that made the list due to its subject matter. After I wrote this review, I did a little research and found out that this was not a true autobiographical story like I’d assumed. It was a satire written by two guys who like Star Wars. Which makes sense because there’s so little exploration of Peter Mayhew as a person that I wondered if they actually knew anything about Peter. Well it turns out they did interview him……… in a Star Wars Comic-Con line! They were able to ask him five questions. Hey, you gotta do your research somehow. – For this movie to get made, George Lucas will have to approve of it. My understanding is that he or his people are giving it a look. So we could have ourselves some Chewie on the big screen in 2013.
Writers: Evan Susser, Van Robichaux
Details: 100 pages (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).
Duhhh duhhhh, duh duh duh dahhhhh duh. Duh duh duh dahhhhh duh, dahduh dummmmmmm…
That’s me singing Star Wars. Truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward to this one. I’m a not-so-closeted Star Wars fanatic and I’d heard rumors this was a script about Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca, watching everybody on the set of Star Wars act like assholes while he floated around like an angel.
If this was true, it would negatively affect all future Star Wars viewings, which wasn’t an option. But I don’t do these reviews for me. I do them for you. And if that meant destroying a little bit of Star Wars in my life, well then bantha fodder on Salacius’ Crumb’s bum, I was going to do it.
Still, I mean, how realistic was it that someone could come up with a fresh take on Star Wars 30 years and 8 billion fan films later? Is that even possible? Let’s find out.
Chewie is about Peter Mayhew (sorta), the impossibly sized man-giant who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, otherwise known as Han Solo’s right hand…furry fuzzy monster friend. Right away we’re told that Peter was a super shy dude, always uncomfortable with his size, and at the time, actually going into a career in medicine.
But Peter had another dream. Or, I shouldn’t say dream. Hmmm, maybe I’d call it a “strong interest” in being an actor. His giant size filled a tiny niche in the movie market and when George Lucas and Co. came calling, it turned out he was perfect for the part (George didn’t even talk to Peter at the casting by the way. He just looked him up and down and said, “Yeah, he’s perfect,” and walked away).
But now Peter had a dilemma. His burgeoning medical career required that he be at the hospital all the time. How the heck was he going to fit in a movie? Well somehow Peter convinced his asshole boss (the “Emperor” of this tale) to give him some time off to film his weird little movie.
From there on, we basically see the making of Star Wars through Peter’s eyes. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything new being said here. All of these stories have been told in numerous texts. It’s almost like someone breezed through the Making Of Star Wars biography and plucked out all the best parts. Yes, Harrison Ford was a jerk. Yes, he and Carrie Fisher hooked up. Yes, they had no money and were barely able to hold the production together. Yes nobody trusted George’s vision. I suppose for a non-Star Wars fan this might be interesting news. But if you’re one of the 8 non-Star Wars fans in the world, I’m not sure you care about a Making Of Star Wars movie.
I think the most disappointing part of the script, for me, was that Peter, our narrator, was barely in it! Every single piece of drama that happens in the film has nothing to do with him. We’re simply watching it all through his eyes (and in some cases, not through his eyes, since he isn’t even in the scene). I guess when I thought I’d be seeing a film from a certain person’s point of view, I expected that person to be involved. So it was kind of baffling when he wasn’t.
The one bit of character development Peter DOES have happens away from the Star Wars set, back at the hospital. His super-asshole boss keeps yelling at him for going off to shoot his silly movie, to which Peter, the most non-confrontational human being in the universe, just takes it. The scenes aren’t terrible but they’re incredibly on the nose and simplistic. Peter wants to film. Boss doesn’t want him to film. We get four of these scenes and they’re all pretty much the same.
The guy who doesn’t stand up for himself finally standing up for himself is one of the easiest character arcs to write (you also saw it with Ed Helms in The Hangover). But you still have to add some texture to it. You can’t just have four scenes where someone yells at a character and the fifth time he yells back. An 8th grader can pull that off. Yet that’s exactly what we get here. The most simplistic execution of a character arc imaginable. Combined with his absence throughout the rest of the story, the main character (assuming Peter is the main character – I’m still not sure) just isn’t interesting.
There were some cool parts though. Seeing George Lucas broken and battered, watching his vision slip away a little more each day. Harrison Ford is kind of funny as the set diva. It was interesting to hear that he was considering not taking Star Wars so he could get a real job and provide for his family. Carrie Fisher comes off as a sweet but ultimately nutty chick, who has a nice little friendship with Peter. And then there was the shining light - Peter being the only one who believed in George’s vision. He may not have been very complex, but he sure was nice.
Yet that was the problem. Nice overly-polite people don’t make good movie characters, especially if they’re barely connected to the plot. There’s one scene in the script where Peter’s preparing for a scene with Harrison and nobody can find Ford. However WE know that Peter knows where Harrison is. He’s in his trailer smoking pot. It’s the one moment in the script where Peter has to make a difficult choice, that he’s actually involved in some drama. This is when we REALLY learn about a character – when they’re faced with a dilemma, two equally undesirable options. Does he lie and say he doesn’t know where Harrison is, even though he doesn’t lie, or give him up, getting him in trouble?
Neither! The writers take the easy way out. Peter excuses himself to run off and get Harrison. No difficult choice was made. That was my problem here. Every avenue where drama could’ve been milked was passed over.
I mean we already know the story of Star Wars. What we don’t know is the story of Peter’s Star Wars. And after Chewie, I still don’t know the story of Peter’s Star Wars. Honestly, the only thing I learned was that he worked at a hospital and was shy!
I do think the movie carries a great message though – to chase your dreams and take chances in life. You never know when that one chance will be your “Han Solo” moment, the thing that sets you up for the rest of your life. I just wish the main character had been more interesting and that we’d actually learned something about him.
[ ] Wait for the rewrite
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Avoid office scenes! Remember, two people in a closed room/office with no interruptions is usually a boring scene. It’s too comfortable. Find a location that makes things less comfortable. It will bring out the drama. All these scenes with the hospital boss yelling at Peter take place in his boring office so they all feel the same. What if, instead, the boss confronted Peter as he was tending to one of his favorite patients? He pulls him over to the corner of the room and and curses him out, his favorite patient watching on. NOW you have yourself a scene. Peter is being reamed out in front of a friend – which is way more embarrassing than being reamed out in private.