Upcoming Star Wars sequel The Rise of Skywalker is set to be the end of the so-called Skywalker saga, the series of films that began with 1977’s original Star Wars (or 1997’s The Phantom Menace, if you’re chronologically minded).
And with this end will come farewells to new and old characters like Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia, John Boyega’s Finn and Daisy Ridley’s Rey – but bigger question marks hover over the future of other fan-favourite Star Wars characters.
For example, what about Chewbacca? Played by the late Peter Mayhew from 1977 to 2015 and Finnish actor Joonas Suotamo since then, the loyal Wookie has been a central part of Star Wars storytelling for years, and has continued even through a recasting (and prequel movie Solo: A Star Wars story) thanks to his recognisable costume. In other words, if any character could keep cropping up, it's him.
But when we asked him whether Suotamo would be back in any future films or other media, he hinted that we might not be seeing as much of the character going forward.
“Well, we're going to have to wait and see,” the star told RadioTimes.com during an event to promote Triple Force Friday, a special unveiling of all-new Star Wars merchandise ahead of its release on Friday 4th October.
“I would love to see Chewie more, but everything depends on this next film and the story.
“It's a great story, and we're gonna have to wait until December to see what that's all about. Everyone's back together, they're going on a great adventure together, facing the ever-growing danger from the First Order. And that's gonna be something to see.”
Currently, the only Star Wars films planned by Disney are dual projects developed by Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and DB Weiss and The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, both of which are rumoured to explore different time periods and places than the period of Star Wars history previously mined onscreen.
With that in mind, it does seem unlikely that Chewbacca could continue on through these films (Wookies do live a lot longer than humans, but there’s a limit) – though there is a possibility that he could crop up in Disney+ series like The Mandalorian or the untitled Rogue One prequel, both of which are set during Chewie’s established lifetime.
For now, though, his only confirmed return is in this December's Episode IX – and while Suotamo wouldn’t be drawn on Chewie’s top-secret storyline in the new film, we do already know that the Rise of Skywalker will see him reunite with Billy Dee Williams' intergalactic scoundrel Lando Calrissian, 36 years after his last appearance in Return of the Jedi.
“Billy was such a great presence,” Suotamo said. "He's just carrying that mantle of Lando for all these years. Similar to Peter [Mayhew] and all these actors who were there in the beginning, creating all this.
“I'd met Billy before, and to now regroup on set I think meant a lot to me, and also to him. Because he knew me and he was able to come back in and be the boss that he is, and then see a friendly face.
“Working together [with him] in the Millennium Falcon cockpit was something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” he concluded.
But have Chewie and Lando kept in touch over the years? And how does Lando rejoin the Resistance anyhow?
“Oh, we're going to have to wait and see on that one I'm afraid,” the actor teased.
Clearly, then, the best way to guess what might happen in Rise of Skywalker isn’t to ask the well-trained actors, but to cast an eye over the newly-revealed Star Wars toy and merchandise lines, which include a host of action figures, clothes, interactive toys and even a pilotable D-0, the new droid joining the cast in the new film.
“It's always exciting to be an action figure,” Suotamo told us.
“I mean, Chewbacca is one of the best, in my opinion. I love the new articulated feet they have. And it's going to be great for everyone to play with.”
When RT cast an eye over the new line after our chat with Suotamo, some clues presented themselves – Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico appears to have moved up in the world in her new pop vinyl, we get a better look at Adam Driver’s Knights of Ren henchmen and meet new alien characters called Boolio and Babu Frik, a horn-headed Millennium Falcon passenger and a diminutive droid-builder respectively – but as for the rest, well, we’ll just have to wait until December to find out more.
At least we’ll have some things to play with in the meantime...
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is released in UK cinemas on the 19th December