Wookiee of the Year

Interviewing Peter Mayhew can be a little intimidating.

Putting aside the fact that the daunting, 7-foot-2 British-born actor has already been asked every question in the galaxy about what it was like to portray the fierce-yet-fuzzy Chewbacca in four of the six films in the Star Wars cycle, it probably ain’t the wisest thing to quiz the dude on anything racy or controversial, lest we tempt the wrath of the “big walking carpet” who tossed around Stormtroopers like matchsticks and choked out intergalactic space pimp Lando Calrissian.

But for the sake of an interesting interview, we tried spicing things up by pitching Mayhew some questions about such topics as starring in the infamously execrable Star Wars Holiday Special (“It was just a job, you know”) and filming scenes from Return of the Jedi in the sweltering Arizona desert (“It wasn’t that bad”). Okay, then, how about this one: Did he ever have a crush on Carrie Fisher (a.k.a. Princess Leia)?

“Nah, not really,” Mayhew says, sighing. “She was so popular with everybody, being the only female around on a large movie and all.”

Frankly, the erstwhile Wookiee is more into chatting about being a guest of honor at Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2008. Other big-name invitees include sci-fi superstars such as Star Trek’s Walter Koenig and Tim Russ, The Incredible Hulk’s Lou Ferrigno, Heroes co-executive producer Jeph Loeb, and Boba Fett himself, Jeremy Bulloch.

“We’ll be signing a few autographs, answering questions, and just letting the fans have a good time,” Mayhew says.

In addition to Chewie, the two-day dork-a-thon also boasts a staggering slew of guests from the worlds of anime, fantasy, and, of course, comic books, including Rob Liefeld (X-Force), Matt Wagner (Grendel), Howard Chaykin (American Flagg!), and Ed McGuinness (Superman). Nerds of the Valley will also be fogging up their horn-rimmed glasses over the fact that Wil Wheaton (who went from portraying the über-reviled wunderkind Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation to becoming a talented author and über-geek Internet darling in recent years) will be stopping by to sign copies of his books Dancing Barefoot and Just a Geek, as well as reading portions of his latest tome, The Happiest Days of Our Lives.

Jan. 26-27, 10 a.m., 2008
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.