Don’t shoot the Wookiee! According to a famous Star Wars anecdote from the set of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew was in real danger of being mistaken for Bigfoot during his Endor scenes. Crew members in orange vests actually had to follow the fur-clad actor around to make sure he didn’t get shot by an overzealous Sasquatch hunter.
The Real Life Endor
The locations in Star Wars might look otherworldly, but they’re filmed right here on Earth. One such location is the redwood forest in Del Norte County, California. For Return of the Jedi, the Northern California forest was a stand-in for the moon of Endor. On-screen, the giant redwoods served as a home for the teddy bear-like Ewoks, but offscreen, the area was considered “Bigfoot Country.”
Notice You Never See Bigfoot And Chewie At The Same Time?
Bad news, considering the Star Wars universe’s hairiest denizen, Chewbacca is a dead-ringer for the Cryptid. The most common portrayal of Bigfoot in popular media is that of a giant, human-like, bi-pedal creature covered head-to-oversized toe in fur. Everyone knows that description also fits Chewie to a tee.
With that in mind, once Jedi started filming in the Northern California forest, Peter Mayhew was given strict instructions not to wander around by himself. As the actor himself once recalled, “It was known as ‘Bigfoot County’. So I got strict instructions not to wander off in costume. Can you imagine it? I‘m in full costume, going through the undergrowth, and some guy jumps up with a shotgun and – BANG! – ‘I got Bigfoot!’”
When Mayhew did walk around the forest he was constantly shadowed by crewmembers who wore brightly colored vests to let any hunters in the area know not to shoot. Several sightings were reported throughout the years in the same area where Star Wars was filming Chewbacca and the Ewoks smacking stormtroopers around with rocks and sticks.
Thankfully, Chewie Made It Through
Star Wars fans now know that, obviously, nothing bad came of Mayhew while he was out and about in his Chewbacca threads. We can only imagine, though, how the world would have reacted to the news that a hunter accidentally murdered Chewbacca while trying to shoot Bigfoot. Such an undignified way for a hero of the Rebellion to go out.
At least in Legends, it took a moon falling on him to kill everyone’s favorite Wookiee.
Why Shoot Bigfoot?
What we really want to know, though, is what sick hunters would shoot Bigfoot on sight? It’s like discovering that Santa Claus is real and then immediately dropping a piano on his head. Ok, maybe it’s not exactly like that, but still, wouldn’t you want to study a formerly thought-to-be fictional creature before you blow it to smithereens?
The Anecdote Inspired A Comic Book Story
Believe it or not, Mayhew’s tribulations while filming Return of the Jedi inspired a wonderful comic book story. Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars Tales #19 showed the Millennium Falcon crashing in Northern California and Chewbacca being the original inspiration for the Bigfoot myth. “Into the Great Unknown” is also significant for being the only known crossover between Han Solo and Indiana Jones.
And in case anyone is wondering, at a whopping size 18 shoe, Peter Mayhew did, in fact, have big feet even if he wasn’t the Bigfoot.