Bill Walton is one of the more interesting personalities in all of sports. Most of the time he’s making waves by saying outlandish things as a college basketball broadcaster in the middle of a sleepy regular-season game on ESPN that nobody cares about. Walton’s ability to provide entertainment and hilarious insights, basketball-related or not, is his calling card and a big reason why he’s held a seat for so long, beyond his obvious accomplishments as a UCLA and NBA player. The man is innately interesting almost by accident half the time.
With all those qualifiers, I was not prepared for the moment that Walton implied that he was the basis upon which Chewbacca was built in Star Wars. Didn’t have that on my lifetime bingo card. That approaching-cliché metaphor doesn’t even do it justice. Walton auditioning for Chewie once upon a time, potentially being partnered up with Harrison Ford’s Han Solo on the big screen, was off the bingo board. Not listed on any star chart. Undetectable through the Force.
Bill Walton won't give Dave Pasch an answer on if he was in the mix to play Chewbacca in Star Wars.
Bill finally says that he "auditioned" to play Chewbacca, but they modeled the character after him.
“Chewbacca is modeled after me. […] George Lucas is as cool as they get. I remember the night that George, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], Bill Russell and me were up at San Francisco at a big fundraiser for the Martin Luther King Memorial… […] I auditioned for Chewbacca, and they said no, but we’re going to model the character after you.”
Right at the end is the mention of Walton being in the OG Ghostbusters, which I did not know until this day, Friday February, 2, 2024. Confirmed to be 100% true.
Walton has made various other movie cameos, so it’s not like it’s far-fetched to believe he’d be involved in some other projects through the years. But having a hand in inspiring a pivotal character from the most revolutionary movie franchise of all-time? WHAT.
You come to expect the unexpected with Bill Walton. This was something else. The butterfly effect that could’ve occurred if he was actually in the Chewie suit. Wow. Peter Mayhew obviously did an excellent job. It’s just one of those wild what-if’s. Like what if Al Pacino hadn’t turned down the role of Han Solo? The story behind the making of the first Star Wars never fails to blow my mind.
Here’s one of many great videos about the movie itself, which was beset with a bloated budget, running behind schedule, inclement weather, you name it:
It was nice for this little tidbit about Walton to come to light and bring some brightness to the greater galaxy that is the Star Wars community. Been a tough day otherwise, as famed actor and director Carl Weathers passed away. Weathers really became a household name in the Rocky franchise as Apollo Creed, but it was a pleasant surprise when he joined The Mandalorian as Greef Karga. He will be missed by many.
At the end of the day, once again, Bill Walton delivers something obscure, entertaining and even somewhat heartwarming. What a guy.