The Unexpected Inspiration Behind Chewbacca

George Lucas might not oversee Lucasfilm anymore, but he's still the creator of "Star Wars." Despite its massive popularity today with new projects such as "The Mandalorian" and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," you can't beat the original "Star Wars" trilogy, which introduced us to Lucas' space odyssey for the first time. At 33 years old, Lucas created heroes and villains in two orders, the Sith and the Jedi, always at the center of the space opera we know and love. But "Star Wars" is a diverse galaxy, and there's plenty of room for supporting characters who fall outside of those classifications. 

Alongside Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Lucas also gave us Princess Leia, Han Solo, and his loyal co-pilot Chewbacca. And if you've ever wondered how Lucas was inspired to bring the big walking carpet affectionately known as Chewie into the "Star Wars" universe, you're in for a surprise.

How George Lucas' Dog Inspired Chewbacca

The inspiration behind the Wookiee called Chewbacca was the same as Harrison Ford's character in the "Indiana Jones" movies! In the 1970s, George Lucas owned an Alaskan Malamute named Indiana, from whom he drew inspiration for the fan-favorite Wookiee, obviously not in appearance but definitely in personality.

Though the real-life dog's appearance is nothing like Chewie's shaggy brown hair, the American Kennel Club says the Malamute is known for having an affectionate temperament, and they're extremely loyal and playful. Lucas appears to have been inspired by the traits of his companion and displayed his relationship with Indiana through Chewie and Han Solo's friendship.

"I had an Alaskan Malamute when I was writing the film [Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope]," Lucas said once, via The Denver Art Museum. "A very sweet dog, she would always sit next to me when I was writing. And when I'd drive around, she'd sit in the front seat."

As Lucas continued to write Chewie's character, his appearance eventually evolved into a clothed, lemur-like figure. The Wookiee warrior's appearance has often been compared to the Brussels griffon dog, because of the similarities in their facial hair. But Chewbacca grunts and growls his way out of conversations and can pull arms right out of their sockets. 

In addition to having an active role in the Rebellion of the original "Star Wars" trilogy, he's an irreplaceable part of the Resistance in the new "Star Wars" saga. Plus, he's a loyal friend, even if that friend is a little green Jedi that he happened to meet on his home planet in the "Star Wars" prequels. But it's the one fan-favorite friend of Chewbacca who matters the most.

Chewie's companion and best friend, Han Solo, was inspired by a friend of George Lucas' you might have heard of: the legendary director of "The Godfather," Francis Ford Coppola. The filmmakers were friends long before "Star Wars," and Lucas spent a lot of time with him on the set of "Apocalypse Now." His "smooth-talking" persona is said to have partly inspired Solo. So the next time you see Han Solo and Chewbacca flying the Millennium Falcon, just think of Francis Ford Coppola and an Alaskan Malamute flying through hyperspace and let that keep you smiling throughout the day.