The general consensus seems to be that the Disney era of Star Wars has been pretty great so far. Different, but great. The new Star Wars movies have been a blend of old and new, which looks to be what the upcoming young Han Solo movie is going to be. There will be one very big "out with the old, in with the new" change this time around as the original Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew will not be playing everyone's favorite Wookiee.
StarWars.com released the first official cast photo for Han Solo: A Star Wars Story today, which featured the gang all together in the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon. Chewbacca can be seen hanging out with Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The man in the costume is Joonas Suotamo, who shared Chewbacca duties with Peter Mayhew on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it was announced today with this photo that he will be handling the role all by his lonesome this time around.
Peter Mayhew has been bringing Chewie to life ever since Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. He went on to reprise the role on screen in both Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, as well as Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Sadly, he isn't as young as he once was. At the age of 72, it is much more difficult for him to portray Chewbacca, so it makes sense that Disney and Lucasfilm are giving Joonas Suotamo the reigns this time around. Even though Peter Mayhew isn't going to be in the Han Solo movie, he is going to be in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and is expected to be in Star Wars Episode IX as well, but it seems likely those could be his last appearances in the Star Wars universe.
As for Joonas Suotamo, getting to work with Peter Mayhew on Star Wars: The Force Awakens was essentially like going to school to learn how to be Chewbacca on screen. Unfortunately, the actors that originally brought these characters to life won't always be able to play them on screen. But unlike a character like Princess Leia who is and will forever be linked to the late Carrie Fisher, there are ways for characters like Chewbacca to continue on for many years to come. The young Han Solo movie seems like the perfect place for Suotamo to give it a shot since we will also be getting a new actor in the form of Alden Ehrenreich playing Han Solo.
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Joonas Suotamo was able to seamlessly blend in as Chewbacca alongside Peter Mayhew, so there is no reason to think he can't handle the task in front of him. It is definitely sad to think that the original Chewbacca won't be involved, but the show must go on. Han Solo: A Star Wars Story is currently scheduled for release on May 25, 2018, but there have been rumors swirling that Disney may move the release date to December, given the success that both The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story enjoyed in that month.