Chewbacca always got a raw deal. At the end of the original ''Star Wars'' (a.k.a. ''Episode IV -- A New Hope''), after the destruction of the Death Star, Chewie was the only one of the heroes who didn't get a medal. That notorious 1978 ''Star Wars'' Christmas special, which spent long, agonizing stretches with Chewbacca's grunting, non-verbal family, did the Wookiee no favors. And he was left out of the two recent ''Star Wars'' movies entirely. At long last, however, George Lucas is throwing him a bone. According to news posted at the official ''Star Wars'' website, Chewbacca will be a character in the upcoming ''Star Wars: Episode III,'' and Peter Mayhew, the actor who played him in the original trilogy, will don the Wookiee suit for the first time in 20 years. (Let's hope it's been dry-cleaned. Or at least shampooed.)
''I'm delighted to return as Chewbacca,'' Mayhew said in a statement. ''I think his re-appearance in this film is a fitting way to tie the whole saga together, especially for Wookiee fans.'' According to ''Star Wars'' lore, Chewbacca is supposed to be 200 years old when he and Han Solo fly the Millennium Falcon in ''Episode IV,'' so he should be in fit, furry, fighting form in ''Episode III,'' which takes place a (human) generation earlier.
Other familiar supporting characters coming back for ''Episode III'' are the droids C-3PO and R2-D2. As in the previous five movies, Threepio will be incarnated by Anthony Daniels, while Kenny Baker will return as Artoo, even though most of their onscreen work is now mostly done by computer graphics artists and not actors in robot suits. Currently in pre-production, ''Episode III'' is expected to hit the screen in 2005.