Technically, the language of the Wookiees of Kashyyyk is called Shyriiwook — and apparently you can learn it. Alden Ehrenreich had to.
The actor, who’s starring as a young Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, spoke to Jimmy Kimmel about learning Chewbacca’s native tongue for the audition. Kimmel asked if the team at Lucasfilm “came up with a whole language” like with Klingon in Star Trek or if it was just him making random “grunting noises.” It was a bit of both, according to Ehrenreich.
“There’s a part where it’s subtitled, so we had to figure out what words [in Shyriiwook] meant certain words [in English],” the 28-year-old said. “But it was in my audition. I had to learn it and do the whole thing.”
It helped that he had Joonas Suotamo on hand. The 6-foot-10-inch-tall actor has been playing Chewbacca since Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and he taught Ehrenreich how to made certain sounds. “He does that live and then they take the sound of a bear and a seal and a lion or something and combine it in post[-production],” Ehrenreich added of how the completed Chewie sound is made for the film.
Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt created the Chewbacca sound for the original films, piecing it together from various animal noises. “Out of all these recordings you could extract little bits of sound, little grunts, moans, and ughs and arghs and purring sounds, whatever it might be. I collected and put all on one tape all these sounds that had emotional feelings associated with them,” he explained in a 2014 Star Wars behind-the-scenes video.
Just don’t ask Solo director Ron Howard to try Shyriiwook. Twitter learned that the hard way.
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on May 25. Watch Ehrenreich’s interview with Kimmel above.