Sad news today out of the entertainment industry:
Peter Mayhew, the actor behind the legendary Chewbacca suit/character in the Star Wars trilogy, passed away on Tuesday, April 30.
He was 74 years old.
The London native, who also played a key role in the television series Dark Towers back in 1981, passed away in his North Texas home.
He was surrounded by loved ones at the time, as confirmed via the following Twitter announcement.
The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away,
He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home.
According to Variety, Mayhew was discovered by producer Charles H. Schneer while working as a hospital attendant in Englad; he was then cast in Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.”
The following year, he was cast as Chewbacca, the 200-year-old Wookiee who was a key and beloved part of the Star Wars franchise from the very first movie.
Mayhew went on to appear in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith, The Force Awakens and The Star Wars Holiday Special.
(“He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more,” his family said after Mayhew returned in 2015 for The Force Awakens.)
He was active on the “Star Wars” convention circuit and wrote two books about his experience overall in the franchise, Growing Up Giant and My Favorite Giant.
Awhile back, Mayhew was asked by Australia’s BMag why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first Star Wars along with Solo and Skywalker.
“I think it was one of two reasons,” he said in response, adding in this interview:
“One, they didn’t have enough money to buy me a medal.
“Or two, [Carrie Fisher] couldn’t reach my neck, and it was probably too expensive to build a little step so that I could step down or she could step up and give me the medal.”
On the small screen, Mayhew made guest appearances on Donny & Marie, The Muppet Show and Glee.
Mayhew also “consulted” on The Last Jedi, according to his relatives when that film came out, putting “his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films from his knock-kneed running, firing his bowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth…
“But to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”
Shortly after news of Mayhew’s death went viral, costar Mark Hamill paid tribute to Mayhew online, Tweeting:
“A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile & a loyal friend who I loved dearly-I’m grateful for the memories we shared & I’m a better man for just having known him. Thanks Pete.”
Actor Joonas Suotamo served as Mayhew’s Chewbacca double for The Force Awakens and portrayed the character fully in The Last Jedi in 2017.
In 2018, Suotamo told People Magazine Mayhew was a “great guy” adding at that time of the 7’3″ star:
“He gave me a week-long Wookie boot camp where he taught me all the nuances of the character.”
There will be a memorial service for friends and family on June 29, with a memorial for fans in Los Angeles in early December at EmpireCon.
He is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children.
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