May The Force Be With Him: Peter Mayhew Who Played Chewbacca From 'Star Wars' Dies At 74

May The Force Be With Him: Peter Mayhew Who Played Chewbacca From 'Star Wars' Dies At 74

The actor who played the iconic character, 'Chewbacca', in the original trilogy passed away in his North Texas home. The news was announced by his family via his social media accounts.

Peter Mayhew, the English-born actor best known for his role as the furry hero Chewbacca in the original 'Star Wars' trilogy passed away earlier this week. The news of his passing was announced on his social media accounts by his family. The actor died at the age of 74 in his North Texas home while he was surrounded by his loved ones. He is survived through his wife Angie, and their three children. The reason behind his death has not been announced. 

“He put 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,” the family said in a statement. “But, to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more than a role in a film.”

The actor portrayed the role of Chewbacca - Han Solo's loyal Wookiee co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon. he appeared in each of the major movies of the 'Star Wars' franchise. He was part of the original trilogy. He later appeared on the prequel 'Revenge of the Sith' and even on the next-gen sequel, 'The Force Awakens'. He finally handed over the role to Joonas Suotamo for 'The Last Jedi', serving as a “Chewbacca consultant.” Although he mostly spoke through growls, snarls, and occasional roars, he happens to be one of the most beloved characters of the franchise. 


Something that most people are unaware of is that Peter Mayhew did not set out to be an actor, he just happened to become one. He was the son of a policeman who was working as an orderly at a London hospital. The media discovered him and he was featured in a newspaper story about men with large feet. His huge seven-foot three-inch tall frame was soon spotted by the producers of the 1977 film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, that is how he earned his first major role in the movies. the following year he was cast a 'Chewbacca', the role he is remembered for. 


The creator of Star Wars was looking for a tall actor to play the Wookie and had initially decided on casting David Prowse, who opted to portray Darth Vader instead. Mayhew later joked about how he didn't really have to put in much effort to get the part of Chewbacca. All he really had to do was stand up. “In George’s office, he had a sofa,” Mayhew recalled at a fan convention in 2013. “So I sat down on the sofa waiting for him to come in through the door. He and [producer] Gary Kurtz walked in. I did the natural thing, I stood up. Basically, that was the interview. He turned to Gary and said, ‘I think we’ve found him.'”


George Lucas would later tell PEOPLE, “After talking with him, I knew I’d found Chewbacca. He was perfect. When Peter put on that costume, he instantly became the embodiment of the character.” Peter Mayhew was very dedicated to the role he had earned thanks to his height. He often visited the zoo to study the movements of bears, primates, and other animals. He donned a costume made of yak hair and mohair, and though Chewbacca’s voice was dubbed in during postproduction — a mix of animal recordings including lions, bears, and badgers — Mayhew provided grunts and growls while working with his castmates on set.


After the news of his passing was announced, Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm, released a statement on Thursday on behalf of the production company that is behind the 'Star Wars' franchise. Since 1976, Peter’s iconic portrayal of the loyal, lovable Chewbacca has been absolutely integral to the character’s success, and to the Star Wars saga itself,” she said. "When I first met Peter during The Force Awakens, I was immediately impressed by his kind and gentle nature. Peter was brilliantly able to express his personality through his skillful use of gesture, posture, and eyes. We all love Chewie, and have Peter to thank for that enduring memory.”


Mayhew occasionally appeared on TV programs such as 'Glee', 'The Muppet Show', and 'Donny & Marie'. Although he made his mark through the franchise, he did not play many roles outside of Chewbacca except for “Dark Towers,” on which he played the Tall Knight and the horror movie “The Terror,” in which he played the Mechanic. The role of the Wookie remained his bread and butter. He often attended fan conventions and loved interacting with the fans. Other than just being known for his role as Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew was also known to be a philanthropist. 



He established the Peter Mayhew Foundation to provide funds for those in need and supported the 501st Legion, Wounded Warriors, Make-a-Wish and other non-profits. Donations may be made to the Peter Mayhew Foundation.

A memorial service for the actor is said to be held on June 29. This service is held only for his friends and family. However, in December there will be another memorial service held for the fans in Los Angeles at EmpireCon.


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