Peter Mayhew, best known for portraying Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, has passed away at the age of 74. The actor brought the lovable Wookiee to life in five of the live-action movies: the three installments of the original trilogy, Revenge of the Sith, and one last time in 2015's The Force Awakens. He also worked as a consultant on 2017's The Last Jedi, coaching Joonas Suotamo in the role.
Born in Barnes, Surrey in 1944, Mayhew got his first acting job in 1976, when he was cast in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger as a minotaur. Of course, his big break came a little later, when George Lucas was searching for someone tall to play Chewbacca in the original Star Wars film. As the legend goes, all Mayhew needed to do was stand up and Lucas knew he found his man.
News of Mayhew's death was confirmed by the actor's official Twitter account. He died on April 30, 2019 surrounded by family in his North Texas home. No cause of death was given at the time.
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. pic.twitter.com/YZ5VLyuK0u— Peter Mayhew (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 2019
Mayhew had a handful of other film and TV credits to his name, but none of them gave him the opportunity to impact as many lives as Chewbacca did. After Star Wars became the worldwide phenomenon it still is to this day, Mayhew became one of the most prominent and beloved figures in the entire community. Over the course of his career, he worked with the famous 501st Legion, Wounded Warriors, and Make-A-Wish (visiting hospitalized children in-character as Chewie), and launched the Peter Mayhew Foundation. Even as his age advanced and he encountered health problems (knee replacement, pneumonia, spinal surgery), he never let that dampen his spirits. In his own words, he would "soldier on," maintaining a great relationship with Star Wars fans everywhere.
Of course, by the time Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 and began producing new Star Wars movies, Mayhew was unable to handle the physical demands of the role. On The Force Awakens, he split duties with Suotamo, and then Suotamo took the part over for good. Still, Mayhew remained an active player in the galaxy far, far away by serving as what was officially titled a "Chewbacca Consultant" on The Last Jedi and Solo. He helped the younger Suotamo master the Wookiee's mannerisms and body language - ensuring the transition was a seamless one. Suotamo once again reprises Chewbacca in this December's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Mayhew is survived by his wife Angie and three children.
Rest in Peace Peter Mayhew: May 19, 1944 - April 20, 2019
Source: Peter Mayhew