Peter Mayhew, known for playing “Chewbacca” (Chewy) in Star Wars films over a period spanning decades, died Tuesday in his North Texas home with family by his side. His official Twitter account confirmed the news. The actor was 74.
If you grew up in the ’70s or were a parent of children during the first episode of the series, Star Wars, you were sure to see a stuffed “Chewbacca” sleeping in the bed. He was the tall, furry, gurgling, side-kick creature that Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) carried beside him (in his beaten-up starship) to combat the dark forces of the galaxies.
Harrison Ford expressed his condolences in a statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter: “Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character. These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca. We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him. He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience. Chewbacca was an important part of the success of the films we made together. He knew how important the fans of the franchise were to it’s continued success and he was devoted to them. I and millions of others will never forget Peter and what he gave us all. My thoughts are with his dear wife Angie and his children. Rest easy, my dear friend.”
Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker-Star Wars) took to social media and tweeted, “He was the gentlest of giants-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.”
Prior to starring as the iconic Chewbacca character, Mayhew worked as a hospital orderly. With George Lucas hoping to find someone taller than Darth Vader, Mayhew got the role based on his physique. The iconic voice or sounds from the wookie, Chewbacca, were created but the tall body and character eyes were Mayhew’s own, standing 7’3″ in stature.
The London native was best known for his iconic performance as Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Revenge of the Sith (2005) and The Force Awakens (2015).
He reprised his infamous Star Wars role for appearances on Donny & Marie and The Muppet Show and, more recently, Glee.
Ref. MSN/entertainment, thehollywoodreporter.com
Photo courtesy of Bing via thedisneyblog.com