Peter Mayhew, the actor behind Chewbacca in Star Wars, has died aged 74.
According to a statement released on the actor’s official Twitter account, Peter passed away at his home in Texas on April 30, with his family by his side.
Although the 74-year-old never showed his face in the Star Wars films, he brought to life one of the most iconic, well-loved, and often-imitated characters of the franchise; the giant Wookiee warrior Chewbacca.
The British-American actor played the furry fighter in the original trilogy, episode three of the prequels, and the New Trilogy. His last appearance as Chewbacca was in the 2015 film Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
His family released a loving statement about Peter, writing:
He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
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 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
The statement continued:
To him, the Star Wars family meant to so much more to him than a role in a film.
The relationships that began then grew into the friends and family that he would love for decades to come.
He is survived by his wife Angie and three children.
According to the BBC, Star Wars creator George Lucas had hoped to cast a tall actor to play Chewbacca, and he initially considered 6ft 6in (1.98m) tall David Prowse for the role.
However, David wanted to play evil villain Darth Vader, so the creator turned to 7ft 2in (2.18m) Peter.
The actor went on to establish The Peter Mayhew Foundation, which supported ‘everything from individuals and families in crisis situations to food and supplies for children of Venezuela’.
Following Peter’s death, Han Solo actor Harrison Ford issued a statement to ComicBook, saying:
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, aka Luke Skywalker, also shared a statement on Twitter:
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 #RIPPeterMayhew #Heartbroken @TheWookieeRoars pic.twitter.com/8xbq9HEWF2
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) May 2, 2019
In early December, a memorial service will be held for the beloved actor’s fans at EmpireCon LA. His family will be in attendance, and there will be some of Peter’s personal effects and collection.
The actor will certainly be missed. Rest in peace.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.