VERY SAD NEWS to report the passing of PETER MAYHEW, the actor behind Chewbacca in the Star Wars film series has passed aged 74 . . .
PETER MAYHEW was born on May 19, 1944 in Barnes, London, England and was working as a hospital attendant at the King's College Hospital in London when film producer Charles H. Schneer saw the above photo, a TALL man! Charles H. Schneer cast him in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977). It was just over a year later that he was asked if he wanted to do another role. Mayhew was told it was for a big hairy beast.
THAT ROLE WAS OF COURSE, Chewbacca, the faithful 200 year-old Wookiee in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and his life was changed forever. Following the original Star Wars trilogy, Mayhew has done several commercials in the Wookiee costume including one for Cingular and Orange associated with Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). In 1997, the twentieth anniversary celebrations of Star Wars were announced with the release of the "Special Edition" and all the conventions started. For many years, Mayhew was very active on the "Star Wars" convention circuit where he signed autographs, posed for pics and met his many thousands of friends and fans. He made time to write two books, "Growing Up Giant" and "My Favorite Giant" and founded a non-profit 501(c)3 charity organization called "The Peter Mayhew Foundation" and was the purveyor of chewbacca.com.
FOLLOWING THE ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY, friends and industry shared their messages:
Harrison Ford, who played the character of Han Solo, praised him for his “great dignity and noble character. 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 its 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, who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, shared a tribute on social media in which he described Mayhew as the “gentlest of giants”. He added: “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”.
Director and creator of Star Wars, George Lucas also paid tribute.“Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature – and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend, and I’m saddened by his passing.”
The San Diego Comic-Con Twitter account also shared a message of tribute. “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Mayhew. He was our beloved companion in a galaxy far, far, away. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and fans. The force will be with you always, Peter.”
Joonas Suotamo took over the role of Chewbacca from Mayhew, first as a body double in Force Awakens and later as the lead in 2017’s The Last Jedi and 2018’s A Star Wars Story. Writing on Twitter, he said: “Devastated to hear about the passing of a dear friend and mentor, the great Peter Mayhew.Peter’s warm welcome when I came aboard as his double in The Force Awakens meant so much to me. Studying the character he helped create was always a daunting task, but one that was made easier by his tutelage and kindness as we sought to bring Chewbacca to life for a new generation. He was an absolutely one-of-a-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class and I will miss him. As the entire Star Wars universe grieves over this terrible loss my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Angie and his family and all of the fans whose lives he has impacted. Rest assured his legacy will live on and the spirit that he gave the character when he first donned the suit will never be forgotten.”
MAYHEW married his wife, Mary Angelique ("Angie") in 1999 and together they had three children. He was very happy to become a naturalised citizen of the United States, in 2005. For several years, Mayhew had been plagued by ill heath, pneumonia, under went knee surgery and last year announced via Twitter, that he had successfully undergone unspecified spinal surgery to improve his mobility, and was recovering.
PETER MAYHEW was extremely popular with fans of the Star Wars films. A regular presence at Star wars events around the world. His portrayal of Chewbacca and the chemistry between his character and that of Harrison Ford's Han Solo, remains one of the enduring emotive elements that has helped make Star Wars, such a success. A very kind, committed and generous man, who will forever be remembered with enormous affection . . . .