There is a great disturbance in the force. Peter Mayhew, the actor best known for his role as everyone’s beloved Wookie warrior Chewbacca, has passed away. He was 74. The actor passed away Tuesday in his home in North Texas with his family by his side. He had undergone spinal surgery to improve his mobility. Mayhew worked as an orderly at a hospital when he was cast as Chewbacca. He portrayed the character in the original Star Wars Trilogy – Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
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
Peter Mayhew went back to working as an orderly until he left for good after Return of the Jedi. He made his career living off of Chewbacca, who became a fan favorite among fans. Though he did not provide Chewie’s distinct voice (that credit goes to sound designer Ben Burtt), Mayhew is best known for his body language and facial expressions to express the 200-year old Wookie’s thoughts and feelings.
Mark Hamill, known for his role as Luke Skywalker, shared his memories of Mayhew 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
Star Wars creator George Lucas said in a statement: “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.”
Finnish basketball player-turned actor Joonas Suotamo took over for Mayhew in some installments, including Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) and the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Mayhew worked as a consultant on The Force Awakens to pass the baton to Suotamo.
Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo, sent a statement to The Hollywood Reporter expression his condolences to his friend, both on screen and off. “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.”
Peter Mayhew leaves behind his wife Maggie and their three children. A private service for Mayhew will be held June 29.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter