Actor Peter Mayhew has died at the age of 74. TMZ reports that the veteran of the Star Wars franchise, who portrayed Chewbacca, the Wookiee, is survived by his wife, Angie, and their three kids.
Mayhew died surrounded by his family in his home in North Texas.
With just a couple of days to go until “May the 4th” which has been coined “Star Wars Day” by many, one of the most iconic characters in the saga has lost its heart. For almost four full decades, Mayhew acted and displayed his abilities on the big screen and small, but he was almost always known for being the first man to portray Chewbacca.
The lovable and hairy wookiee first debuted in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in 1977, and that was when Mayhew first stepped into the role. He would go on to play him in video shorts, TV specials, and a number of other films in the franchise before playing Chewbacca one last time in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.
If one were to pull up the list of TV shows and series and movies that Mayhew appeared in, they’d see a long one. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll see that more than 75 percent of that list has him playing the part of Han Solo’s best friend.
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
In the ’70s, Mayhew was first discovered by producer Charles H. Schneer as the 7-foot, 3-inch man worked as a hospital attendant in London. It was then that he was cast as Minoton in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, which came out the same year as Star Wars: Episode IV.
Later that year, Mayhew made his first television appearance as Chewbacca on an episode of Donny and Marie.
Mayhew didn’t have a birth defect, or suffer from gigantism to get him to his extreme height. The man was simply naturally tall and it paved the way for his acting career, and allowed him to star as one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history.
George Lucas originally wanted to have a bodybuilder by the name of David Prowse play the part of Chewbacca. Prowse eventually decided to take on the role of the villainous Darth Vader, which opened the door for Mayhew, who Lucas chose to take on the role of the wookiee.
While Mayhew appeared to be finished with his time as Chewbacca, it is likely that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker may now have some kind of tribute to him when it hits theaters this December. It’s going to be hard for many fans to deal with this loss, as Peter Mayhew is a legend and an icon in one of the biggest movie franchises ever.
This is a monumental loss and one that is going to hit hard for family, friends, an Star Wars fans throughout the galaxy.