Peter Mayhew’s cause of death has not yet been announced, but health issues were at the forefront of the actor’s late life and career, forcing him to retire from his role as Chewbacca in the Star Wars series.
Family members announced on Thursday that the actor had passed away earlier this week at his home in North Texas. While a notice posted on the actor’s official Twitter page did not specify his cause of death, it hinted toward natural causes in noting that he was surrounded by family at his passing.
A report from TMZ noted that Mayhew died of a heart condition, but did not specify beyond that. BuzzFeed also noted in its obituary that Mayhew was plagued with mobility issues and had undergone spinal surgery last year.
In his final years, Mayhew endured a number of painful conditions. He was confined to a wheelchair starting in 2011, and two years later underwent double knee replacement surgery, the Today show reported. Mayhew was later able to walk with the help of a cane — one shaped like a light saber, which once got him briefly detained in an airport security terminal, the report noted.
As the TMZ report noted, Peter Mayhew was able to walk enough to portray Chewbacca one final time in Star War: The Force Awakens, but had to retire afterward. He stayed active in the franchise, the report noted, serving as a mentor for the 6-foot-11 Joonas Suotamo, a Finnish basketball star who took over the role of Chewbacca in The Last Jedi.
It was not clear if the conditions worsened, but Mayhew was back in a wheelchair for the most recent Star Wars premieres, though he was still able to attend and appear on the red carpet.
As family members said in a statement after his passing, Mayhew always wanted to push himself so he could be there for his fans.
“As he grew older he continued to ‘soldier on’ as he put it and was completely in his element around fans and supporters,” his family said. “He grew great strength from the energy of his family, friends and the fans he knew and loved.”
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’s family have not released an official cause of death for the actor. The family did say they plan to hold a memorial service in June, with another ceremony in December so fans can remember the life of the Star Wars legend.