The galaxy is a lot dimmer, as another cast member of the original ‘Star Wars’ has passed– Peter Mayhew, the man inside the hairy suit that brought to life history’s greatest wingman, Chewbacca. Standing at an astounding 7’3″, Mayhew was described by those who knew and loved him as true “Gentle Giant.” According to his family, he passed quietly on the evening of April 30, at his home in North Texas. His birthday is May 19, so he was about to turn 75.
His family released a statement via the actor’s Twitter:
“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.”
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
Mayhew worked as a hospital orderly when George Lucas cast him to play Chewbacca in ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’. He went on to reprise the role in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘Return of the Jedi’, ‘Revenge of the Sith’, and ‘The Force Awakens’ (and ‘The Star Wars Holiday Special’). Mayhew continued with his hospital job until after ‘Return of the Jedi’, when the began making the rounds of fan conventions to make a living.
Mayhew underwent double-knee replacement surgery in 2013, and as fans may know, he had to use a motorized scooter to get around. In 2015, he was hospitalized after a severe bout of pneumonia. Last July, he underwent spinal surgery in an effort to improve his mobility.
Due to his health problems, he passed the role of Chewbacca over to Joonas Suotamo, but Mayhew worked as a consultant on ‘The Last Jedi’ to coach him on the physicality of the role, including Chewie’s expressive body language.
Mayhew’s death follows that of Carrie Fisher who passed away in 2016.
After being cast to replace Mayhew, Suotamo wrote:
“Chewbacca is one of the most iconic characters in the history of film, and Peter’s development and portrayal of this beloved Wookiee has spread so much joy around the globe. Peter’s guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey. I aspire to make Peter proud and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love.”
A private memorial will be held on June 29. Los Angeles Empire Con has already announced that a fan memorial will be held during the con, which will be held on December 6-8.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter