Thursday, May 2, 2019

Peter Mayhew Has Passed Away at 74

Peter Mayhew, who became a pop culture icon as the lovable Chewbacca in the Star Wars saga, has passed away at the age of 84.

Here is the tweet announcing his passing on his official Twitter account.

Standing over seven feet tall, Mayhew was working as an orderly in a London hospital when he was cast as the iconic Wookiee. In recent years, Mayhew moved from England to Texas, allowing him to travel easier as a frequent guest on the convention circuit.

The Hollywood Reporter reports on his passing.

The London native played Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Revenge of the Sith (2005) and The Force Awakens (2015). 

Mayhew had done some minor acting — he played a minotaur in the Ray Harryhausen fantasy Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) — and was working as a hospital orderly when he tried out for the part of Chewbacca. He got the role based on his physique, as writer-director George Lucas was in desperate need of someone who would be able to play taller than Darth Vader. (In his prime, Mayhew stood 7-foot-3.)

After wrapping the first Star Wars, he went back to work as an orderly and did not leave the job for good until the release of Return of the Jedi, after which he made a living off of Chewbacca, becoming a favorite on the fan convention circuit.

While Mayhew did not provide the voice of the 200-year-old Wookiee (that was created by sound designer Ben Burtt), many credit the body language and expressiveness of the eyes the actor brought to the role in making Chewbacca a beloved character. It was a part that Mayhew would take on his whole life and well beyond the movies, reprising the role for appearances on the Donny and Marie Show and The Muppet Show and, more recently, Glee.

Our condolences go out to family, friends, and fans around the world.

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