'Star Wars' Actor Peter Mayhew Dies at Age 74, Best Known for Portraying Chewbacca

Actor Peter Mayhew, who originated the role of Chewbacca, and continued to play him in most forms of Star Wars media until 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens died on April 30, 2019.

According to a statement released Thursday on the actor's Twitter account, Mayhew passed away in his North Texas Home, surrounded by his loved ones.

London-born Mayhew began acting when he was scouted for the role of the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger due to a producer spotting his unusually large feet in a newspaper article.

Later that year Mayhew then went onto audition for his most iconic role, Chewbacca, where he became the body and soul of the bowcaster-wielding Wookie. The then-unknown actor got the role due to his towering 7'3" physique that allowed him to stand tall above even Darth Vader. Although Chewbacca's voice was engineered by sound designer Ben Burtt, many attribute the character's expressiveness to Mayhew's exceptional skill at body language.

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Mayhew played Chewbacca across five Star Wars films: Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Revenge of the Sith (2005)and The Force Awakens (2015), though Finnish former college basketball player Joonas Suotamo — who would take on the role permanently in subsequent films — was credited as Chewbacca's double in that film.

Mayhew also voiced the character on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, for the season three episode "Wookie Hunt."

Mayhew's Chewbacca appearances went well beyond the Star Wars franchise. He would often reprise the role for non-Star Wars properties, like Glee, The Muppet Show, and Donny & Marie.

Outside of Star Wars, Mayhew also provided the voice of the Dragon Ball GT: A Hero's Legacy character, Susha.

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The actor's co-stars wrote lovingly of Mayhew following Thursday's announcement.

"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," wrote co-star Mark Hamill on Twitter. "I'm grateful for the memories we shared & I'm a better man for just having known him."

"Devastated to hear about the passing of a dear friend and mentor," wrote Suotamo on Twitter, reflecting on how Mayhew helped him become Chewbacca. "He was an absolutely one-of-a-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class and I will miss him."

Billy Dee Williams, who worked closely with Mayhew on both Empire and Jedi, said the late actor was "Much more than Chewie to me...My heart hurts…I will miss you my dear friend…thanks for the great memories!"

In the last decade of his life, Mayhew began publishing books aimed at younger audiences. His first book: Growing up Giant was meant to show children that being different should be seen as a strength. In his second title, My Favorite Giant advocated against bullying.

A private memorial for exclusively friends and family will take place on June 29. A more public, fan memorial is expected to happen during early December in Los Angeles at the Star Wars convention, Empire Con LA. Mayhew's family will be in attendance of both memorials. Mayhew is survived by his wife Angie and their three children.

'Star Wars' Actor Peter Mayhew Dies at Age 74, Best Known for Portraying Chewbacca | Culture