Peter Mayhew, the seven-foot three-inches tall actor who played Chewbacca the Wookie in numerous installments of the Star Wars film franchise died at his home in Boyd, Texas Tuesday, April 30, his family announced today. He was 74.
Mayhew was working as an orderly in the radiology department of King’s College Hospital in London when George Lucas cast him to play Chewbacca, the two hundred year old furry alien co-pilot of Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon for 1977’s original Star Wars. His own only previous acting experience was portraying the Minotaur in 1976’s Sinbad And The Eye of the Tiger. He was cast in that role after producers saw him in a newspaper article about men with large feet.
At turns a fierce fighter and a gentle giant, Chewbacca quickly became a fan favorite character. Mayhew would reprise the role for the remaining two films of the original Star Wars trilogy – The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. He also played the character on the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special TV special and in on an episode of The Muppet Show hosted by Star Wars cast mate Mark Hamill. He also returned to role for 2005’s prequel trilogy film Revenge Of The Sith.
Although he had several health issues in recent years, Mayhew returned to the role of Chewbacca for the first installment of the current Star Wars trilogy – The Force Awakens – before handing the role Joonas Suotamo. Mayhew served as “Chewbacca consultant” on The Last Jedi as part of the transition.