Exclusive Photo: In Memoriam, Peter Mayhew of ‘Star Wars’

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CHICAGO – Most likely Peter Mayhew stepped into movie history because he could fit into a costume. The seven-foot-three actor was the perfect size for a new character in a little film called “Star Wars,” and so he became the once and future persona of Chewbacca. Mayhew died in Texas on April 30th, 2019. He was 74.

Peter William Mayhew was born in England, and was working as a hospital orderly when he got his first role as a minotaur in 1977’s “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” (the producers were looking for someone who had big feet). During the initial casting of the Wookiee Chewbacca of “Star Wars,” the actor set to portray him, David Prowse, decided he’d rather be Darth Vader. When Mayhew auditioned in to re-cast the role, he got the part just by standing up to greet director George Lucas.

Peter Mayhew in 2012, Exclusive Photo by Joe Arce
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Mayhew modeled the movement and attitude of Chewy on animal behavior of bears and gorillas at the London Zoo, although he had no dialogue in the first film (his sound was added in later). He portrayed Chewbacca, who was the loyal Wookiee sidekick to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, in five “Star Wars” films … the original trilogy (“Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”), “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” He made additional appearances as Chewy on “The Muppet Show” in 1980, and on the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special” (1978), which introduced his “family” … father Itchy, wife Malla and son Lumpy.

Peter Mayhew retired after “The Force Awakens,” and succumbed to a heart attack on April 30th at his home in Boyd, Texas (he became an American citizen in 2005). He is survived by a his wife Angie and three children. Mayhew loved to point out that Chewbacca never received the hero’s medals Luke and Han got at the end of the first “Star Wars.” But, as he noted, Chewy got the last line of dialogue … he roars.

The source for this article was Wikipedia.com. Peter Mayhew, 1944-2019. “Chewy, we’re home.”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2019 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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