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Peter Mayhew (1944–2019), Chewbacca in “Star Wars”

by Kirk Fox

Beloved as the loyal friend and co-pilot of Han Solo.

Peter Mayhew played the beloved Wookiee Chewbacca aka “Chewie” in the immensely popular Star Wars franchise. When George Lucas needed a tall actor to portray Chewbacca for the first “Star Wars” movie, he found the 7-foot-2-inch Mayhew, a part-time actor who was working as an orderly at a hospital in London. Mayhew played Chewbacca in the three original Star Wars films: “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Return of the Jedi.” He also played Chewbacca in 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith” and 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” in which he shared the role with Joonas Suotamo. Mayhew consulted on “The Last Jedi” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

Though he did not provide the voice of Chewbacca, fans credit his kind eyes and body language for giving the character heart and soul. His family said in a statement, “the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”


We invite you to share condolences for Peter Mayhew in our Guest Book.

Died: Monday, April 30, 2019. (Who else died on April 30?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 74 at his home in Texas with his family at his side.

Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways.

Mayhew on Chewie’s appeal: “My character is a teddy bear, basically. I bet, if you looked around your office, how many people had a teddy bear as a youngster or a security blanket as a youngster? And that’s what Chewie is, he looks after everybody.” —From a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone

What they said about him: “Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character. We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him. He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience. …I and millions of others will never forget Peter and what he gave us all.” —Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo in the “Star Wars” series

“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 — I’m grateful for the memories we shared & I’m a better man for just having known him. Thanks Pete.” —Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” series

“Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature — and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend, and I’m saddened by his passing.” —“Star Wars” creator George Lucas

“We’ve lost a friend and #StarWars legend. The mighty #PeterMayhew brought such warmth, humour and humility to the beloved character of #Chewbacca. His personal wit and charm will be missed by Star Wars fans across the galaxy too.” —Warwick Davis, who played Wicket the Ewok in “Return of the Jedi”

“Peter Mayhew created one of the greatest film characters of all time. Chewbacca was funny, courageous, and caring He did it all without the benefit of speech, just that vocal growly cry that 1 in 100 fans can do real well when they’re drunk. He was always really nice to me.” —Actor Alan Tudyk

“May the Force Be with You, #PeterMayhew! As the King of the Cinematic Sidekicks, your performance helped make my childhood fun! Thank you for bringing Chewbacca to life and for always waving the flag for fandom! We may have let the Wookiee win, but YOU won our hearts, sir!” —Director Kevin Smith

“Star Wars wouldn’t have been the same without Peter Mayhew as the loyal and lovable Chewbacca, and he will always be a favourite for generations of kids & kids at heart. Rest easy, Peter.” —Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Full obituary: The Hollywood Reporter

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