Standing at a tall 7’3”, actor Peter Mayhew gave life to the original Star Wars’ trilogy beloved Chewbacca. According to The Associated Press (AP), Mayhew passed away in his North Texas home on May 2 at 74.
“It’s heartbreaking to see the loss of another actor behind such an iconic character,” said Richland Student Carson Chapman. “Peter Mayhew’s character reminds me of my childhood.”
Mayhew suffered from a genetic disorder known as Marfan Syndrome, which resulted in his jaw-dropping height. The disorder also caused the actor many other health complications, including respiratory problems, speech limitations and mobility challenges. According to AP, Mayhew’s family said, “fighting through that to play the role one last time in ‘The Force Awakens’ was a triumph.”
Mayhew’s character was known for being a kind-hearted and loyal sidekick, qualities which his costars say came from the actor putting himself in the role. According to AP, Harrison Ford, who starred alongside Mayhew as Han Solo in the films, said in a statement that “Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character. These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca. 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. My thoughts are with his dear wife Angie and his children. Rest easy, my dear friend.”
Luke Skywalker’s Mark Hamill wrote on Twitter that Mayhew was “the gentlest of giants — a big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile and a loyal friend
who I loved dearly. I’m grateful for the memories we shared and I’m a better man for just having known him.”
Joonas Suotamo, who assumed the role of the Wookiee upon Mayhew’s retirement, wrote to Twitter that, "Studying the character he helped create was always a daunting task, but one that was made easier by his tutelage and kindness as we sought to bring Chewbacca to life for a new generation. He was an absolutely one-of-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class and I will miss him."
Mayhew is the third major actor from the original trilogy to pass away in recent years; Princess Leia’s Carrie Fisher and R2-D2, played by Kenny Baker, died in 2016.
According to AP, a public memorial to honor Mayhew will be held in early December at a “Star Wars” convention in Los Angeles.