On Thursday night, Star Wars fans heard the tragic news that Peter Mayhew, the actor behind Chewbacca, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 74. The 7’2” actor was tall enough for the role of the lovable Wookiee, which he played from 1977 to 2015.
“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,” tweeted Mark Hamill, the actor behind Luke Skywalker.
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 #RIPPeterMayhew #Heartbroken @TheWookieeRoars pic.twitter.com/8xbq9HEWF2
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) May 2, 2019
Mayhew’s passing follows the deaths of Kenny Baker (the voice of R2-D2) in August 2016 and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa) in December 2016.
Mayhew’s family shared the tragic news on his Twitter account Thursday evening.
“The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away. He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home,” the obituary reads.
“Peter was the man behind the mask of Chewbacca in the original Star Wars trilogy, episode 3 of the prequels, and the New Trilogy. He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He also consulted on The Last Jedi in an attempt to teach his successor,” the obituary adds. “He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films from his knock kneed running, firing his nowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth.”
Traveling across the world to meet fans, Mayhew discovered deep needs, and established the Peter Mayhew Foundation. According to his family, the foundation supports “everything from individuals and families in crisis situations to food and supplies for children of Venezuela during their recent road to freedom. He not only provided funds but became personally involved in each individual, family and cause he supported.”
Mayhew is survived by his wife Angie and their three children, and Angie will take over the Peter Mayhew Foundation.
The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away. He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home. pic.twitter.com/YZ5VLyuK0u
— Peter Mayhew Foundation (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 2019
I grew up watching the original Star Wars films, and Chewbacca was always a pleasure to watch. I especially remember the moment in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back when Chewbacca comforts Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in the jail cell on Bespin. The Wookiee’s roar came as a strange comfort and an inspiring message of hope and consolation in difficult circumstances.
So many excellent acting, directing, and musical talents go into a franchise like that of Star Wars, and fans like me owe a debt to the talented individuals that worked so hard to inspire us.
Here’s a YouTube video of Chewbacca’s best moments.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.