Actor Peter Mayhew, who originated the role of Chewbacca in the “Star Wars” film franchise, died on April 30 at the age of 74.
Mayhew, a native of London, died at his home in North Texas surrounded by his family, according to a Twitter post on Thursday.
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 bowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth.
But to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more than a role in a film.
The 7-foot-3-inch Mayhew played Chewbacca in five movies, including “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), “Return of the Jedi” (1983), “Revenge of the Sith” (2005) and “The Force Awakens” (2015), according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Mayhew retired from the role in 2015 due to health issues, but helped his replacement, Finnish actor and basketball star Joonas Suotamo, understand the nuances of playing Chewie in “The Last Jedi” (2017) and the “Star Wars” origin story “Solo” (2018).
Mayhew started acting in 1976 after he was hired to play the minotaur in “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.” Deadline reports he was discovered after producers saw him in a newspaper article about men with large feet.
Mayhew was working as an orderly in the radiology department of King’s College Hospital, London, when he was hired as Chewbacca.
Film director George Lucas later claimed that all Mayhew had to do to get the part was to stand up.
The family will be holding a memorial service in Texas on June 29 and a more public event in December at the “Star Wars” fan convention Empire Con LA.
“Star Wars” star Mark Hamill paid tribute to his “loyal friend” in a Twitter post Thursday.
Others soon joined in.