Actor Peter Mayhew, the Chewbacca of “Star Wars”, has Died at 74

Actor Peter Mayhew, the Chewbacca of "Star Wars", died at 74

The hairy giant of the saga “Star Wars”, embodied on the screen by the actor Peter Mayhew, has died at the age of 74 years.

He had become a world famous actor without ever showing his face on the screen: Peter Mayhew , who has long donned the costume of Chewbacca , giant alien and hairy of the saga ” Star Wars “, died Tuesday 30th April, 2019 at the age 74 , announced Thursday by his family.

“He left us on the evening of April 30th, 2019, surrounded by his family, his home in North Texas,” said his relatives on his Twitter account.

He was 2.21 meters tall!

Born in London in May 1944, Peter Mayhew climbed to 2.21 meters, which allowed him to land his first film role in 1976 on the shooting of “Sinbad and the eye of the tiger”, in which he played a minotaur .

The following year, he was chosen by George Lucas, impressed at first sight by his stature, to play Chewbacca in the first installment of “Star Wars”.

Peter Mayhew has played Chewbacca in five of the Star Wars series.
Peter Mayhew has played Chewbacca in five of the Star Wars series. (© AFP / Archives / JUSTIN TALLIS)

“He was a good friend”

Peter Mayhew had almost just got up from the sofa where he was sitting to convince George Lucas to hire him, he said in 2013.

“Roughly speaking, the interview was summed up in that. He turned to (producer) Gary (Kurtz) and said, “I think we found it.”

“Peter was a great man. He was the closest human being to a Wookie: a big heart, a generous nature … and I learned to always let him win, “responded in a statement the creator of” Star Wars “, in a wink at the allegedly vindictive character of this alien species.

“He was a good friend and I am saddened by his passing,” says Lucas.

Peter Mayhew had continued to camp the famous Wookie until “The Awakening of the Force” in 2015, before being replaced because of health problems.

He remained, however, a “consultant” to advise his successor as “Chewie”, the Finnish basketball player Joonas Suotamo (2.09m).

“The nicest of the giants”

“He was the nicest of the giants. A great man with an even bigger heart that never failed to make me smile, and a loyal friend whom I loved deeply, “Mark Hamill, who has worked with him as Luke Skywalker, paid tribute to him on Twitter

The inarticulate grunts that characterize the language of the faithful companion and co-pilot of Han Solo in “Star Wars” were certainly made by sound engineers.

But fans of the saga believe that the expressiveness and the gestures of Peter Mayhew under the imposing disguise (considered to have been made with yak hairs) have contributed much to the success of his character.

“We’ve been movie partners and lifelong friends for over 30 years, and I loved him,” Harrison Ford, smuggler Han Solo in the series, said on the news of his death. Peter Mayhew “breathed his soul into the character” and “Chewbacca played an important role in the success of the films we shot together,” continued the actor.

“Like millions of others, I will never forget Peter and what he has given us all,” writes Harrison Ford in his release.

Chewbacca leaving hair on the red carpet of the "Solo: A Star Wars Story" presentation at the Cannes Film Festival (France), May 15, 2018.
Chewbacca leaving hair on the red carpet of the “Solo: A Star Wars Story” presentation at the Cannes Film Festival (France), May 15, 2018. (© AFP / Archives / Antonin THUILLIER)

” May the force be with you ! “

After his retirement, Peter Mayhew, who had lost a lot of mobility , continued to dedicate himself to fans of the saga and participated in many gatherings around the world.

A ceremony to his memory will be organized for his family and friends on June 29, specify his relatives. As for the fans in mourning, they will be able to collect themselves at the beginning of December in Los Angeles during a rally called EmpireCon to which his family will participate, with some of the personal effects of the actor.

In the meantime, hundreds of them said goodbye to their hero on social media, wishing for the last time, “May the Force be with you! “

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