Sad news for Star Wars fans. It was announced yesterday that Peter Mayhew, known worldwide as the lovable Wookiee Chewbacca in the Star Wars galaxy of films, passed away at his home surrounded by his family in North Texas, on April 30, 2019. He was 74.
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 (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 2019
When trying out for the role of Chewbacca, Mayhew was working as a hospital orderly. Director George Lucas needed someone who was taller than Darth Vader — Mayhew, at 7 feet, was perfect for the role.
Upon his death, many celebrities, including his Star Wars family, paid emotional tributes, expressing their condolences.
“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,” George Lucas said in a statement.
Mark Hamill wrote:
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
Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo to Mayhew’s Chewbacca, expressed his condolences in a statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter.
“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,” read Ford’s statement. “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. Chewbacca was an important part of the success of the films we made together. He knew how important the fans of the franchise were to its continued success and he was devoted to them. I and millions of others will never forget Peter and what he gave us all. My thoughts are with his dear wife Angie and his children. Rest easy, my dear friend.”
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 Wookie win, but YOU won our hearts, sir! pic.twitter.com/B6cpKTKyv2
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) May 3, 2019
“We are deeply saddened today by the news of Peter Mayhew’s passing. Since 1976, Peter’s iconic portrayal of the loyal, lovable Chewbacca has been absolutely integral to the character’s success, and to the Star Wars saga itself.”-Kathleen Kennedy.
— Star Wars (@starwars) May 3, 2019
— Billy Dee Williams (@realbdw) May 3, 2019
Joonas Suotamo, who played Chewbacca’s body double in The Force Awakens and went on to play the Wookiee in 2017’s The Last Jedi, posted an emotional note on Twitter.
R.I.P 😔 pic.twitter.com/FWRgaOS0Tf
— Joonas Suotamo (@JoonasSuotamo) May 2, 2019
His family released a statement that said Mayhew had been “heavily involved” with non-profit organizations and had launched his own foundation, which they said supported “everything from individuals and families in crisis situations to food and supplies for children of Venezuela.”
The cause of death has not yet been released. A memorial service for friends and family will be held on June 29, while a separate memorial for fans will take place in December. ~Fatma Ozen