Peter Mayhew

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Peter Mayhew
Peter Mayhew 2015.jpg
Mayhew at the 2015 Florida Supercon
Peter William Mayhew

(1944-05-19)19 May 1944
Barnes, Surrey, England
Died30 April 2019(2019-04-30) (aged 74)
Resting placeAzleland Memorial Park and Mausoleum Reno, Texas, US
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Years active1976–2016
Known forPlaying Chewbacca in the Star Wars franchise
Height7 ft 3 in (2.21 m)[1]
Mary Cigainero
(m. 1999)

Peter William Mayhew[2] (19 May 1944 – 30 April 2019) was a British-American actor. He was best known for portraying Chewbacca in the Star Wars film series. He played the character in all of his live-action appearances from the 1977 original to 2015's The Force Awakens before his retirement from the role.

Early life[edit]

Peter Mayhew was born on 19 May 1944, in Barnes, Surrey. At the age of 8, he was diagnosed with gigantism.[3] Some news outlets have mistakenly reported that he either "[did] not have gigantism" or that he had Marfan syndrome.[4][5] His peak height was 7 feet 3 inches (2.21 m).[6]


Early work[edit]

Mayhew gained his first acting job when the producers of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) discovered him from a photograph in a newspaper article about men with large feet, and cast him in the role of the Minoton.[7][8]

Mayhew in departmental photo of the radiology department, King's College Hospital, London, 1972
Mayhew at the 2008 Big Apple Con sitting in front of an image of Chewbacca

Star Wars[edit]

When casting the original Star Wars (1977), director George Lucas needed a tall actor who could fit the role of the hairy alien Chewbacca. He originally had in mind 6-foot-6-inch (1.98 m) bodybuilder David Prowse, but Prowse chose to play Darth Vader. This led Lucas to cast Mayhew, who was working as an orderly in the A & E Dept Mayday University Hospital, Thornton Heath, Croydon. Surrey.[9] He became aware of a casting call for Star Wars which was filming at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire.[10] The 7-foot-3-inch (2.21 m) tall actor was immediately cast as Chewbacca after he stood up to greet Lucas.[10][11] Mayhew continued working as an orderly, at Mayday Hospital (now Croydon University Hospital), in between filming the original Star Wars trilogy.[12]

Mayhew modelled his performance of Chewbacca after researching the behaviour of bears, monkeys and gorillas he saw at London Zoo.[13] Lucas said Mayhew was "the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature and I learnt to always let him win".[13] The character did not have any lines, the sounds he made being derived from sound recordings of animal noises.[14]

Mayhew played Chewbacca in five Star Wars films: the original trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.[15] He played the role in the 1978 television film Star Wars Holiday Special and in a 1980 appearance on The Muppet Show. He also recorded dialogue for the Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 3 finale episode "Wookiee Hunt".[16]

Mayhew played the role in commercials and hospital appearances for sick children, and made numerous appearances as Chewbacca outside the Star Wars films. Mayhew, appearing as Chewbacca, was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Film Awards 1997.[17]

He also made other media appearances outside of playing Chewbacca. He appeared on NBC's Identity, where his identity was based on the fact that he played Chewbacca and was a frequent guest in the early days of Slice of SciFi.[18]

While Mayhew portrayed Chewbacca in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was not in Star Wars: The Last Jedi but was listed in the credits as "Chewbacca Consultant".[19] Mayhew retired from playing Chewbacca due to health issues. Joonas Suotamo shared the portrayal of Chewbacca with Mayhew in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and then completely replaced him in subsequent Star Wars films.[20][21]

Other work[edit]

Outside Star Wars, Mayhew appeared in the 1978 horror film Terror, directed by Norman J. Warren.[22][23] In the English version of Dragon Ball GT: A Hero's Legacy, he provided the voice for Susha.[24] He also appeared in Yesterday Was a Lie.[25]


Mayhew wrote two books for younger audiences: Growing Up Giant,[26] which explains that being different is a strength instead of a weakness, and the anti-bullying book for children My Favorite Giant.[27]

Personal life and death[edit]

Peter Mayhew married Mary Angelique "Angie" Luker (née Cigainero), a native of Texas, in 1999.[28][2] The two lived in Boyd, Texas. Peter was the stepfather to Mary's three children.[29][30][31] It was reported that his wife would head his namesake charity, the Peter Mayhew Foundation.

Mayhew became a naturalised citizen of the United States in 2005 at a ceremony in Arlington, Texas.[32][33] In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he joked that he did not get a medal at this ceremony either, a reference to the closing scene in Star Wars during which Luke Skywalker and Han Solo get medals, but Chewbacca does not. Mayhew noted in an MTV interview that although Chewbacca does not get a medal in the film, he does have the last line of dialogue, when he roars.[34]

Mayhew underwent double knee replacement surgery in 2013,[35] having been a full-time wheelchair user for the previous two years and still largely reliant on it at the time of filming The Force Awakens.[36] In July 2018, Mayhew announced via Twitter that he had successfully undergone unspecified spinal surgery to improve his mobility, and was recovering.[37][2]

Mayhew died of a heart attack on 30 April 2019, at his home in Boyd, Texas, three weeks before his 75th birthday.[38] He was buried in Reno, Parker County, Texas, in Azleland Memorial Park and Mausoleum.



Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1977 Star Wars Chewbacca [15]
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger Minoton Uncredited [7]
1978 Terror The Mechanic [23]
1980 The Empire Strikes Back Chewbacca [15]
1982 Return of the Ewok Video [39]
1983 Return of the Jedi [15]
1987 Star Tours Short; uncredited [40]
2004 Comic Book: The Movie Himself [41]
2005 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith Chewbacca [15]
2008 Yesterday Was a Lie Dead Man [25]
2009 Fanboys Himself Uncredited
2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Chewbacca Shared role with Joonas Suotamo Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1977 Donny & Marie Chewbacca Guest[42]
1978 Star Wars Holiday Special TV special[43]
1979 Hazell Episode "Hazell and the Big Sleep" [citation needed]
1980 The Muppet Show Chewbacca Episode: "The Stars of Star Wars"[44]
1981 Dark Towers The Tall Knight [23]
1985 The Kenny Everett Television Show Various Episode #3.3[45]
2004 Dragon Ball GT: A Hero's Legacy Susha (Gettō) Voice; English dub; TV special[24]
2011 Star Wars: The Clone Wars Chewbacca Episode: "Wookiee Hunt";[46] Special Thanks
Glee Episode: "Extraordinary Merry Christmas"
2012 Breaking In Himself Episode: "Episode XIII"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Liptak, Andrew (2 May 2019). "Peter Mayhew, the actor who brought Chewbacca to life, has died". The Verge. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Hayward, Anthony (3 May 2019). "Peter Mayhew obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Remembering Peter". Peter Mayhew Foundation. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  4. ^ Quinn, Karl (12 April 2014). "Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew in Melbourne for Supernova fan convention". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  5. ^ Vankin, Jonathan (20 January 2015). "'Star Wars' actor, Peter 'Chewbacca' Mayhew, 70, stricken with pneumonia—sends fans message from hospital". Inquisitr. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  6. ^ "Peter Mayhew". Archived from the original on 10 May 2008.
  7. ^ a b Clark, Mark (2015). Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 978-1-48036-018-1.
  8. ^ Hutchinson, Sean (19 May 2015). "15 Chewbacca Facts in Honour of Peter Mayhew's Birthday". Mental Floss. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  9. ^ Weiss, Josh (2 May 2019). "Peter Mayhew, original Chewbacca actor in Star Wars, passes away at 74". SYFY Wire. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca, dies at age 74". ABC News Radio. 2 May 2019. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  11. ^ Hayward, Anthony (3 May 2019). "Peter Mayhew obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Tributes to Star Wars Chewbacca actor who worked at Mayday Hospital in Croydon". 3 May 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Peter Mayhew obituary". The Times. London. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 4 May 2019. (subscription required)
  14. ^ Fortin, Jacey (2 May 2019). "Peter Mayhew, Actor Behind Chewbacca's Mask in Star Wars, Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d e Child, Ben (8 April 2014). "Original Chewbacca actor set to return in Star Wars: Episode VII". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  16. ^ Itzkoff, David (17 February 2011). "Remaking Wookiee: Chewbacca Becomes a Character on 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars'". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  17. ^ Chilton, Martin (13 December 2011). "Chewbacca film on Hollywood Black List". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  18. ^ Brooks, Summer (26 October 2005). "Slice of SciFi #30: Interview with Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca, 'Star Wars')". Slice of SciFi. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  19. ^ "Star Wars: The Last Jedi—full credits". IMDb. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  20. ^ Hawkes, Rebecca (6 January 2016). "The 'secret' Chewbacca: meet the 6'11" basketball star who shared the role with Peter Mayhew in Star Wars: The Force Awakens". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  21. ^ Orange, B. Alan (6 January 2016). "Meet The New Chewbacca Actor in Star Wars: The Force Awakens". MovieWeb. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  22. ^ Wood, Chris (27 February 2010). "Terror (1978)". British Horror Films. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  23. ^ a b c Boucher, Geoff; Petski, Denise; Pedersen, Erik (2 May 2019). "Peter Mayhew Dies: 'Star Wars' Chewbacca Actor Was 74". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  24. ^ a b Walter, Joseph (22 July 2018). "20 Crazy Things Only True Fans Know About Dragon Ball GT". ScreenRant. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  25. ^ a b Chilton, Martin (4 May 2011). "Ewoks, sex dolls and comedy: what happened to the Star Wars cast". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  26. ^ Mayhew, Peter; Mayhew, Angie (19 November 2013). My Favorite Giant. One Mans Posse Production. ISBN 978-1-62098-826-8.
  27. ^ Goldman, Carrie (22 April 2011). "My Favorite Giant by Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)". ChicagoNow. Archived from the original on 30 June 2017. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  28. ^ Bushby, Helen (3 May 2019). "How Peter Mayhew became Chewbacca". BBC.
  29. ^ "Chewbacca Actor Peter Mayhew's Wife Angelique Mayhew". 2 May 2019. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  30. ^ Paul, Kari; Convery, Stephanie (2 May 2019). "Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew dies aged 74". The Guardian.
  31. ^ Malone, Megan (8 February 2012). "Chewbacca Making Dallas-Area Appearances". KXAS-TV. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  32. ^ "Star Wars actor who played Chewbacca to become American citizen". The Canadian Press. 12 October 2005. p. 16.
  33. ^ "Chewbacca actor to become an American". Today. 14 October 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  34. ^ "'Star Wars' actor, others pledge their allegiance". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 18 October 2005. p. B2.
  35. ^ "Wookie knee repair: 'Star Wars' actor Peter Mayhew hopes to walk again after Fort Worth surgery". The Dallas Morning News. 11 September 2013. Archived from the original on 6 April 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  36. ^ Breznican, Anthony (2 May 2019). "Peter Mayhew remembered: How he said goodbye to playing Chewbacca". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  37. ^ Parker, Ryan (24 July 2018). "'Star Wars': Chewbacca Actor Peter Mayhew Undergoes Spinal Surgery". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  38. ^ Zarrell, Matt; Rothman, Michael (2 May 2019). "'Star Wars' actor Peter Mayhew dies at the age of 74, family says". ABC News. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  39. ^ "Return of the Ewok (1982)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  40. ^ Thomas, Bob (25 May 1987). "Star Wars celebrates 10th anniversary today". The Palm Beach Post. pp. 4E. Retrieved 3 May 2019 – via
  41. ^ Holmes, Adam (2 May 2019). "Chewbacca Actor Peter Mayhew Is Dead At 74". CinemaBlend. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  42. ^ Saperstein, Pat; Stedman, Alex (2 May 2019). "Chewbacca Actor Peter Mayhew From 'Star Wars' Dies at 74". Variety. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  43. ^ Alter, Ethan (16 November 2018). "'The Star Wars Holiday Special' at 40: How a landmark TV bomb was born". Yahoo Entertainment. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  44. ^ Murray, Noel (12 February 2015). "When the Muppets met Star Wars". The Dissolve. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  45. ^ "Peter Mayhew dead at 74 after decades-long run playing Chewbacca in Star Wars films". ABC7 Chicago. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  46. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (17 February 2011). "Remaking Wookiee: Chewbacca Becomes a Character on 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars'". ArtsBeat. Retrieved 3 May 2019.

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