Peter William Mayhew
19 May 1944
|Died||30 April 2019 (aged 74)|
|Resting place||Azleland Memorial Park and Mausoleum|
Reno, Texas, U.S.
|Known for||Playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars franchise|
|Height||7 ft 1 in (216 cm)|
Mary Angelique Cigainero
Peter William Mayhew (May 19, 1944 – April 30, 2019) was an English-American actor, 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.
Peter Mayhew was born on 19 May 1944, in Barnes, Surrey. At the age of 8, he was diagnosed with gigantism. Some news outlets have mistakenly reported that he either "does not have (sic) giantism" or that he has Marfan syndrome. His peak height was 7 feet 1 inch (2.16 m).
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.
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. He became aware of a casting call for Star Wars which was filming at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. The 7-foot-3-inch (2.21 m) tall actor was immediately cast as Chewbacca after he stood up to greet Lucas. Mayhew continued working as an orderly, at Mayday Hospital (now Croydon University Hospital), in between filming the original Star Wars trilogy.
Mayhew modelled his performance of Chewbacca after researching the behaviour of bears, monkeys and gorillas he saw at London Zoo. 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". The character did not have any lines, the sounds he made being derived from sound recordings of animal noises.
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. 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".
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.
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.
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". 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.
Outside Star Wars, Mayhew appeared in the 1978 horror film Terror, directed by Norman J. Warren. In the English version of Dragon Ball GT: A Hero's Legacy, he provided the voice for Susha. He also appeared in Yesterday Was a Lie.
Mayhew wrote two books for younger audiences: Growing Up Giant, which explains that being different is a strength instead of a weakness, and the anti-bullying book for children My Favorite Giant.
Personal life and death
Peter Mayhew married Mary Angelique "Angie" Luker (née Cigainero; born 12 October 1954), a native of Texas, on 7 August 1999. The two lived in Boyd, Texas. Peter was the stepfather to Mary's 3 children: Katy, Sheril, and Kathleen. It was reported that his wife would head his namesake charity, the Peter Mayhew Foundation.
He became a naturalised citizen of the United States in 2005 at a ceremony in Arlington, Texas. 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.
Mayhew underwent double knee replacement surgery in 2013, having been wheelchair-bound for the previous two years and still largely reliant on it at the time of filming The Force Awakens. In January 2015, Mayhew was briefly hospitalised near his home in Texas due to a bout of pneumonia. In July 2018, Mayhew announced via Twitter that he had successfully undergone unspecified spinal surgery to improve his mobility, and was recovering.
Mayhew died of a heart attack on 30 April 2019, at his home in Boyd, Texas, three weeks before his 75th birthday. He was buried in Reno, Parker County, Texas, in Azleland Memorial Park and Mausoleum.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is dedicated to his memory.
|Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger||Minoton||Uncredited|||
|1980||The Empire Strikes Back||Chewbacca|||
|1982||Return of the Ewok||Video|||
|1983||Return of the Jedi|||
|1987||Star Tours||Short; uncredited|||
|2004||Comic Book: The Movie||Himself|||
|2005||Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith||Chewbacca|||
|2008||Yesterday Was a Lie||Dead Man|||
|2015||Star Wars: The Force Awakens||Chewbacca||Shared role with Joonas Suotamo||Final film role|
|1977||Donny & Marie||Chewbacca||Guest|
|1978||Star Wars Holiday Special||TV special|
|1980||The Muppet Show||Episode: "The Stars of Star Wars"|
|1981||Dark Towers||The Tall Knight|||
|1985||The Kenny Everett Television Show||Various||Episode #3.3|
|2004||Dragon Ball GT: A Hero's Legacy||Susha (Gettō)||Voice; English dub; TV special|
|2011||Star Wars: The Clone Wars||Chewbacca||Episode: "Wookiee Hunt"; Special Thanks|
|Glee||Episode: "Extraordinary Merry Christmas"|
|2012||Breaking In||Himself||Episode: "Episode XIII"|
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