Actor Peter Mayhew Dies, Aged 74

Peter Mayhew

by James White |
Published on

Peter Mayhew, the man most famously behind the mask and costume bringing Star Wars favourite Chewbacca to life on screen, has died. He was 74.

Born in Surrey in 1944, Mayhew scored his first film role not in that galaxy far, far away, but as the Minoton, a Minotaur-styled robotic creature in Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger. Yet it was his instant impact as the shaggy, grumpy, loveable Chewbacca that saw him rocket into pop cultural history.

Swapping work as a hospital orderly for the opportunity to play Chewie when Star Wars writer/director George Lucas needed someone of his stature (Mayhew was 7 feet 3 inches at his tallest) to fill the wookiee costume, he made the role his own. Across five films, Mayhew helped – along with sound designer Ben Burtt – define the look and feel of Chewbacca, filling the character's expressive qualities and making him one of the most iconic elements of the entire franchise. Despite health issues, he returned to play Chewbacca in 2015's The Force Awakens before handing over the role to Joonas Suotamo.


Off screen, the films (and the Wookiee) rarely had a more passionate or entertaining champion, Mayhew spending years travelling to conventions all over the world and making lifelong friends with fellow castmembers. He also became involved in several charitable organisations, and launched his own, the Peter Mayhew Foundation to support those in crisis. For those wishing to donate, head here.

Mayhew died on Tuesday evening at his North Texas home and is survived by his wife, Angie and their three children.

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