Peter Mayhew at the 2015 Florida SuperCon.
Peter William Mayhew
May 19, 1944
|Died||April 30, 2019 (aged 74)|
Boyd, Texas, U.S.
|Resting place||Azleland Memorial Park and Mausoleum|
Reno, Texas, U.S.
|Known for||Playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars franchise|
|Height||7 ft 2 in (2.18 m)|
Mary Angelique Cigainero
(m. 1999; his death 2019)
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 May 19, 1944 in Barnes, Surrey. His 7'3" height was a product of Marfan syndrome, not gigantism; "I don't have the big head", Mayhew said when asked about the cause of his height. His peak height was 7 feet 3 inches (2.21 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 minotaur.
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 radiology department of King's College Hospital, London, 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 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 was additionally honoured at the release of the new PlayStation Portable where he dressed as Chewbacca and held up the new PSP slim version.
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 audience: 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.
Peter Mayhew married Mary Angelique "Angie" Luker (nee Cigainero; born October 12, 1954), a native of Texas, on August 7, 1999. The two lived in Boyd, Texas, and together they had three children: Katy, Sheryl, 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 April 30, 2019, at his home in Boyd, Texas. He was buried in Reno, Parker County, Texas, in Azleland Memorial Park and Mausoleum, and he was just weeks from his 75th Birthday. His family is reportedly planning for private and public memorials for Mayhew to take place in June 2019 with another to take place in December 2019 at EmpireCon LA.
The Rise of Skywalker will dedicated to him.
|Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger||Minotaur||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 (Gett?)||Voice; English dub, TV Special|
|2011||Star Wars: The Clone Wars||Chewbacca||Voice; Episode: Wookiee Hunt|
|Glee||Episode: Extraordinary Merry Christmas|