Peter Mayhew – Farewell to the First Wookie
When I was just 8 years old, my Dad took me to see a little-known film called Star Wars. I was mesmerised by its amazing dynamic awesomeness. All the characters were so full of life and natural, and none so natural than a 7 foot tall big hairy two legged humanoid creature called Chewbacca. It was a terrifying creature that had human qualities and I felt at ease with almost immediately.
Peter Mayhew was born in Barnes Surrey in England on May 19th 1944 and at the age of around 32 he went for an audition at Elstree studios, his day job at the time was working as an orderly in the radiology department at King’s College Hospital in London. George Lucas immediately gave him the part after he stood up to greet George. Although Peter Mayhew wasn’t the first choice, George Lucas was interested in giving the part to a 6 foot 6 inch bodybuilder called David Prowse but we all know what part he went on to portray. And at & foot 3 Inches, Peter Mayhew stood shoulders above David Prowse. Peter Mayhew’s height was a product of Marfan Syndrome.
Peter Mayhew went on to portray Chewbacca in all three of the original Star Wars Trilogy, and in Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Then, due to health reasons, he had to retire from playing Chewbacca but was noted in the credits of Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a Chewbacca Consultant when Finnish born Joonas Suatamo took over.
Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca outside of Star Wars over the years in commercials and visiting sick children in hospital. He was dressed as Chewbacca when he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from MTV at the MTV Film Awards in 1997.
His Co-Stars all loved him, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill all posted on Social Media their fondness and love for Peter Mayhew. And I have a Facebook friend who lived near him and said that he often saw him with his wife and family walking through the shopping malls and happily stopping to sign autographs and pose for pictures.
Outside of Star Wars, he didn’t make too much in the way of films or appearances. Regardless of that, I hope that when he passed away, he knew how adored he was throughout the World. His health problems kept him wheelchair bound for his later years, a double knee replacement in 2013, in 2018 he had spinal surgery to improve his mobility.
Peter Mayhew passed away due to a heart attack at his home in Boyd, Texas on 30th April 2019, he was 74.
The kid in me just wants to go Fllllerrggggggg Gllllrrrrarrrrr frwooooooo (I think that is thank you in Wookie).
I will leave you with this last comment from an interview with Peter Mayhew. After becoming a naturalised citizen of the United States in 2005 he joked that he didn’t get a medal at this ceremony either (Chewie didn’t get a medal at the end of Star Wars IV: A New Hope whereas Han Solo and Luke Skywalker did) although Chewie did get the last line of the film when he roars.