The man behind one of the most beloved ‘Star Wars’ characters sadly passed away on April 30. His family revealed how fans of Chewbacca’s actor can honor Peter Mayhew in an upcoming memorial.
UPDATE, 5/2/19 (9:20 p.m. ET): Carrie Fisher passed away in Dec. 2016, but Billie Lourd reflected on both her deceased mother and Peter Mayhew in throwback photos posted to Instagram.
UPDATE, 5/2/19 (8:20 p.m. ET): Star Wars director George Lucas, who cast Peter Mayhew to play Chewbacca, provided the following statement to HollywoodLife after news of the actor’s death broke on May 2: “Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature…and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend and I’m saddened by his passing.”
Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo (Chewie’s co-pilot) also provided the following commemorative statement: “Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character. These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca.” More co-stars have honored Peter in the wake of his death in these tributes.
ORIGINAL STORY: Peter Mayhew passed away at the age of 74 on Tuesday evening, April 30, his family announced in a press statement four days later. The Star Wars actor was surrounded by family members in his North Texas home on the night of his passing, and his cause of death remains unclear. Peter was in Chewbacca’s suit since the original Star Wars trilogy — Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). He returned to put on the Wookie mask in the new millennium for Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) and in the New Trilogy film, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015). Peter’s death was announced on the same day California legislature voted to make May 4 the official “Star Wars Day.”
A memorial for Peter’s friends and family will be held on June 29, but a public memorial (which his family will also attend) with personal effects and “collection” will be open to fans at EmpireConLA. The specific date has yet to be released, but the convention runs between Dec. 6 and 8. Peter leaves behind a wife, Angie, and his three children.
Peter was working as an orderly in King’s College Hospital, London when director George Lucas, 74, tapped him for his 1977 film. His height fit the bill for Han Solo’s hairy co-pilot — Peter was 7’3″ at his tallest — and devoted his career to Star Wars from Return of the Jedi onwards. Although Peter didn’t provide the vocals for the Shyriiwook language, his expressive eyes and mannerism still shaped the Chewbacca we love and know today.
The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away. He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home. pic.twitter.com/YZ5VLyuK0u
— Peter Mayhew Foundation (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 2019
Peter’s family not only touched on his Star Wars legacy, but his philanthropic endeavors as well. In addition to his involvement with non-profits like Wounded Warriors and Make-a-Wish, he also established the Peter Mayhew Foundation which helped families and individuals affected by “crisis situations” — for example, his foundation donated emergency supplies like baby formula and diapers to Venezuela that were distributed through hospitals.
Peter passed on the baton to Joonas Suotamo, 32, to take on Chewbacca’s role in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) and the forthcoming installment, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. May the force be with you, Peter.