'Star Wars' Cast & Crew Reactions To Peter Mayhew's Death Show Just How Much He Meant To The Galaxy
Peter Mayhew, he actor who originated the beloved role of the Wookiee Chewbacca in the Star Wars franchise had died. Following his family's May 2 announcement on Twitter about his passing, members of the Star Wars cast reacted to Mayhew's death, sharing tributes to the actor on social media. Fans are also mourning the performer, who The New York Times reported died of a heart attack at his home in Texas at the age of 74 on April 30. And these messages from the cast and crew of Star Wars, including original co-stars Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill, show how much Mayhew meant to the people he worked with.
The most well-known Wookiee in all the universe was first introduced to the world back in George Lucas' 1977 film Star Wars: A New Hope. As The Hollywood Reporter noted, Lucas cast the then-hospital orderly as Han Solo's copilot due to his 7-foot-three height, since the filmmaker needed someone who was taller than Darth Vader body actor David Prowse. After A New Hope, Mayhew went on to play Chewbacca in the rest of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, one of the prequels, Revenge of the Sith, and the first film of the new trilogy, The Force Awakens. Mayhew's last performance as the Wookiee was in the 2015 film, with his family sharing in their statement, "He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
The Star Wars website noted that the British-born actor was a consultant for The Clone Wars animated series and acted as a mentor to Joonas Suotamo, who has assumed the role of Chewbacca since The Force Awakens. And based on these tributes from the cast and crew who knew him, Mayhew's presence in real-life was just as toweringly warm as his character.
Although her character Leia is still alive in the movies, Carrie Fisher died in 2016. So it was her daughter, and fellow Star Wars actor, Billie Lourd who recognized Mayhew's passing with some sweet throwback photos.
As Mayhew discussed with Entertainment Weekly back in 2015, Suotamo served as a double for him on The Force Awakens due to the original actor's ailing health. Suotamo officially took over the role in The Last Jedi, the prequel Solo, and the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker and noted in his statement how Mayhew's "warm welcome" helped make the "daunting task" of taking on this gigantic role easier.
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Another newer addition to the Star Wars universe, Finn actor John Boyega, had the opportunity to work with Mayhew on The Force Awakens. He wrote on Instagram, "The happiness you brought to my life through Chewbacca was always enough but to meet you and experience your amazing heart was even better."
From these tributes, it's clear that Mayhew made a positive impact throughout his nearly 40 years as Chewbacca, and he'll be missed by those who knew him as well as those who simply had the pleasure of watching him Wookiee roar onscreen.