Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in 'Star Wars,' dead at 74

Posted at 7:04 PM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 21:13:38-04

Peter Mayhew, the 7-foot-2-inch actor who originated the role of Chewbacca and would go on to play the galaxy's most lovable walking carpet in five "Star Wars" films, died April 30 in his Texas home. He was 74 years old.

Mayhew's family announced his death Thursday on Twitter, memorializing him as a kind, caring soul who understood his role in one of cinema's most iconic franchises gave him a unique opportunity to improve the lives of others. "As he realized over the years the impact he could have, he became heavily involved in ('Star Wars'-inspired charity group) the 501st Legion, Wounded Warriors, Make-a-Wish and other non-profit organizations," according to the family's statement.

According to Variety, Mayhew was discovered by producer Charles H. Schneer while working as a hospital attendant in London. He would play Chewbacca, the Wookiee best friend and co-pilot of heroic scoundrel Han Solo, in "A New Hope," "The Empire Strikes Back," "Return of the Jedi," "Revenge of the Sith" and "The Force Awakens."

"He was the gentlest of giants-A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile & a loyal friend who I loved dearly-I'm grateful for the memories we shared & I'm a better man for just having known him," co-star Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, wrote Thursday on Twitter.

Mayhew struggled with health problems later in life, according to his family. He received a double knee replacement surgery in 2013 and tweeted in July 2018 — shortly after appearing in a wheelchair at the premiere of "Solo: A Star Wars" story — he had undergone a spinal surgery to improve his mobility.