Chewbacca Actor Peter Mayhew Passes Away At 74

Chewbacca Han Solo

It’s a sad day for Star Wars fans everywhere, as the news has just emerged that original Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew has passed away at the age of 74.

The announcement was made by the actor’s official Twitter account, which shared the following message:

“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.”

Mayhew first played the beloved Wookiee in 1977’s A New Hope, and reprised the role for all of Chewbaccca’s live-action appearances up to and including The Force Awakens. In a statement released by Mayhew’s family, it’s said that the star “fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall” for his return in J.J. Abrams’ 2015 film. For 2017’s The Last Jedi, the role passed to Finnish-born basketball player turned-actor Joonas Suotamo, though Mayhew stayed on in a consulting capacity.

Mayhew landed his first acting job in 1976 as a minotaur in the Ray Harryhausen fantasy Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. However, the star was still working as an orderly in a London hospital when he was discovered by George Lucas, who cast Mayhew as Chewie based on his towering physique. At peak height, he was 7 feet 3 inches.

Beyond the Star Wars films, Mayhew has guested on a variety of TV shows in the role of Chewbacca, including The Muppet Show, and most recently, Glee. Back in 2017, Suotamo offered the following kind words about his predecessor via Instagram:

“Chewbacca is one of the most iconic characters in the history of film, and Peter’s development and portrayal of this beloved Wookie has spread so much joy around the globe. Peter’s guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey. I aspire to make Peter proud and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love.”

Mayhew is survived by his wife Angie and three children. There will be a private memorial service on June 29th, and in early December, there will be a gathering for fans at EmpireConLA.