People have been clamoring for Star Wars news lately, but this time, it’s unwanted: Peter Mayhew, the actor responsible for bringing Chewbacca to life has passed away. A family spokesman has confirmed that the cause of death was a heart attack, according to ABC, after Mayhew’s later years had been plagued with health issues, including a spinal surgery last year to improve mobility.
Mayhew was not an actor by trade, at least not when George Lucas found him. The Star Wars creator discovered his future Wookie working as an orderly in a hospital, a job which Peter did not leave until after Return of the Jedi gave him and his family a sense of financial security. Plus, the fans have always dearly loved the Millennium Falcon’s co-pilot, which allowed Chewbacca to live large on the Star Wars festival/convention circuit.
Speaking of large, Mayhew was indeed as big as the films suggest; he stood at an imposing 7 feet 3 inches. But he was a gentle giant, using his star power to start the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which is a charity dedicated to helping those decimated by the life-ruining unforeseen circumstances the universe throws at people sometimes. Outside of his silver screen role, he really did make a huge impact on the world in other ways.
There was, of course, an immediate outpouring of support from fans, producers, and co-stars alike once news of his death broke, and folks can gather to mourn his passing this December at EmpireConLA, or consider donations towards Peter’s various charities.
Mayhew is survived by his wife, Angie, and his three children. He’ll always be remembered as that big fuzzball who knew how to rip an arm out of a socket if need be and Star Wars will never be quite the same without him around, that’s for sure.