Peter Mayhew, the legendary actor who made the role of Chewbacca famous in the original Star Wars trilogy and in later films, has died at the age of 74. Variety reported on Thursday that Mayhew died two days earlier, which was confirmed by a statement his family had posted to his official Twitter account.
Mayhew played Chewbacca, a 200-year-old Wookiee who was a foil to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo in a number of Star Wars films over the years. Variety‘s initial report on his death includes some of his career highlights, as well as how he was discovered:
He was discovered by producer Charles H. Schneer while working as a hospital attendant in London, and cast in Ray Harryhausen’s “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.” The next year, he was cast as Chewbacca, the 200-year-old Wookiee.
Mayhew went on to appear in “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi,” “Revenge of the Sith,” “The Force Awakens” and “The Star Wars Holiday Special.” He was active on the “Star Wars” convention circuit and wrote two books, “Growing Up Giant” and “My Favorite Giant.”
His height was not due to gigantism, but he measured 7 feet 3 inches at his highest. George Lucas originally had his eye on bodybuilder David Prowse, but Prowse decided to play Darth Vader instead and Lucas went with the even taller Mayhew.
Joonas Suotama, who has played the role of Chewbacca in the most recent Star Wars films, spoke about Mayhew’s legacy and the impact he’d had on the character he now plays at Star Wars Celebration Chicago last month during a panel that revealed the title of, and the first trailer for, the latest film.
According to Variety, a memorial service for family and friends will happen on June 29th, with a memorial service for fans set to take place at EmpireCon in Los Angeles.