Star Wars: Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew dies aged 74 | Ents & Arts News

Peter Mayhew, the man who played the Star Wars character Chewbacca, has died at the age of 74, his family says.

Mayhew died in his north Texas home surrounded by family, according to the statement.

They did not confirm his illness but TMZ reported his death was due to a heart condition.

The London-born actor played Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return Of The Jedi (1983), Revenge Of The Sith (2005) and The Force Awakens (2015).

He had been working at a London hospital when he was cast in the part that would make him famous – director George Lucas had been looking for someone taller than Darth Vadar (who was 6ft 6in). Mayhew stood 7ft 3in.

Peter Mayhew attends the 40 Years of Star Wars panel during the 2017 Star Wars Celebration at Orange County Convention Center on April 13, 2017 in Orlando, Florida
To Peter Mayhew, the Star Wars family was more than a role in a film

Mayhew did not provide the voice for the Wookiee but he was credited for the body language and expressions that made the hairy alien a fan favourite.

“He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films from his knock kneed running, firing his bowcaster (a weapon in the films) from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth,” his family said.

“But to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.

“The relationships that began then grew into the friends and family that he would love for decades to come.

“As the films released and became more well-known, he had his eyes opened to the possibilities of what he could achieve with his role in the Star Wars universe.”

These possibilities included work with a number of charities and organisations – Wounded Warriors, Make A Wish and the 501st Legion.

He also established the Peter Mayhew Foundation which supports a wide range of needs – from families in crisis to food supplies for children in Venezuela.

Mayhew was born with a condition called gigantism and had double knee-replacement surgery in 2013. He spent much of his later years in a wheelchair.

He became a US citizen in 2005 and is survived by his wife Angie and three children.

Angie will take control of his foundation, where his “kindness, generosity and care will live on”, the family said.

Actors Peter Mayhew, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher speak onstage during Star Wars Celebration 2015 on April 16, 2015 in Anaheim, California
Peter Mayhew with co-stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in 2015

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, described Mayhew as the “gentlest of giants”.

On social media, he added: “A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile and a loyal friend who I loved dearly – I’m grateful for the memories we shared and I’m a better man for just having known him. Thanks Pete.”

A memorial service with friends and family will be held on 29 June and there will be a public memorial in early December in Los Angeles.

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