On April 30, 2019 Peter Mayhew passed away at 74 years old. The seven foot three inch actor most famously played Chewbacca, a two hundred year old Wookie warrior in the Star Wars movies.
Peter William Mayhew￼ (19 May 1944 – 30 April 2019) was an English-American actor, best known for portraying Chewbacca in the Star Wars film series. He played the character in all of his live-action appearances from the 1977 original to 2015’s The Force Awakens before his retirement from the role.
His very first acting role was a year earlier in 1975 when he played the Minaton huge half-man half-bull bronze creature in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.
An uncredited Peter Mayhew is the live suit actor stand-in for the stop-motion Minaton (the bronze mechanical minotaur), whose name is a portmanteau of “minotaur” and “automaton”. Before filming, Mayhew was working as a hospital attendant at King’s College Hospital in London.
Producer Charles H. Schneer saw Mayhew’s photo, in which he was literally standing above the crowd around him. Filmed in 1975, this was Mayhew’s very first role, right before playing his more famous role of Chewbacca in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), filmed in 1976. Both films were released in 1977 (but ironically, “Star Wars” was released three months ahead of “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger”).
Peter, unusually tall due to an overactive pituitary gland, was the tallest member of the Star Wars cast.
At 7ft 3in – the result of an overactive pituitary gland – Mayhew was the only person on the film set who towered over David Prowse, a 6ft 5in bodybuilder who was cast in the role of the evil overlord Darth Vader.
According to USA Today, the family statement said:
“He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” … “He also consulted on (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) in an attempt to teach his successor.”
Wikipedia says Peter died of a heart attack on 30 April 2019 at his home in Boyd, Texas.
According to the Daily Mail, a study of 1.6 million men found that those over 6’2″ were more likely to develop blood clots that lead to heart attacks.
In playing the original Wookie, Peter studied the movements of bears and gorillas. The huge success that Star Wars would become was unknown at the time he auditioned for the role.
Mayhew went on to audition for Star Wars. As an independent production from a young filmmaker, there was no particular reason to believe that the film would bring him any more fame than had the Sinbad picture. The audition process was famously loose—Mayhew and fellow tall man David Prowse were both considered for the roles of Chewbacca and Darth Vader. Legend has it that Prowse asked to play the villain under the assumption that his face and voice would be used. Mayhew, meanwhile, studied bears and gorillas at the zoo in order to develop movements for the Wookiee.
According to some sources the giant actor became a multimillionaire, while other sources cite his net worth at half a million.
Peter Mayhew was a British actor and comedian who had a net worth of $5 million at the time of his death in 2019.
I’d expect the larger amount for his Star Wars character being so well known. I’ve never thought of net (financial) worth as being worth mentioning but did find the discrepancy interesting and noticed it when “net worth” was one of the top search terms related to his name.
Here are a few Star Wars scenes to enjoy as we remember Peter.