How to even start this article. On this sad day we have to say goodbye to not only one of the most iconic characters of the past few decades but an amazing actor, husband and friend to many. Peter Mayhew was truly a one of a kind actor and when it came to Star Wars clearly the only person suited to play the iconic character that is Chewbacca. So let’s take a closer look at the legacy that Peter Mayhew left behind and how inspirational he was to so many others.
When Peter Mayhew was young it was early on pretty clear that his height really was something quite spectacular. While we don’t know much about his early life we did get a slightly more personal look into what it must have been like growing up so tall in an anti-bullying book he published in 2011 called ‘My Favourite Giant’. While aimed at children it shows the hardship I am sure he must have experienced growing up due to being different. I think this is something that made Peter someone many people could relate to, he physically embodied what it was like to be different and not fit in. The book encourages the reader to think a bit more outside of the box and have an open mind when meeting new people. He also wrote a more personal book called ‘Growing up Giant’ which tells the story of a young giant growing up and trying to find his way in the world. Both books are graphic novels and include beautiful drawings alongside the strong message both portray. Peter Mayhew had one acting job before he got the part of Chewbacca in the movie ‘Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger’ where he portrayed a minotaur. Then in 1977 auditions were held for the upcoming and at the time unknown franchise called Star Wars. Apparently all it took for Peter to get the job was to stand up in the audition. At this point he was an impressive 2.21m and hence was perfect for the role. While being so tall came with a lot of medical difficulties, Peter had finally found a way to use this to his advantage. I think this is something he tries to portray in the two books too. Use the things you have to your advantage and make the best out of them. Being the same as everyone else is boring, why not be different and embrace it.
The success that was the Star Wars franchise brought many watching eyes with it and Peter became an immediate phenomenon some might say. The tall actor always stood out but not only for his height but also his friendliness and compassion with others. He starred in the complete original trilogy and also reprised his role in the prequels trilogy. Peter also did some work on some SW projects outside the main movies like the Clone Wars where he recorded dialogue for the season 3 finale called ‘Wookiee Hunt’. He also appeared dressed as Chewbacca to visit children and was one of the main people to show up to many SW conventions. He was always happy to see fans dressed up as Chewie and engaged in conversation with many fans, artists etc. He was also honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Film Awards 1977.
Due to medical difficulties Peter was not able to portray Chewie on his own in The Force Awakens and hence shared the role with Joonas Suotamo. In the Last Jedi and Solo he was accredit as being the consultant and his condition was not stable enough to portray the character. However he still attended many events and was always in contact with fans through his twitter. It is safe to say that Chewie was one of the most beloved characters of the entire franchise. He was seen as one big, fuzzy, huggable “walking carpet”. Starring in all the movies he is one of the only actors/characters to have made it throughout the entirety of the Star Wars story, making Chewie one of the most knowledgeable characters in the whole series!
And so with that it now comes to the time where we have to say goodbye to one our favourites. We will always remember him for the laughter and joy he brought to the conventions and the movies. Please share your favourite Chewie/Peter moments in the comments below and let’s all celebrate the amazing moments we got to share with him.
May 19 1944 – April 30 2019