An actor who was a big part of the “Star Wars” films going back to the first one in 1977 — even though fans rarely saw his face — has died. The AP reports that Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the original trilogy and a number of the later films, died Tuesday at his home in Texas.
No cause has been reported for Mayhew’s death. He was 74.
“The 7-foot-3 Mayhew played the beloved and furry Chewbacca, sidekick to Han Solo and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, in the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy,” the AP reports. “He went on to appear as the Wookiee in 2005′s ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and shared the part in 2015′s ‘The Force Awakens’ with actor Joonas Suotamo, who later took over the role.”
The report quotes a statement from Mayhew’s family saying: “He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films. But, to him, the ‘Star Wars’ family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”
The family statement notes that Mayhew developed lifelong friendships with the other “Star Wars” actors and spent three decades traveling the world to meet his fans.
“His family said he was active with various nonprofit groups and established the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which is devoted to alleviating disease, pain, suffering and the financial toll from traumatic events, its website says,” the AP reports, adding: “Born and raised in England, Mayhew had appeared in just one film and was working as a hospital orderly in London when George Lucas found him and cast him in 1977′s ‘Star Wars.’”
Here’s a brief interview clip posted in 2017 in which Mayhew talks about his first encounter with George Lucas and playing Chewbacca …