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Peter Mayhew has passed away at 74, his family has confirmed.
The family statement said, “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 from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth. But, to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”
Mayhew’s death comes a before the international Star Wars day of May the Fourth.
While his role didn’t entail much acting, Mayhew’s towering 7ft 3 frame made him the perfect fit for the Chewbacca suit. The sound of Chewbacca’s iconic growl came from many different animals. Creator George Lucas suggested that bears might be a good sound and so sound designer Burtt collected the grunts and roars of bears, along with the sounds of walruses, lions, and many other animals.
By associating what sounds the animals made through stress, fear, and anger, he then created Chewbacca’s voice.
Speaking at a fan convention in 2013, Mayhew recalled the day he was cast as the furry giant. “In George’s office, he had a sofa. So I sat down on the sofa waiting for him to come in through the door.
“He and [producer] Gary Kurtz walked in. I did the natural thing, I stood up. Basically, that was the interview. He turned to Gary and said, ‘I think we’ve found him.'”
The British actor would appear in the original trilogy, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and reprised his iconic role in Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens before stepping down and handing the role to the basketball player-turned-actor Joonas Suotamo in The Last Jedi.
Following his casting, Suotamo played a glowing tribute to the legendary Star Wars actor.
“Chewbacca is one of the most iconic characters in the history of film, and Peter’s development and portrayal of this beloved Wookiee has spread so much joy around the globe.
“Peter’s guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey. I aspire to make Peter proud and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love.”