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Peter Mayhew
Peter Mayhew 2015.jpg
Mayhew at the 2015 Florida Supercon
Peter William Mayhew

(1944-05-19)19 May 1944
Barnes, Surrey, England
Died 30 April 2019(2019-04-30) (aged 74)
Resting place Azleland Memorial Park and Mausoleum Reno, Texas, US
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Occupation Actor
Years active 1976–2016
Known for Playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars franchise
Height 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m)
Mary Cigainero
(m. 1999)

Peter William Mayhew (19 May 1944 – 30 April 2019) was a British-American actor. He was 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.

Early life

Peter Mayhew was born on 19 May 1944, in Barnes, Surrey. At the age of 8, he was diagnosed with gigantism. Some news outlets have mistakenly reported that he either "[did] not have gigantism" or that he had Marfan syndrome. His peak height was 7 feet 3 inches (2.21 m).


Early work

Mayhew gained his first acting job when the producers of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) discovered him from a photograph in a newspaper article about men with large feet, and cast him in the role of the Minoton.

King's Chebacca
Mayhew in departmental photo of the radiology department, King's College Hospital, London, 1972
Mayhew at the 2008 Big Apple Con sitting in front of an image of Chewbacca

Star Wars

When casting the original Star Wars (1977), director George Lucas needed a tall actor who could fit the role of the hairy alien Chewbacca. He originally had in mind 6-foot-6-inch (1.98 m) bodybuilder David Prowse, but Prowse chose to play Darth Vader. This led Lucas to cast Mayhew, who was working as an orderly in the A & E Dept Mayday University Hospital, Thornton Heath, Croydon. Surrey. He became aware of a casting call for Star Wars which was filming at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. The 7-foot-3-inch (2.21 m) tall actor was immediately cast as Chewbacca after he stood up to greet Lucas. Mayhew continued working as an orderly, at Mayday Hospital (now Croydon University Hospital), in between filming the original Star Wars trilogy.

Mayhew modelled his performance of Chewbacca after researching the behaviour of bears, monkeys and gorillas he saw at London Zoo. Lucas said Mayhew was "the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature and I learnt to always let him win". The character did not have any lines, the sounds he made being derived from sound recordings of animal noises.

Mayhew played Chewbacca in five Star Wars films: the original trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He played the role in the 1978 television film Star Wars Holiday Special and in a 1980 appearance on The Muppet Show. He also recorded dialogue for the Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 3 finale episode "Wookiee Hunt".

Mayhew played the role in commercials and hospital appearances for sick children, and made numerous appearances as Chewbacca outside the Star Wars films. Mayhew, appearing as Chewbacca, was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Film Awards 1997.

He also made other media appearances outside of playing Chewbacca. He appeared on NBC's Identity, where his identity was based on the fact that he played Chewbacca and was a frequent guest in the early days of Slice of SciFi.

While Mayhew portrayed Chewbacca in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was not in Star Wars: The Last Jedi but was listed in the credits as "Chewbacca Consultant". Mayhew retired from playing Chewbacca due to health issues. Joonas Suotamo shared the portrayal of Chewbacca with Mayhew in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and then completely replaced him in subsequent Star Wars films.

Other work

Outside Star Wars, Mayhew appeared in the 1978 horror film Terror, directed by Norman J. Warren. In the English version of Dragon Ball GT: A Hero's Legacy, he provided the voice for Susha. He also appeared in Yesterday Was a Lie.


Mayhew wrote two books for younger audiences: Growing Up Giant, which explains that being different is a strength instead of a weakness, and the anti-bullying book for children My Favorite Giant.

Personal life and death

Peter Mayhew married Mary Angelique "Angie" Luker (née Cigainero), a native of Texas, in 1999. The two lived in Boyd, Texas. Peter was the stepfather to Mary's three children. It was reported that his wife would head his namesake charity, the Peter Mayhew Foundation.

Mayhew became a naturalised citizen of the United States in 2005 at a ceremony in Arlington, Texas. In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he joked that he did not get a medal at this ceremony either, a reference to the closing scene in Star Wars during which Luke Skywalker and Han Solo get medals, but Chewbacca does not. Mayhew noted in an MTV interview that although Chewbacca does not get a medal in the film, he does have the last line of dialogue, when he roars.

Mayhew underwent double knee replacement surgery in 2013, having been a full-time wheelchair user for the previous two years and still largely reliant on it at the time of filming The Force Awakens. In July 2018, Mayhew announced via Twitter that he had successfully undergone unspecified spinal surgery to improve his mobility, and was recovering.

Mayhew died of a heart attack on 30 April 2019, at his home in Boyd, Texas, three weeks before his 75th birthday. He was buried in Reno, Parker County, Texas, in Azleland Memorial Park and Mausoleum.



Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1977 Star Wars Chewbacca
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger Minoton Uncredited
1978 Terror The Mechanic
1980 The Empire Strikes Back Chewbacca
1982 Return of the Ewok Video
1983 Return of the Jedi
1987 Star Tours Short; uncredited
2004 Comic Book: The Movie Himself
2005 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith Chewbacca
2008 Yesterday Was a Lie Dead Man
2009 Fanboys Himself Uncredited
2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Chewbacca Shared role with Joonas Suotamo Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1977 Donny & Marie Chewbacca Guest
1978 Star Wars Holiday Special TV special
1979 Hazell Episode "Hazell and the Big Sleep"
1980 The Muppet Show Chewbacca Episode: "The Stars of Star Wars"
1981 Dark Towers The Tall Knight
1985 The Kenny Everett Television Show Various Episode #3.3
2004 Dragon Ball GT: A Hero's Legacy Susha (Gettō) Voice; English dub; TV special
2011 Star Wars: The Clone Wars Chewbacca Episode: "Wookiee Hunt"; Special Thanks
Glee Episode: "Extraordinary Merry Christmas"
2012 Breaking In Himself Episode: "Episode XIII"

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Peter Mayhew para niños

  • List of tallest people
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