He's the tallest fuzz ball in the galaxy that's far far away, he's Chewbacca. He's Chewie. He's a giant walking carpet. He's the late, great Peter Mayhew.
However you prefer to refer to him, everyone loves Han Solo's most loyal friend, and the actor who plays the big goof was loved by millions of Star Wars fans around the world.
Here are a few facts and figures about Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew, and how Pete got to play the role of a lifetime.
- Peter Mayhew was born on the 19th of May, 1944, in Barnes, Surrey, England.
- Muscle man David Prowse was considered to play Chewbacca but eventually get got to play Darth Vader as he wanted to play a villain. This meant George Lucas had to search for a suitable replacement and the rest is history for Peter. A movie producer saw the article and cast him as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was later working on the Wookie costume with Stuart Freeborn and suggested to the producers that they screen-test Mayhew.
- Legend has it that when Peter Mayhew stood up to meet Lucas for the first time, Lucas knew that because of his great height, he would be a great Chewie.
- Chewbacca has appeared in eight live-action Star Wars movies, with the exceptions being The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Rogue One.
- Mayhew's height was a whopping 7′ 3″.
- “I think I just ran over a Wookiee on the expressway.” This was an ad-libbed line that came from the George Lucas movie THX-1138. It stuck with Lucas and it became Chewbacca's species.
- Peter suffered from a condition called Marfan Syndrome – a multi-systemic genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue. It's generally associated with people who are tall and thin, with long arms, legs, fingers, and toes.
- Chewbacca's distinctive growl is an amalgam of animal noises. Ben Burtt created it by mixing noises from walruses, bears, tigers, camels, and badgers.
- In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old. This is a handy fact that allowed the character to make a brief appearance in Revenge of the Sith. In the latter movie, he defends his home planet Kasshyyk with his army and the help of Yoda.
- Chewbacca's costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair.
- They killed Chewbacca in the books by dropping a moon on his head, but now that the books are no longer canon Chewbacca lives!
- Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female. However, Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr that was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Yes, the George R.R. Martin that went on to write the Game of Thrones novels.
- Before he got famous doing Star Wars, Peter Mayhew was employed as a deputy head porter in a London hospital.
- Peter Mayhew has issues with his knees and would have struggled with the rigors of film Chewie's part in The Force Awakens. So the role was double-teamed with fellow giant, Joonas Suotamo. The quick way to tell which actor is doing what is that if Chewbacca is sitting, it's probably Peter and if it's an action shot, it's more than likely to be Joonas.
- Given his health issues, Peter retired from Star Wars filming before his sad passing. Suotamo played Chewie in The Last Jedi and the Han Solo prequel movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story.
- Peter died of a heart attack on the 30th of April, 2019, aged 74. May he rest in peace.