Peter Mayhew was a British actor who played the role of Chewbacca in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, as well as the 2005 prequel installment “Revenge of the Sith”. Peter Mayhew was cast as Chewbacca because of his immense height. The actor stood 7’3″ tall in his prime. Sadly, the “Star Wars” actor passed in 2019, at the age of 74. What was his cause of death? Here’s what you need to know about the health conditions and ultimate cause of death for this beloved “Star Wars” actor.
Peter Mayhew’s Cause of Death Has Been Reported As a Heart Attack
The Guardian‘s obituary for Peter Mayhew lists a heart attack as his cause of death. IMDB lists Mayhew’s place of birth as London, in 1944. Later in life, however, the “Star Wars” actor moved to the United States, and made the state of Texas his home. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that Mayhew became a U.S. citizen in 2005. The ceremony took place in Texas, at the Arlington Convention Center.
The Texan funeral home obituary for Peter Mayhew did not list a more specific cause of death, but noted the actor’s ability to overcome the medical odds. “He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the obituary read. “He also consulted on The Last Jedi in an attempt to teach his successor.” The actor had moved to Texas in the years prior to his death. He passed away at his home in North Texas.
Peter Mayhew’s most iconic role was certainly Chewbacca. However, what many “Star Wars” fans don’t know is that Mayhew played the character of Chewbacca several times, in productions outside of the “Star Wars” universe. According to his IMDB page, Mayhew is credited with playing Chewbacca in everything from a Christmas episode of the musical television series “Glee” to an appearance on the “Donny and Marie” variety show of the 1970s.
Mayhew’s other acting roles included “The Tall Knight” on the 1980s TV series “Dark Towers“, as well as the uncredited role of the Minoton in 1977’s “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger”, which hit theaters the same year as “Star Wars”. Ray Harryhausen once noted on Twitter that it was the role of the Minoton that brought Mayhew to the attention of “Star Wars” producers.
Peter Mayhew Had Undergone Surgery About 1 Year Prior to His Death
At the time of his passing, Heavy reported that Mayhew had undergone spinal surgery in the summer of 2018, roughly a year before his passing on April 30, 2019. The purpose of the surgery was to improve his mobility, according to his Twitter. It appears based on the tweet from Mayhew above that he had to re-schedule a Comic-Con appearance in London due to that surgery.
AP had reported in 2013 that Mayhew was undergoing a double knee replacement surgery. The Washington Post reported that, in the years prior to Mayhew’s death, “the 7-foot-3 actor had height-related physical disorders, including respiratory and mobility problems. He often had to use scooters and wheelchairs to get around.”
Prior to his death, Mayhew was active in medical charity work, going so far as to start his own foundation. That organization, the Peter Mayhew Foundation, made headlines in 2017 after Mayhew’s work helped to save the life of a San Antonio woman who had cystic fibrosis, and was in desperate need of a lung transplant. According to Texan news outlet KENS 5, patient Kathlyn Chassey was told she had ten days to live before the foundation stepped in. “When doctors insisted Kathlyn was too sick for her transplant, they started cold-calling more doctors until a surgeon at UCLA offered to help”, KENS 5 reported.
Peter Mayhew Had Several Pre-Existing Health Conditions, Including Marfan Syndrome
Various press outlets have reported on Mayhew’s health and pre-existing medical conditions over the years, with the AP citing gigantism as the underlying cause for Mayhew’s staggering height. An article in Texas Monthly delved into Mayhew’s childhood health history, noting that the actor was diagnosed with gigantism at only eight years of age. Both the BBC and Empire magazine have reported that Peter Mayhew also suffered from Marfan Syndrome. A rare condition, Marfan Syndrome affects connective tissues in the body. According to the CDC, the genetic disease affects 1 in 5,000 people, with common complications including heart disease or aortic aneurysm.
Sadly, Mayhew is not the only member of the original “Star Wars” trilogy who has passed away. Given that nearly 45 years have elapsed since “A New Hope” hit theaters in 1977, it’s not surprising that many of the original cast and crew have passed away, though many prominent names are still with us. Tragically, some “Star Wars” actors passed due to complications from COVID-19, while others passed from heart attacks or various types of cancer.