Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in the original Star Wars trilogy, episode three of the prequels and the New Trilogy, passed away Tuesday, April 30, at the age of 74. He is survived by his wife Angelique and his three children.
“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,” his family said in a statement. “But to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more than a role in a film.”
Angelique Mayhew, who often goes by Angie, will be taking over the Peter Mayhew Foundation following the death of her husband. Here’s what you need to know about Angie:
1. Angie’s Maiden Name is Luker & She’s Been Married to Mayhew Since 1999
Angie Mayhew was born as Angelique Luker. She has been married to Mayhew since August 7, 1999, and the couple lived together in Boyd, Texas for years leading up to Mayhew’s death.
According to WTKR, Mayhew and Angie share three children together. The family announced a memorial service for the late actor, which will be held for family and friends on June 29, as well as a memorial that will be set up for fans in early December in Los Angeles.
2. She & Mayhew Invited a Star Wars Superfan’s Widow to Their Home Over The Holidays in 2015
Following the death of Star Wars superfan Daniel Fleetwood, Mayhew and Angie invited Daniel’s widow Ashley to spend the holidays at their Texas estate, so she wouldn’t have to be alone over Christmas.
Daniel had lost his three-year battle with spindle cell carcinoma in November, 2015, just four days after Disney bosses granted his dying wish to see the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” movie before its big release.
According to the Toronto Sun, Mayhew and Angie personally reached out to Daniel in his final days, and then invited Ashley to join his family celebrations over Christmas, along with a number of other devotees from Star Wars fan club “The Star Garrison of the 501st Legion,” whose members helped to organise the visit.
3. The Mayhew Family Has Suggested Donations to the Peter Mayhew Foundation in Lieu of Flowers
In lieu of gifts or flowers, Mayhew’s family has asked friends, family, and fans to consider donating to Mayhew’s organization – the Peter Mayhew Foundation. The foundation’s website describes the organization as “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit devoted to the alleviation of disease, pain, suffering, and the financial toll brought on by life’s traumatic events. By providing its available resources directly to deserving children and adults in need, we assist numerous charitable organizations in order to promote and boost their effectiveness and provide support where needed.”
Following Mayhew’s death, Angie will take over the day-to-day operations and running of the foundation, according to WTKR.
4. Mayhew’s Cause of Death is Unclear at This Time
Mayhew’s cause of death was not immediately announced to the public, although his family did say that he died in his Texas home, surrounded by his loved ones. According to Buzzfeed, the actor had mobility issues in recent years and in 2018 underwent spinal surgery. He was wheelchair-bound toward the end of his life.
Mayhew was originally discovered by producer Charles H. Schneer while working as a hospital attendant in London, and cast in Ray Harryhausen’s “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger,” before he landed his role as Chewbacca.
5. He Was Cast as Chewbacca Due to His Height & Stood at 7’3″ at His Tallest
When casting for his first Star Wars film, creator George Lucas was looking for a tall actor who could fit the role (and size) of Chewbacca. He was originally interested in David Prowse, but instead cast Prowse as Darth Vader. While Lucas continued looking for the right fit for Chewbacca, he came across Mayhew, who was an orderly at King’s College Hospital in London and stands at 7’3″. All it took was for Mayhew to stand up, and Lucas was given the role.
Although he did not voice Chewbacca’s infamous sound, he was credited with giving life to Chewbacca through his expressive eyes and signature movements. Mayhew played the role of Chewbacca in five Star Wars films, before he retired in 2015.
“He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” a family statement said. “He also consulted on The Last Jedi in an attempt to teach his successor.”