How Did Peter Mayhew Die? New Details On The Death Of The Actor Who Played Chewbacca In 'Star Wars'

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How Did Peter Mayhew Die? New Details On The Death Of Actor Who Played Chewbacca In 'Star Wars'

With Star Wars Day on May 4th, fans of the franchise are preparing to celebrate all the nerdy goodness. Unfortunately, there is a feeling of sadness among fans because the Star Wars family lost another one of its characters yesterday.

Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca since the original Star Wars trilogy in the 1970s and 1980s, episode three of the prequels, and also appeared in The Force Awakens, passed away at age 74 in his home, surrounded by his family members. His death occurred almost three years after the passing of national treasure Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia.

But how did Peter Mayhew die? According to a family spokesperson, Mayhew died of a heart attack on April 30th.

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And though he played a gentle giant on-screen, behind the costume, he was also a wonderful person, and fans and cast members alike were quick to take to social media and make tributes.

Billie Lourde, Fisher’s daughter, posted a series of throwback photos on Instagram, reminding everyone how lucky we were to have both actors as part of our movie experience.

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker and appeared regularly alongside Mayhew on-screen, posted a very sweet tribute on Twitter.

He also described Mayhew as “the gentlest of giants,” and said, “He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience... What was so remarkable about him was his spirit and his kindness and his gentleness was so close to what a Wookiee is. He just radiated happiness and warmth. He was always up for a laugh and we just hit it off immediately and stayed friends for over 40 years."

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Even George Lucas commented, “Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature... and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend and I’m saddened by his passing.”

Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo, also remembered his old friend, saying, “Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character. These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca.”

Mayhew didn’t always intend to be an actor. In fact, when George Lucas cast him in the original 1977 film, Mayhew was working as an orderly in a hospital. Lucas wanted a tall actor to play Chewbacca, and originally had David Prowse, who played Darth Vader (not the voice), in the role.

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But Prowse wanted to play Darth Vader, allowing Lucas to use Mayhew instead, based on height alone. Mayhew stood at 7’3” and though he didn’t provide the vocals, he used mannerisms, body language, and eye movement.

Aside from his work on Star Wars, Mayhew was also a father and husband. He is survived by his wife, Angie, and his three children. But he also had another role: philanthropist. Mayhew was involved with Wounded Warriors, Make-a-Wish, and created the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which “helped families and individuals affected by ‘crisis situations’,” like donating emergency supplies to Venezuela.

A memorial for Mayhew’s friends and family will be held on June 29th, but there will be a public memorial at EmpireConLA, between December 6-8.

Rest easy, Chewy.

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.