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Saying Goodbye to Peter Mayhew, the Heart Behind Chewbacca

Rest in peace, Chewie.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actor Peter Mayhew attends the World Premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Yesterday, the Star Wars family lost one of its founding members. Peter Mayhew, the actor who brought Chewbacca to life throughout the Star Wars movies (until Joonas Suotamo took over in The Last Jedi), passed away on April 30. His family released the news to the public last night.

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Chewbacca is a vastly underrated character, mostly do to Mayhew’s incredible work. Chewie is compassionate, ferocious, and brave. While the human characters of the original and sequel trilogies tend to take precedence when we talk about iconic Star Wars characters, but Chewbacca has been part of the soul of the franchise since day one, and we would not love him as much if Mayhew hadn’t crafted such amazing work.

Mayhew himself was also an immensely kind man who loved his fans and his costars. He founded the Peter Mayhew Foundation, a non-profit that, as defined by the website, is “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.”

Mayhew’s costars took to Twitter or released statements about his passing, all expressing profound sorrow and also profound gladness that they knew him.

But perhaps the most important response came from Harrison Ford, Mayhew’s copilot. Ford released a statement to the Hollywood Reporter shortly after Mayhew’s passing was announced, 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. We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him. He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.”

Mayhew’s family, still running Mayhew’s Twitter as a memorial, had a simple yet powerful response.

To mourn the death of such a beloved icon is hard. I can only hope he’s sipping Diet Coke with Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker somewhere in the stars.

Thank you, Mr. Mayhew, for everything you gave us.

(image: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.

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