Peter Mayhew, The Man Behind Chewbacca In 'Star Wars,' Has Died At 74

Peter Mayhew, the imposing English actor who originated the role of Chewbacca in Star Wars and played him for decades beyond, has passed away at the age of 74. While we never saw his face in George Lucas' iconic universe, it's hard to imagine the series without this loyal Wookiee – and it's impossible to imagine the character without everything Mayhew brought to the part.

Born on May 19, 1944 in Barnes, Surrey, England, Mayhew's height made him the literal stand-out when it came to to cast the noble, and powerful, Chewbacca. A non-actor, he was working as an orderly in a hospital when George Lucas cast him in the role. Standing seven feet and three inches, he played the character in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. He would reprise the role in 2005's Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Due to health concerns, he did not reprise the role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story, but he was credited as "Chewbacca Consultant" on the former. Joonas Suotamo, who shared the role with Mayhew in The Force Awakens (playing the more intense physical scenes) has fully taken over the role, continuing the character's legacy for a new generation.

Outside of the Star Wars movies, Mayhew reprised Chewbacca for an episode of The Muppet Show and various commercials. More importantly, he would appear as the character for various charities and events for hospitalized children. His good work would continue with the creation of the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which raises money and food for families in need. His other charitable work included events alongside the 501st Legion, Make-A-Wish, and Wounded Warriors.

In addition to his work as Chewbacca, Mayhew wrote two children's books: Growing Up Giant and My Favorite Giant, both of which explored the power of being different and not bullying others.

The news of Mayhew's death was announced on his official Twitter account. The cause of death was not specified, but Mayhew has suffered from a number of physical ailments in recent years, including a double knee replacement surgery in 2013, a case of severe pneumonia that required hospitalization in 2015, and spinal surgery in 2018.

A memorial service for family and friends will be held on June 29. A public memorial for fans is in the works for December.