"They asked if I was interested in a role as a large alien in a movie."
Peter William Mayhew, a giant of science-fiction, rose to fame as the hirsute and loyal Chewbacca, a staple of the Star Wars franchise. Mayhew played the character in 5 films and numerous television specials, and quickly became a fan-favourite due to his gentle nature and willingness to engage with every aspect of the fandom.
Born in London in 1944, Peter's first acting job came in 1976 when he played a Minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger - the producers cast him after reading a newspaper article about 'men with large feet'. One of the makeup artists on Sinbad went on to find work on a hitherto unheard of space-opera, inspired by Flash Gordon: Star Wars. When George Lucas came to cast Star Wars he went looking for larger than life actors to play both Darth Vader and Chewbacca. His first choice for both roles was the actor and bodybuilder David Prowse. When he chose Prowse to portray Vader, Lucas had to find an even taller actor to play Chewbacca.
Peter was working as a hospital porter at the time, but when he was called in to audition, his 7'3" frame landed him the role immediately. Peter ensured that the decision was vindicated though, with his portrayal becoming immediately iconic. With his blue eyes and subtle head movements, he gave Chewbacca a real humanity and personality - he became so recognisable for this that the crew on set were able to tell if someone else was wearing the suit almost immediately.
Always aware of his great height and strength, Peter was known as a gentle-giant. He wrote two books for children about being different, and was an advocate for anti-bullying campaigns. Always friendly and happy to chat to fans, he frequently talked at conventions and symposiums. Due to mobility issues, he shared the role of Chewbacca in his last portrayal, in The Force Awakens, passing the torch down to the next generation with the same humility that he had shown over his entire career.