As every Star Wars fan knows by now, Peter Mayhew passed away on April 30th at age 74.
And, as every SW fan definitely knows, Peter Mayhew is mostly known for playing Chewbacca in the original Star Wars trilogy along with Revenge Of The Sith and The Force Awakens.
He was also listed as a "Chewbacca Consultant" on both The Last Jedi and Solo; A Star Wars Story as he "retired" from the role after The Force Awakens.
Oh yeah, Mayhew also played Chewbacca in that, uh-hum, classic Star Wars Holiday Special-the one where Han Solo looked drunk off his ass-but I won't hold THAT against him!
I'll admit, I wasn't the biggest Chewbacca fan when I saw the very first Star Wars in theaters as a kid back in the late-70s.
I remember I wasn't too thrilled when I got a big Chewbacca figure for Christmas that year along with a big Darth Vader figure. (I was more of a DV fan myself!)
Interestingly enough, the actor who played Darth Vader in the original trilogy-David Prowse-was initially considered for the part of Chewbacca. (Come on, admit it, you thought it was James Earl Jones, DIDN'T you?)
Anyway, I had warmed more to the Wookie character when The Empire StriAnkes Back came out.
At least he WASN'T a damn Ewok, amirite, people! (Again, interestingly enough, Lucas was initially going to have Wookies in Return Of The Jedi but instead had Ewoks since he figured they would be more "appealing" to kids, Good call, George!)
Anyway, George Lucas said he immediately cast Mayhew as Chewbacca when he stood up to greet him as Peter stood at over seven feet tall.
And, by all accounts, Peter Mayhew was a decent, kind-hearted man. The only "bad" story I've ever heard about him was some years ago when he got "upset" when they tried to take away his walking cane at an airport.
Another thing I admired about Peter Mayhew is that, as far as I know, he kept his "political" opinions to HIMSELF unlike, ,of course, OTHER actors and/or people associated with Star Wars. (And, yeah, Mark Hamill, I'm looking at YOU!)
Some, of course, who aren't Star Wars fans would probably look at Peter Mayhew as just a guy in a dog costume who starred in a kids movie. But, though he had no actual lines in the movies (other than his famous growls), he made "Chewie" look human.
For instance, when he let out that anguished wail when his best friend and co-pilot Han Solo was being put into that carbon freeze in Empire Strikes Back (right after Leia tells him "I love you" and he says with a nod, "I know!").
I think George Lucas put it best about Peter Mayhew when he said how Mayhew was "the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature and I learnt to always let him win".
The last time I was this bummed out about a celebrity passing away was when Carrie Fisher a.k.a. Princess Leia passed away suddenly after filming The Last Jedi. (Too bad THAT was her last film.)
Before that, it was the passing of country music legend Merle Haggard but I digress.
At least Chewbacca is one of the few original Star Wars characters who HASN'T been thoroughly bastardized in the Disney SW movies (although he was turned into a sort of "vegan" in that godwaful-or is it Sithawful?-The Last Jedi).
Peter Mayhew/Chewbacca was "honored" with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards show-back, of course, when MTV was STILL cool!-and Peter came dressed as Chewbacca.
Carrie Fisher gave him the medal he DIDN'T get at the end of the very first Star Wars for helping Luke & Han blow the shit out of the first Death Star. (Outrageous!)
The funny thing was at one point during the show it showed Peter standing backstage still dressed as Chewbacca and this woman who worked on the show walked up to him and called him Chewbacca.
Peter looked at this woman like, "Hey, lady, don't you know I'm a 7-foot-tall dude dressed in a dog costume who starred in a kids movie?"
R.I.P., Peter Mayhew. And may The Force be with you!