Chewbacca Actor Peter Mayhew From ‘Star Wars’ Dies at 74 [variety.com]:
He died at his North Texas home surrounded by his family, read the Twitter statement.
[...]He was discovered by producer Charles H. Schneer while working as a hospital attendant in London, and cast in Ray Harryhausen’s “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.” The next year, he was cast as Chewbacca, the 200-year-old Wookiee.
[...]His height was not due to gigantism, but he measured 7 feet 3 inches at his highest. George Lucas originally had his eye on bodybuilder David Prowse, but Prowse decided to play Darth Vader instead and Lucas went with the even taller Mayhew.
The Hollywood Reporter [hollywoodreporter.com] notes:
While Mayhew did not provide the voice of the 200-year-old Wookiee (that was created by sound designer Ben Burtt), many credit the body language and the expressiveness of the eyes the actor brought to the role in making Chewbacca a fan favorite. It was a part that Mayhew would take on his whole life and well beyond the movies. He reprised the role for appearances on the Donny and Marie Show and The Muppet Show and, more recently, Glee.
Finnish-born basketball player-turned-actor Joonas Suotamo took over for Mayhew in some installments, including Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) and the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Mayhew worked as a consultant on The Last Jedi (2017) to pass the baton to Suotamo, and at that film's premiere in 2017 spent time chatting [hollywoodreporter.com] with his young protege, as well as Star Wars star Mark Hamill.
"Chewbacca is one of the most iconic characters in the history of film, and Peter's development and portrayal of this beloved Wookiee has spread so much joy around the globe," Suotamo wrote after the casting was announced. "Peter's guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey. I aspire to make Peter proud and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love."
A private memorial will take place June 29, while in December in Los Angeles there will be a gathering for fans at EmpireConLA. Mayhew is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children.
See also: Twitter announcement [twitter.com]
and coverage at The Guardian [theguardian.com].