Peter Mayhew, who portrayed Chewbacca in all the character’s live-action scenes until 2015’s The Force Awakens, has died at his home in Texas. The British-born actor was 74 years old.
Mayhew was an aspiring actor working as a hospital orderly in 1976 when George Lucas tapped him to play the part. Mayhew’s primary qualification for the job was his height: he stood 7 feet 3 inches tall (220 cm). That was tall enough to tower over Darth Vader, played by the six-foot-six (200 cm) David Prowse. Mayhew didn’t utter Chewbacca’s famous grunts and growls—those were voiced by sound-effects legend Ben Burtt.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mayhew went back to his hospital work after playing Chewie in Star Wars. He came back to play the character again in The Empire Strikes Back and then Return of the Jedi. By that point, his character had become famous enough that he could make his living on the convention circuit.