Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, and The Star Wars Holiday Special, and who mentored Joonas Suotamo to take over the role in The Last Jedi, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, has died at the age of 74.
I’ve always had a tendency to gravitate toward the sidekick more than the hero. I liked Iolaus better than Hercules, Lord Bowler better than Brisco County Jr., Methos and Richie more than Duncan, and so on.
For that and other reasons, I always gravitated toward Chewbacca. As an eight-year-old in the movie theatre, the first thing I wanted to know after Star Wars ended was why Chewie didn’t get a medal like Han and Luke did.
Chewbacca’s loyalty, friendship, dedication, and strength have been a constant throughout all those films I mentioned in the first paragraph. The single most powerful emotional moment in the entire SW saga was in Empire when they had to close the blast doors against the devastating cold of Hoth at night and Chewbacca rears his head back and screams his anguish to the ceiling because his best friend is still out there somewhere.
Rest in peace, Peter Mayhew. You made the sidekick, who didn’t even have any dialogue that the viewers could comprehend, into a passionate, compassionate, brilliant character.