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Peter Mayhew, Who Played 'Star Wars' Chewbacca, Dies At 74

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we remember the man who made us love a Wookiee. Actor Peter Mayhew played the Star Wars character Chewbacca. He died this week at his home in North Texas - 74 years old. NPR's Mandalit del Barco remembers the actor who embodied Chewie.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: At more than 7 feet tall, Peter Mayhew donned a furry costume to play Chewbacca - a towering, hirsute, knock-kneed Wookiee.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETER MAYHEW: (As Chewbacca, roaring).

DEL BARCO: Chewie was Han Solo's co-pilot, soaring through space on the Millennium Falcon and defending the Rebel Alliance. Mayhew played the character in the original Star Wars trilogy. He traveled the world, greeting fans. On Dallas TV station KTXD, he talked about why Chewbacca was so beloved.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAYHEW: The character itself is basically a teddy bear, security. This character represents the guy next door - the person that looked after you.

DEL BARCO: In 1997, MTV gave Chewbacca a lifetime achievement award. The late Carrie Fisher, who played Star Wars' Princess Leia, introduced the character.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARRIE FISHER: He's one of the kindest, gentlest creatures I've ever worked with. I only wish we had love scenes.

MAYHEW: (As Chewbacca, roaring).

DEL BARCO: Mayhew's family noted that he fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound in 2015 to play Chewbacca for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," paired up again with Harrison Ford's Han Solo.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE VII - THE FORCE AWAKENS")

HARRISON FORD: (As Han Solo) Chewie, we're home.

MAYHEW: (As Chewbacca, roaring).

DEL BARCO: Peter Mayhew was born in England and got his first acting job playing the minotaur in the movie "Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger." With his wife, Angie, Mayhew wrote an anti-bullying book for children called "My Favorite Giant" and a memoir, "Growing Up Giant." Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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