The late Peter Mayhew, who has died aged 74, was best known for his role as Chewbacca in the Star Wars films. He first appeared as smuggler Han Solo’s best buddy in 1977 and portrayed the Wookiee hero in five films (by the time of The Last Jedi, in 2017, chronic knee and back pain forced Mayhew to bail out as former body double Joonas Suotamo took over). Here are Chewie’s finest moments.
Star Wars (1977)
Director George Lucas
As half of one of the finest pairings in action-adventure cinema, Chewbacca is rarely far from the side of Han (Harrison Ford). In Star Wars, he’s a vital part of the team trying to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the Death Star and at his most useful when he swifly swats an Imperial minion aside with his mighty fist. It’d be easier getting up from an Anthony Joshua uppercut.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Director Irvin Kershner
After C-3PO is shot by a stormtrooper in Cloud City and his parts thrown in the bin, Chewbacca clocks his anxiety-prone droid pal’s remnants trundling along a conveyor belt towards an incinerator. Proving that it’s not just Luke Skywalker who can be heroic nor Han Solo who can be pragmatic, he steps in, juggles the severed metal limbs and saves his friend from a fiery demise.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
Director Richard Marquand
Having ended The Empire Strikes Back with his best mate frozen in stasis, the eventual reunion between Chewie and a thawed Han is touching and comedic. Solo can’t see at first, but at least a figure as hefty and hirsute as his giant cohort is easy to feel. His guttural vocalising is hard to mistake, too.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Director George Lucas
Chewie doesn’t appear in the first two Star Wars episodes, but his efforts in the third are Herculean. At the Battle of Kashyyyk (one of the final scraps of the Clone Wars), our hero is a force to be reckoned with and takes pride in fighting alongside his fellow Wookiee warriors.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Director J.J. Abrams
Things get heated on the Millennium Falcon when reformed stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) unwisely riles our Wookiee and instantly regrets it. He’s warned by Han, “Hurt Chewie and you’re gonna deal with me”. Han, that’s the least of Finn’s worries. Finn retorts, “He almost killed me six times!” Chewie tightens his vice-like grip and a throttled Finn can only just add, “Which is fine.”