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My take on Peter Mayhew aka Chewbacca.
It was 1975 and by sheer luck, I found myself working as part of the local unit on the set of “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076716/. The work was far removed from the fairy stories that ended up on the silver screen, but it was a fantastic place to work in. The people were great and the work fascinating to watch and to be involved in.
I met many famous personalities there, some very well known, some world famous, but few captured my affection as the lanky 2.19 metre tall guy who inhabited such characters as the Minoton [based on the legendary Minotaur] in this Sinbad movie, or Chewbacca, the lovable Wookiee in Star Wars.
This character of Minotaur, Man/Beast, with the head of a bull on the body of a man, signified, in old mythology, a man of blood , a warrior. Nothing could be further than the truth of Peter Mayhew who was charged with making this icon come to life. Even now, in his seventies, his eyes are clear and kind. Then, in 1975, he was shy to boot, but it was impossible for him to hide, all 7 foot 3 ins of him, unless he was inside the depiction of another character.
Peter started out as an excessively tall hospital employee, then found himself moving in the midst of big, big stars. The Minotaur in "Sinbad and the Eye of The Tiger” was his first big role. The producers needed someone with B-I-G feet. They saw a picture of him in a newspaper and hunted him down. Charles H. Schneer cast him in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), Ray Harryhausen's special effects film.
It was just over a year later that he was asked if he wanted to do another role. Mayhew was told it was for a big hairy beast. It was the role of Chewbacca, the faithful 200 year-old Wookiee in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) He then went on to give life to Chewbacca in all the Star War movies. "Chewie" was the loyal, furry co-pilot of Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford). Both movies were released in 1977. It is only in this last movie, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens that he shared the role with a newcomer. A basketball player from Finland did most of the heavy lifting for Peter Mayhew in 'Star Wars 7" as he was just recovering from pneumonia.
He has written two books, "Growing Up Giant" and "My Favorite Giant" and he also founded a non-profit 501(c)3 charity organization called "The Peter Mayhew Foundation".
The magic that becomes an entrancing story on the big Silver Screen, takes a lot of people and sometimes a lot of time to get there. Movies are made piecemeal, a scene here, and a few scenes there, sometimes in different locations, and different time zones. Yet, the editor then chops and reweaves the rushes into a spell binding drama that flows smoothly for our entertainment.
Imagine that you were on a long trip, and you scribbled notes and took photos as you went to different locations and met different people. When you get home, you then weave a story out of the notes and the photos you have collected. That’s the way it goes with movie production, which could take a few months, or a few years at times.
I remember Peter Mayhew mostly for his gentle and loveable nature. In 2015 he heard that a little boy called Liam was grieving because he had lost his best buddy Sam Miller. They had been planning to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Peter took the time to track down the boy and to send him a letter of comfort. Peter Mayhew signed the note off with “May the Force Be With You” which, no doubt would have delighted Liam.
Star Wars has been such a fantastic success that I cannot see Hollywood giving up the golden goose yet! We may yet see Peter Mayhew in his Chewbacca suit and making all the funny noises.
1..The Carnival in Sinbad - My Collection - Private Collection
2..Peter Mayhew today-https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/PeterMayhew11.14.08ByLuigiNovi1.jpg -By Nightscream (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia
3..The Minotaur in Mythology -https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATheseus_Minotaur_Ramey_Tuileries.jpg -By Jastrow (Own work (own picture)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
4..Peter Mayhew 2015 -https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APeter_Mayhew_2015.jpg - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Peter_Mayhew_2015.jpg
.5..Yours truly with Peter, and stuntsman Eddie.-My Collection - Private Collection
6..We all liked Peter - -My Collection - Private Collection
© 2016 Marie L B