When casting the original Star Wars (1977), director George Lucas needed a tall actor who could fit the role of the hairy alien Chewbacca. He originally had in mind 6-foot-6-inch (1.98 m) bodybuilder David Prowse, but Prowse chose to playDarth Vader. This led Lucas to cast Mayhew, who was working as an orderly in the A & E Dept Mayday University Hospital, Thornton Heath, Croydon. Surrey. He became aware of a casting call for Star Wars which was filming at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire.The 7-foot-3-inch (2.21 m) tall actor was immediately cast as Chewbacca after he stood up to greet Lucas. Mayhew continued working as an orderly, at Mayday Hospital (now Croydon University Hospital), in between filming the original Star Wars trilogy.
Mayhew modelled his performance of Chewbacca after researching the behaviour of bears,monkeys and gorillas he saw at London Zoo. Lucas said Mayhew was "the closest any human being could be to aWookiee: big heart, gentle nature and I learnt to always let him win". The character did not have any lines, the sounds he made being derived from sound recordings of animal noises.
The following photographs celebrates the life of Peter through hisWookiee performance.