With the sad and untimely passing of Peter Mayhew announced last night we will be dedicating much of the day to content relating to Peter and the mighty wookiee he gave life to. Here we present our interview with Peter, conducted by Mark for lightsabre.co.uk in November 2005.
PM – Hi Mark.
Lightsabre – Hi Peter, how you doing?.
PM – I’m fine, how are you sir?
Lightsabre – Not too bad, looking forward to this interview.
PM – Right, let’s get on with it.
PM – It’s been a life-changing ride, mostly good. It’s given me the opportunity to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do, a lot of travel and meet a lot of people.
Lightsabre – Which of the six films stands out as your personal favourite, and why?
PM – The Empire Strikes Back, definitely. The whole thing, with all the main characters. Empire brought the characters to life.
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your career. How did you get into acting?
PM – The Guinness Book of Records were looking for people with big feet, and that led to an article which led to a producer looking for an actor to play a Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, (with) Ray Harryhausen, and I played the Minotaur. Then, you meet other people on the film, and Star Wars was coming along and my name got put up for it and (I) went up and saw George and the rest is history.
PM – Oh yeah, definitely. It seemed a little bit strange at the time but I’m glad it happened, yeah.
Lightsabre – Being seven foot two inches tall you must have had some difficulties over the years with your height. Tell us a bit about the challenges of being so tall.
PM – Yeah, well first of all clothes and shoes over the years have been quite a challenge. General travelling around, travelling on planes and things like this. Just the general thing of growing up, but obviously it depends on where you live, what is available. Obviously in America there are a lot of bigger guys, therefore you have more opportunity of big clothes and big shoes.
Lightsabre – Were you ever any good at basketball?
PM – No. (Laughs)
Lightsabre – It’s been in the news that you’ve got American citizenship. When did that happen, was it yesterday?
Lightsabre – You’re now a naturalised American and live in Texas, which is a gorgeous part of the world. Your wife is from Texas I believe?
PM – Yeah, she’s from Texas.
Lightsabre – Do you miss Britain?
PM – Not really because we go back fairly often, a couple of times a year, so I think we’ve got the best of both worlds. We’re in beautiful Texas and London, England is not that far away. We go back there probably two or three times a year.
Lightsabre – Did you catch any of the bad weather that’s hit the States?
PM – No, we’re in northern Texas but the full hurricanes and stuff were way down south, three, four, five hundred miles away. We’ve got an evacuee problem.
Lightsabre – As you know Chewie met his end in the novel Vector Prime. How did you feel about that? As noble an end as it was, were you saddened by it, or do you think Chewie will return?
PM – Well just remember the novels have nothing to do with the movies, right? So I’m sad that Chewie is not around in the novels anymore, but who knew that Chewie was going to come back in Episode III? I think he will come back at some stage. Somewhere down the timeline they will decide, “Hmm, ok, we need Chewie back”.
Lightsabre – Well, I hope he comes back.
PM – (Laughs)
Lightsabre – Being back in the suit after so many years, on the set of a Star Wars film must have been quite an experience?
PM – We had a great time, because you know where we shot was mainly in Australia, so we went down there. Because obviously Chewie is a lot younger and therefore you have to have a different suit. So we went down there for costume fittings. It was wonderful to meet all the other actors and be almost like the grand master, (laughs) being looked up by other actors and people like that, it was a wonderful experience.
Lightsabre – How different was George this final time round? On the original three it seemed very pressurised, how was he this time?
PM – George is George. I’ve known him since the start and he didn’t seem that much different. George will stand around, give orders and things appear. You know, George is very relaxed. When things are going wrong George will stand there and go “Hmm, we’ll do it this way, we’ll do it that way.”
Lightsabre – We often see you with the Men Behind the Masks but have you managed to keep in touch with any of your other original trilogy colleagues?
PM – Well, as you say we do the convention circuit, therefore we do keep in contact. It’s mainly Kenny (Baker, R2-D2), Jeremy (Bulloch, Boba Fett), Dave (Prowse, Darth Vader), and all major characters. Occasionally you’ll get some of the little guys come out. It’s nice to be able to keep in contact. It’s like you look on the websites and see who’s coming and you think great, that’s going to be a good weekend, we’ll be able to catch up on all the news we haven’t heard, all the gossip that’s going around the UK.
Lightsabre – Do you get to many conventions?
PM – Well we do about 25 a year. Mainly in the States. We’re going to Sweden in a couple of weeks, in England probably not till after the new year.
Lightsabre – There are rumours of a Star Wars television series. If George asked you, would you be interested in a role?
PM – Of course, of course. Anything to do with Chewie I will be interested in.
Lightsabre – Would you be interested in a role that wasn’t Chewie, in something different?
PM – Probably, it all depends what it is. I don’t know, I’d have to look at it and consider it. It’s a question that you’ve got to have all the things about the character, what it can do, how you can work it, that sort of thing before you can make a decision like that.
PM – Looking after the family, we’ve got dogs, cats and kids, (laughs), so life is fairly busy. Because we’re on the road so much we enjoy the seclusion of our house and we just carry on virtually moving from convention to convention, getting ready, going out and doing it. So we don’t really have time for hobbies.
Lightsabre – How long have you lived in Texas?
PM – About six years. When I got married.
Lightsabre – Chewbacca is a loyal, faithful and fierce friend, someone we all wish we could befriend. In a brief sentence, how would you sum him up?
PM – He’s a cuddly teddy bear. Cuddly teddy bear with a protective sense of loyalty.
Lightsabre – Was there anything that Chewie didn’t get to do in the films that you wish he had?
PM – Not really, I don’t think so. I think with George and us all thinking about it Chewie covered everything.
Lightsabre – A mischievous question for you.
PM – Go on.
PM – It was a great movie. Thoroughly enjoyed it. It was one of those things that came along, you did it and you bitched about it, what was going wrong, but all in all I had a great time. It was interesting to see how other people’s perception of what the Wookiee family were like. The best part was working with Art Carney. He played Trader Dan, wonderful character.
Lightsabre – I think it has its place in Star Wars like everything else.
PM – Yeah. I don’t understand why certain people don’t like that particular video.
Lightsabre – You think it should be released like everything else?
PM – Well, we’ll leave it at that I think.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. Chewbacca, Lieutenant Worf from Star Trek and Dargo from Farscape are locked in a room and on a table in the centre is a chocolate cake. Who would win the fight for the cake, and how?
PM – It would be Chewie. He would wind the other two up, get them fighting and grab the chocolate cake. Because their egos would take (doesn’t finish sentence, bursts out laughing).
Lightsabre – That’s brilliant!
PM – When I read it I thought “Get those two wound up, and then Chewie goes in and grabs the cake!”
Lightsabre – I like that! That’s fantastic, thanks very much Peter.
PM – Pleasure, bye, bye.
Lightsabre – You take care.
PM – And you mate.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 13th November 2005.