At 7-foot, 3 inches tall, Peter Mayhew is hard to miss.
But the English-born actor, best known for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars saga, continues to elude Messenger reporters.
Some time ago we learned that he lives in Wise County, and it seemed like a natural story for us. With an average newsroom age of 30-ish, Star Wars holds a special place in our pop culture heritage, and the idea of meeting Chewie, the lovable but fierce Wookiee, left us all a bit starstruck.
But the excitement fizzled as he never returned our calls or attempts to contact him.
Our only consolation is that it seems he’s avoided all media interviews for the last few years. The only stories with Mayhew quotes discovered in a quick, online search were from 2011 when he was the voice for Chewbacca in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” the animated series.
Since then: nothing.
Most of the stories generated about Mayhew seem to come from his Twitter feed – @TheWookieRoars. The 69-year-old is active on the social media site where he not only posts Star Wars-related news and information but also appears to interact with fans.
In fact, according to his Twitter feed, he’s in Australia this week to attend the SupaNova Pop Culture Expo, one of many conventions he now attends, posing for photos and signing autographs.
Although he put the Chewbacca persona on hiatus after filming the Star Wars movies, he began making personal appearances in 1997 when the Star Wars special editions were released. Several online accounts also say that later that year Mayhew wore the Wookiee costume for the first time since filming “Return of the Jedi” to receive the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award.
According to the Peter Mayhew Foundation website, the actor married his wife, Angie, in 1999 and moved to Texas, first living in Granbury and later moving to Boyd. Although it’s rare to see him out and about in Wise County, he was spotted at Fit-N-Wise in recent months.
Mayhew, who was diagnosed with gigantism as a child, had double-knee replacement surgery last fall at a Metroplex hospital and was seen receiving physical therapy at the Fit-N-Wise facility. His affliction had taken a toll on his body, and the surgery required custom prosthetics, as well as instruments, to perform the surgery. He had been forced to rely on a wheelchair for the previous two years.
Staff at the local hopsital were understandably protective of their patient, keeping the public at arm’s length, and others receiving treatment were respectful of the actor’s privacy. But a wave of excited whispers likely rolled through the building every time he entered. We considered stalking the entrance until we “just happened to run into him” but decided that would be impolite.
We don’t want to intrude, but we’re really desperate to talk to the guy. He’s perhaps the biggest movie star to ever call Wise County home, and we may or may not have a couple of fanboys in the office.
Besides following him on Twitter, the closest a Messenger staffer has come to Mayhew was at SFX Expo in Irving earlier this year. Our reporter had the typical autograph-signing exchange with him and left his business card.
But alas, we have not heard from Peter.
Mayhew’s medical issues will be the subject of an upcoming documentary, “Standing in the Stars – The Peter Mayhew Story,” directed by W. Ryan Ziegler. On at least one occasion, a film crew followed Mayhew to therapy in Decatur, presumably working on the documentary.
In a Sept. 11, 2013, story in The Village Voice, Ziegler says the film will not only tell the story of Mayhew’s physical struggles but could also help the actor launch a comeback.
“The idea of filming his recovery is not intrusive but empowering to Mayhew,” Ziegler said in the article.
Mayhew is obviously in the public eye, so it’s hard to say why he doesn’t do media interviews.
But we’re holding out hope that he’ll change his mind. We won’t resort to harrassment or overt stalking … but this could be considered a public plea for his attention.
While we patiently wait, we’ll go back to our newsroom viewing of “Return of the Jedi” and fine-tune those interview questions.
Somebody pass the popcorn.
Kristen Tribe is editor of the Messenger.