Star Wars Actor Peter Mayhew Once Passed Out After Overheating In Chewbacca's Costume

When the first "Star Wars" film premiered in 1977 — retroactively named "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope" — it blew the majority of moviegoers away for more reasons than one. The action was intense, the sets and props were fascinating, and the special effects were unlike anything that had made it to the silver screen before. Not to mention, the George Lucas-directed feature brought with it a host of aliens and creatures from across the galaxy far, far away. The undeniable favorite proved to be Chewbacca the Wookiee, as portrayed by Peter Mayhew.

The towering furry companion of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) took a place of prominence in the very first cinematic "Star Wars" adventure. He helped transport Ben Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) off Tatooine, aided in the rescue of Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) from the Empire's clutches, and went with Solo to provide some last-minute assistance to the Rebellion during the assault on the Death Star battle station. That meant that Mayhew got a lot to do in the feature, even if we couldn't see his face under layers of fur.

Speaking of those layers, as one could imagine, running around as Chewie was an occasionally uncomfortable experience for Peter Mayhew. In fact, despite making it through the filming of "Star Wars" without trouble, he wound up passing out due to overheating inside the suit while filming another franchise installment.

Mayhew overheated during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back

The follow-up to "Star Wars," 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back," again features Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca quite heavily. Among his most heroic moves in the film is his rescue of a destroyed C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), carrying his largely broken-up droid body in a bag on his back. After all, with the Empire all over Cloud City, he and his fellow heroes didn't have much time to sit around piecing the protocol droid back together. It was during this portion of the movie that Mayhew passed out from heatstroke due to the Chewie suit. Mayhew revealed as much in a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread, writing, "Once on 'Empire.' But they were more interested in the 3PO suit on my back being dented."

Disregarding this negative experience, Mayhew continued to play Chewbacca for years to come. His final performance as the character came in 2015 via "Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens," where he helped guide a new Chewbacca actor, Joonas Suotamo. Between Mayhew's retirement from the role and his subsequent death in 2019, Suotamo is now the full-time Chewie, and he doesn't take that status lightly. "Chewbacca is so loved, and I would not want there to be a feeling that Chewbacca somehow feels different this time around," he told The Bragging Mommy in 2018, detailing that he's worked hard to model his performance off of those from Mayhew to do right by Chewie's fans.

Even though the Chewbacca costume comes with a set of unique dangers — including the risk of overheating — the character is a pop culture icon. Surely, Suotamo will continue to honor the Wookiee's legacy and that of the late Peter Mayhew well into the future.