Some actors do everything they can to distance themselves from the roles that made them famous in order to avoid typecasting. Peter Mayhew, the actor who portrayed Chewbacca in "Star Wars," has embraced the legend. He attends fan conventions, often wears Chewbacca-themed shirts, and walks with the aid of a lightsaber cane, much to the chagrin of the TSA.
Filmmaker W. Ryan Ziegler has launched a Kickstarter project, "Standing in the Stars," aimed at raising $42,000 to make a documentary on Mayhew, giving fans a rare peek into the life of the man who brought the big furry Wookiee to life.
Mayhew's cane is a sign of a difficult medical issue he is dealing with. The same physical giantism condition that caused him to grow to a towering 7'3" and made him perfect for the role of Chewbacca, has also destroyed his knees. He now needs a cane and wheelchair to get around.
In order to walk on his own again, Mayhew needs knee replacements, no small task considering the size of his knees and the complexity of the surgery and recovery process. Ziegler plans to follow along with the actor before, during, and after the knee surgery. The Kickstarter funding is aimed at financing the documentary and providing some support for Mayhew's family during the process.
The pledge levels range from $5 for a promise that Mayhew won't rip your arms off, all the way up to $7,500 for an executive producer credit, a signed DVD, and a 30-minute Skype call with Mayhew and his wife. There is an interesting offering at the $700 level, where you get a signed resin bust of Mayhew, one of the more unusual "Star Wars" collectibles you'll ever see.
At a time when discussion about the original series actors coming back for new movies has run rampant, Mayhew's name has been missing from the conversation. His story is a fascinating one, every bit as epic as a space battle, except that it's a very personal fate that lies in the balance.