Widow of Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew is distressed about planned memorabilia auction
Peter Mayhew’s widow was distressed that an auction house in the U.K. was preparing to sell off a bunch of the Chewbacca actor’s “Star Wars” memorabilia without the permission of the family.
But after her outcry, the auction house appears to have changed its plan.
Angie Mayhew went public on Wednesday with her concerns about the auction, a day after a BBC reporter posted an excited tweet about the upcoming sale of items “Found in the loft of the late Peter Mayhew.”
“When we moved out of this house Peter’s movement challenges made it impossible for him to get into the attic to get the rest of these memories. It really breaks my heart to see our belongings auctioned off like this by @angusashworth and @RyedaleAuction1,” Angie Mayhew wrote on the Peter Mayhew Foundation’s official Twitter account.
Peter Mayhew, who brought the Wookiee warrior Chewbacca to life in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, has died at age 74.
The items include scripts, call sheets and shooting schedules from the original “Star Wars” trilogy, plus signed photos and a scrapbook, according to local paper the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald.
Mayhew’s foundation updated fans Thursday morning with a tweet saying that representatives started the morning on a Zoom call with Angus Ashworth and his auction house where they “communicated our desire that Peter’s items be returned to Angie and the Mayhew family. Will keep everyone posted as progress is made - thank you for the continued support!”
Ryedale Auctioneers did not respond immediately Thursday to an email seeking comment about the status of the auction. However, on Friday, a representative for Ashworth released a statement indicating the TV host and owner of Ryedale Auctioneers didn’t know the Peter Mayhew Foundation would be interested in the items until he saw the foundation’s tweets about the planned auction.
“I was approached by a lovely older couple who were clearing their attic a quarter of a century after moving into their property. The contents of the attic included a bag of Star Wars memorabilia, which I thought might be of some interest to Star Wars fans. This wasn’t unusual, film memorabilia comes up for auction all the time and there was some subsequent press interest,” Ashworth said in the statement.
Last year, months before “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” officially reunited the original cast and crew of the Millennium Falcon, there was a small disturbance in the Force.
He said nobody had approached the auction house to discuss the provenance of the items scheduled for sale, and had anyone done that, “of course” he would have talked to the sellers.
“The monetary value of the lot is fairly modest, but knowing how much it means to the Foundation and given that it had been in the attic for over 24 years, the vendors are quite happy to donate it to the Foundation to have permanently within their personal collection, not for profit, so that fans can access it in perpetuity,” Ashworth continued. “I can only apologise to all of the Star Wars fans who had already shown great interest in owning a bit of film history!”
Peter Mayhew died in 2019 at his home in North Texas. He was 74. In addition to his wife, the former hospital orderly-turned-cultural icon was survived by his three children.
After being cast as Chewie in the original 1977 “Star Wars,” now known as “Star Wars: A New Hope,” Mayhew appeared in 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back” and 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.” For decades afterward, he became a popular staple on the “Star Wars” fan convention circuit.
Burt Reynolds has done what they said can’t be done: His 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, like the one from “Smokey and the Bandit,” sold for $450,000 over the weekend in Las Vegas.
Despite health issues that at one point had him in a wheelchair, he reprised the Chewbacca role in “Star Wars” prequels “Revenge of the Sith” (2005) and “The Force Awakens” (2015) before handing off the job to Finnish actor Joonas Suotamo.
“It was one of Peter’s and my biggest regrets that we had to leave these items behind,” Angie Mayhew wrote in another tweet, “but his knees and joints had gotten to be so painful that he was no longer able to go into the attic to get them.”
After another Twitter user asked why they didn’t get help to grab the items, she explained that they ran out of time during their move.
“We had just come from a convention Peter had appeared at and there had been a water leak so Peter didn’t want me to go up there either and we ran out of time. Moving in general is stressful but moving between countries with a 7’4” disabled partner, it was a very difficult time,” she tweeted.
Ashworth, who hosts the TV series “The Yorkshire Auction House,” is an antiques expert. He appeared Tuesday on the “BBC Breakfast” program to talk about the “Star Wars” spread.
“Delighted to have been on the sofa for BBC breakfast this morning talking about an upcoming lot of Star Wars memorabilia,” he tweeted the same day.
No “Star Wars” items are currently listed on the Ryedale website; rather, the auction was noted as “coming soon.”
Times staff writer Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.
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