`Star Wars' actor becomes American citizen

Tuesday, October 18th 2005, 5:31 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Best known as the furry Chewbacca in the ``Star Wars'' films, 7-foot-3 British actor Peter Mayhew is now a U.S. citizen.

Mayhew softly recited the oath to become a naturalized American Monday, with his raised right hand trembling slightly. He was among more than 450 people from 56 countries who became naturalized Americans in a ceremony in Arlington.

``I'll have a British passport, an American passport and a Wookiee passport,'' joked the 60-year-old Mayhew, alluding to the interplanetary traveler from Kashyyyk he played. He first starred as Chewbacca in 1977's ``Star Wars.''

Mayhew autographed dozens of fabric U.S. flags and citizenship packets before the ceremony and posed with immigration officials afterward.

The former English hospital worker said he decided to seek American citizenship when he got married ``to a Texan lady.'' Mayhew and his wife wed six years ago. His wife, Angelique, was beside him, with a drawing depicting Chewbacca, a background of the American flag and Union Jack and the words ``Citizen Wookiee.''

``Well it was a natural thing being married to a Texan,'' said Mayhew, wearing black slacks and jacket. ``I wanted to become an American because Texas is an integral part of America, its lifestyle.''

In most cases, an immigrant must be a legal permanent resident for five years before becoming a citizen. The wait is three years if the person marries a U.S. citizen. Candidates also must pass history, English and civics exams.

``You have to do obviously some research, but the questions are easy enough if you think about them,'' Mayhew said of his citizenship test, adding that he picked up much of his knowledge of American history and culture over more than a decade of living in the U.S.

Mayhew was born in Barnes, England, and now lives in Granbury, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth. He makes appearances at science fiction conventions around the country.

His film career was launched in 1977 when he played the role of the Minotaur in ``Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.'' He had been working as an orderly at London's King's College Hospital when he was featured in a newspaper article about men with large feet, which caught the eye of the movie's producers.