Peter Mayhew, best known for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, has sadly passed away at the age of 74.
Announcing the news via his social media, Mayhew’s family confirmed that he passed away on April 30 in his North Texas home.
His family stated, “He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films from his knock kneed running, firing his bowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth.”
Mayhew was chosen for the role by Star Wars creator George Lucas partly thanks to his 7ft 2in frame. He first appeared as Chewbacca in the 1977 Star Wars movie, before reprising the role in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Ewok (1982), Return of the Jedi (1983), Star Tours (1987), and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005).
In recent years, Mayhew suffered from mobility issues but made a final appearance in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where he shared the role with Joonas Suotamo. “He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” his family said. He also acted as a consultant on Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018).
Following the news, many tributes have been paid online by fans of his work in addition to his co-stars including Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill.
“Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character,” Ford said in a statement. “These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca. We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him. He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.”
Hamill tweeted his condolences, stating, “He was the gentlest of giants-A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile & a loyal friend who I loved dearly-I’m grateful for the memories we shared & I’m a better man for just having known him. Thanks Pete”.
Star Wars creator Lucas added, “Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature – and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend, and I’m saddened by his passing.”
Mayhew’s double in The Force Awakens, Joonas Suotamo also paid tribute to his “dear friend and mentor” on Twitter.
Rest in peace Peter Mayhew, May 19, 1944 – April 30, 2019.