Peter Mayhew, the British-American actor who was best known for portraying Chewbacca, has passed away at the age of 74.
“The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away,” an official statement from Mayhew’s family reads. “He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home.”
Mayhew was born in 1944, and it was the release of Star Wars in 1977 that catapulted him to fame as Chewie, Han Solo’s loveable Wookiee companion. Mayhew was a mainstay at fan conventions and comic cons, who took lots of time to engage with his fans.
Mayhew’s health had been declining in recent years. He fought back from being bound to a wheelchair to appear in the Star Wars sequels, and had spinal surgery last year.
Since the production of The Force Awakens, Mayhew has also been training up Joonas Suotamo to take over in the role of Chewbacca. Suotamo has paid tribute on Twitter:
R.I.P 😔 pic.twitter.com/FWRgaOS0Tf
— Joonas Suotamo (@JoonasSuotamo) May 2, 2019
Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker, has also paid tribute to ‘the gentlest of giants’:
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 #RIPPeterMayhew #Heartbroken @TheWookieeRoars pic.twitter.com/8xbq9HEWF2
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) May 2, 2019
The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, who was one of the latest directors to work with Mayhew, offered this statement:
RIP Peter Mayhew. To create a beloved character with warmth and humor is a testament to any actor’s spirit. To do it under a half ton of yak hair takes a true legend. ❤️❤️
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) May 3, 2019
“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,” said Harrison Ford.
The Han Solo actor added this: “Chewbacca was an important part of the success of the films we made together. He knew how important the fans of the franchise were to its continued success and he was devoted to them. I and millions of others will never forget Peter and what he gave us all.”
Mayhew is survived by his wife, Angie Mayhew, and their three children. Rather than sending flowers, Mayhew’s family have encouraged fans to donate to his charitable foundation.