Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca has died aged 74.
He passed away at his home in Texas on 30 April with his family by his side, a statement said.
“The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away.
“He left us on the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his Texas home. He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame,” his family said.
Mayhew’s family did not say what the cause of his death was.
The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away. He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home. pic.twitter.com/YZ5VLyuK0u
— Peter Mayhew (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 2019
Mayhew played Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Revenge of the Sith (2005) and The Force Awakens (2015).
Mark Hamill who plays Luke Skywalker was one of the first to pay tribute to the late actor on Twitter.
“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,” he wrote.
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
Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo in the movies also expressed his condolences in a statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character. These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca,” read Ford’s statement.
“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. 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. My thoughts are with his dear wife Angie and his children. Rest easy, my dear friend.”
— JJ Abrams (@jjabrams) May 3, 2019
J.J. Abrams, who directed Mayhew in The Force Awakens, also shared a message on Twitter: “Peter was the loveliest man … kind and patient, supportive and encouraging. A sweetheart to work with and already deeply missed.”
“Peter was larger than life in so many ways … a gentle giant playing a gentle giant. Rest in peace,” Disney CEO Bob Iger also wrote on Twitter.
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) May 2, 2019
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy shared her own remembrance: “We are deeply saddened today by the news of Peter Mayhew’s passing. Since 1976, Peter’s iconic portrayal of the loyal, lovable Chewbacca has been absolutely integral to the character’s success, and to the Star Wars saga itself. When I first met Peter during The Force Awakens, I was immediately impressed by his kind and gentle nature. Peter was brilliantly able to express his personality through his skillful use of gesture, posture, and eyes. We all love Chewie, and have Peter to thank for that enduring memory.”
Star Wars creator George Lucas had wanted a tall actor to play Chewbacca – but initially considered 6ft 6in (1.98m) tall David Prowse for the role.
However Prowse instead wanted to play Darth Vader so Lucas then turned to Mayhew, who at 7ft 2in (2.18m) was chosen purely for his height. His face was never seen in the all the Star Wars films he played in.