Entertainment

Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew dies at 74

Actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, has died.

Mayhew played the Wookiee warrior in original Star Wars trilogy, and in later films

A composite featuring Star Wars character Chewbacca and the actor who played him, Peter Mayhew. Mayhew died this week at the age of 74. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty, Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

Actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, has died.

Mayhew's family said in a statement Thursday that he died at his home in Texas on Tuesday. He was 74. No cause of death was given.

The seven-foot-three Mayhew played the shaggy, towering Chewbacca — sidekick to Han Solo and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon — in the original Star Wars trilogy.

He went on to appear in 2005's Revenge of the Sith and shared the part in 2015's The Force Awakens with actor Joonas Suotamo, who later took over the role.

He also served as an off-camera consultant on the 2017 film The Last Jedi, helping to tutor his successor on the ways of convincingly playing a Wookiee.

"He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films," the family statement said. "But, to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film."

Mayhew developed lifelong friendships with the other Star Wars actors and spent three decades travelling the world to meet his fans, the statement says.                                        

To create a beloved character with warmth and humour is a testament to any actor's spirit. To do it under a half ton of yak hair takes a true legend.- Rian Johnson, director, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Born and raised in England, Mayhew had appeared in just one film and was working as a hospital orderly in London when George Lucas found him and cast him in 1977's Star Wars.

"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," actor Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker opposite Mayhew, wrote on Twitter. 

Star Wars creator George Lucas called Mayhew a wonderful man and a good friend. "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 said in a statement. 

Rian Johnson, who directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi, said on Twitter: "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."

His family said he was active with various nonprofit groups and established the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which is devoted to alleviating disease, pain, suffering and the financial toll from traumatic events, its website says.

Mayhew and actor Harrison Ford attend the opening of the European Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in central London on Dec. 16, 2015. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

He is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children. A memorial service will be held June 29.

With files from Reuters

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