Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew dies at 74
Mayhew played the Wookiee warrior in original Star Wars trilogy, and in later films
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.
R.I.P 😔 <a href="https://t.co/FWRgaOS0Tf">pic.twitter.com/FWRgaOS0Tf</a>—@JoonasSuotamo
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.
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 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RIPPeterMayhew?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RIPPeterMayhew</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Heartbroken?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Heartbroken</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/TheWookieeRoars?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheWookieeRoars</a> <a href="https://t.co/8xbq9HEWF2">pic.twitter.com/8xbq9HEWF2</a>—@HamillHimself
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.
He is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children. A memorial service will be held June 29.
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. <a href="https://t.co/YZ5VLyuK0u">pic.twitter.com/YZ5VLyuK0u</a>—@TheWookieeRoars
With files from Reuters