Star Wars fans across the universe are mourning the death of Peter Mayhew. The towering actor, who portrayed “the original Wookiee” Chewbacca in the famous film franchise, has passed away at age 74. Mayhew died with his family by his side at his home in North Texas, as previously shared by The Inquisitr. Now, fans and friends — including original Star Wars stars Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford— are paying tribute to the beloved actor as they recall his enormous talent and his even bigger heart.
In a statement posted by Deadline, Star Wars creator George Lucas remembered Peter Mayhew and his contributions to the original Star Wars trilogy and two later films in the iconic movie franchise. Lucas described Mayhew as a “wonderful man” and “the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature.”
Stars Wars legend Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the films, posted to Twitter to pay tribute to his longtime co-star and real-life friend. Hamill revealed that he was heartbroken by Peter’s death.
“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.”
"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."-Kathleen Kennedy.— Star Wars (@starwars) May 3, 2019
More: https://t.co/iGfk9XRzKa pic.twitter.com/5edrPrEuRS
In addition, Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo in the Stars Wars movies, issued a statement about the passing of the gentle-giant actor who played his character’s furry sidekick.
“Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character,” Ford said in a statement, per Page Six. “These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca. I and millions of others will never forget Peter and what he gave us all … Rest easy, my dear friend.”
Ford—who starred with Peter Mayhew in 1977’s original Star Wars and again in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, 1983’s Return of the Jedi, and 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens— also told The Hollywood Reporter that his longtime co-star was a real-life best friend who brought his “heart and soul” into his signature character.
“We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him,” Ford said of his late co-star.
Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca in the original Star Wars trilogy and returned to the role in the sequel Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). The 7-foot-2 star made his final bow as Chewbacca in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.
Mayhew also trained his successor, Finnish actor Joonas Suotamo, his body double who took over as Chewie in the 2017 follow-up, The Last Jedi. Mayhew—who retired from the role due to knee problems and other health issues— was credited as “Chewbacca consultant” in the film.
Joonas Suotamo took to Instagram to remember Peter Mayhew, whom he described as a “dear friend” and mentor. In a poignant post, Joonas posted a photo of him with the Star Wars legend and wrote that Mayhew’s ” tutelage and kindness” helped them bring Chewbacca to life for a new generation of fans.
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Devastated to hear about the passing of a dear friend and mentor, the great Peter Mayhew. Peter's warm welcome when I came aboard as his double in The Force Awakens meant so much to me. Studying the character he helped create was always a daunting task, but one that was made easier by his tutelage and kindness as we sought to bring Chewbacca to life for a new generation. He was an absolutely one-of-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class and I will miss him. As the entire Star Wars universe grieves over this terrible loss my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Angie and his family and all of the fans whose lives he has impacted. Rest assured his legacy will live on and the spirit that he gave the character when he first donned the suit will never be forgotten. Rest In Peace My Friend. . . . #RipPeterMayhew
In a 2015 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Peter Mayhew reflected on his character’s 40-year legacy and his long friendship with Harrison Ford’s Han Solo. Mayhew compared the iconic Star Wars duo’s long, great friendship to Laurel and Hardy, noting that people don’t get many relationships like that.