Peter Mayhew, the actor best known for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 74, his family said.
“Star Wars” co-star Mark Hamill called Mayhew “the gentlest of giants” and said he’s “a better man for just having known him.”
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
Actor Harrison Ford, who performed side-by-side with Mayhew for many of the films, said Mayhew “invested his soul in the character and brought pleasure to the Star Wars audience.
“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. 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,” Ford said in a statement.
“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 it’s 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….” the statement continued.
The 7-foot-4 Mayhew starred as Chewbacca in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, one of the prequels and more.
“Peter was a wonderful man. 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 was a good friend and I’m saddened by his passing,” “Star Wars” creator George Lucas said in a statement.
Mayhew had been using a wheelchair for years due to his extreme size and weakness in his bones. Family spokesman Ryan Ziegler said when “The Force Awakens” was in pre-production, Lucasfilm representatives made a courtesy call to say they were going to hire a new actor to take on Chewbacca’s scenes.
At the time, Mayhew had just had double knee-replacement surgery but desperately wanted to again play the part he’d made famous. In order to get into shape, Ziegler said Mayhew underwent physical therapy and exercise training, three hours every day for four months. That regimen got him out of the wheelchair and walking again, and healthy enough to play the cockpit scenes in “The Force Awakens.”
Memorial plans are set for June 29 and there will be a memorial planned later this year in Los Angeles for the fans.