Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in ‘Star Wars,’ dead at 74: family statement
A post on his official Twitter account on Thursday said he died with his family by his side in north Texas on April 30.
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The letter did not disclose his cause of death.
Mayhew was 74.
Mayhew played Chewbacca in the original Star Wars films, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
He later performed as the iconic wookiee in the prequel Revenge of the Sith and returned to the role in 2015 series revival The Force Awakens.
Mayhew acted as a consultant on 2017’s The Last Jedi, mentoring his replacement, Joonas Suotamo, in the role for that and subsequent Star Wars films.
“He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films from his knock-kneed running, firing his bowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth,” the letter said.
Mayhew would tour as Chewbacca at conventions, and would later become involved with organizations such as Make-a-Wish, Wounded Warriors and the 501st legion.
He also created the Peter Mayhew Foundation, a non-profit that works to ease pain, disease and suffering associated with traumatic events.
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Star Wars creator George Lucas called Mayhew a “wonderful man” in a statement obtained by ABC News.
“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.”
Fellow Star Wars actor Mark Hamill paid tribute to Mayhew on Twitter, calling him the “gentlest of giants.”
“A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile and a loyal friend who I loved dearly,” Hamill said.
Han Solo actor Harrison Ford issued a statement calling Mayhew a “kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character.”
In the statement, he noted that he and Mayhew were “partners in film and friends for over 30 years and I loved him. He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.”
Last Jedi director Rian Johnson also paid tribute to Mayhew on social media, saying, “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.”
Meanwhile, Suotamo posted to Instagram that he was “devastated” to hear of Mayhew’s death.
“Peter’s warm welcome when I came aboard as his double in The Force Awakens meant so much to me,” he wrote.
View this post on Instagram
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
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