Tremendous loss has hit Tinseltown this week with the deaths of director John Singleton and now actor Peter Mayhew, the man behind the crossbow-toting Han Solo sidekick, Chewbacca.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 74-year-old Mayhew died on Tuesday in his North Texas home. No cause of death has been mentioned. His family, who remained by his side up until his final moments, officially announced his passing via his official Twitter account on Thursday.
“He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films,” reads the statement. “But, to him, the ‘Star Wars’ family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”
A private memorial for Mayhew has been scheduled for June 29, with another gathering for fans scheduled in December at EmpireConLA. He is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children.
Members of the “Star Wars” family, from Harrison Ford to Mark Hamill to George Lucas, have all paid tribute to the man they all considered a friend for over 40 years since “Star Wars” took the world by storm in 1977.
“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,” Harrison Ford said in a moving statement to THR. “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.
“Chewbacca was an important part of the success of the films we made together,” he continued. “He knew how important the fans of the franchise were to its 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.”
Mark Hamill praised Mayhew as a gentle giant who made him a better person. “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,” Hamill tweeted Thursday.
George Lucas said: “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.”
A native to the United Kingdom, Mayhew worked as a hospital orderly before landing the role of Chewbacca. Lucas reportedly hired him for his tall physique, which stood at a gargantuan 7-foot-3 at the time. He would go on to play Chewbacca in five “Star Wars” movies, including “The Force Awakens” in 2015 before passing the baton off to actor Joonas Suotamo. Though Mayhew did not provide the voice of Chewbacca (iconic sound designer Ben Burtt created that), THR notes that fans “credit the body language and expressiveness of the eyes the actor brought to the role in making Chewbacca a beloved character.”
May he rest in peace.