Peter Mayhew, the towering actor who donned a huge, furry costume to give life to the rugged-and-beloved character of Chewbacca in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and two other films, has died.
Mayhew died at his home in north Texas on Tuesday, according to a family statement. He was 74. No cause was given.
As Chewbacca, known to his friends as Chewie, the 7-foot-3 Mayhew was a fierce warrior with a soft heart, loyal sidekick to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon.
Mayhew went on to appear as the Wookiee in the 2005 prequel “Revenge of the Sith” and shared the part in 2015’s “The Force Awakens” with actor Joonas Suotamo, who took over the role in subsequent films.
He defined the incredibly well-known Wookiee and became a world-famous actor for most of his life without speaking a word or even making a sound — Chewbacca’s famous roar was the creation of sound designers.
“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.”
“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.” — Harrison Ford, who starred opposite Mayhew in four “Star Wars” films, in a statement.
“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.” — Mark Hamill, who starred opposite Mayhew in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, via Twitter.
“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, in a statement.
“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.” — Joonas Suotamo, who now plays Chewbacca after serving as his double on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” via Twitter.
“RIP Peter Mayhew. 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, who directed “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” via Twitter.
— JJ Abrams (@jjabrams) May 3, 2019
The Associated Press