Peter Mayhew, who portrayed Chewbacca in the original Star Wars trilogy, has passed away at the age of 74. According to a statement released by his family, he died at his home in Texas with his family at his side on 30th April.
Mayhew was born in London, and was selected for the role of Chewbacca purely for his height (7ft 2in). While casting for Star Wars George Lucas has initially earmarked David Prowse to portray Chewbacca but Prowse opted to play Darth Vader instead, leaving the wookiee suit open. He would portray Han Solo's co-pilot in the original trilogy, and returned for Revenge of the Sith. In 2015's The Force Awakens he shared the role with Joonas Suotamo, for subsequent films he remained in a consultant role.
A fan favourite at conventions, Mayhew was often described as a gentle giant, and his family said that "the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film". He was also much-loved by his fellow cast members, and tributes have been flooding in.
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.
What was so remarkable about him was his spirit and his kindness and his gentleness was so close to what a Wookiee is. He just radiated happiness and warmth. He was always up for a laugh and we just hit it off immediately and stayed friends for over 40 years.
He was an absolutely one-of-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivalled class and I will miss him. 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.
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.
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. When I first met Peter during The Force Awakens, I was immediately impressed by his kind and gentle nature.
Peter was brilliantly able to express his personality through his skilful use of gesture, posture, and eyes. We all love Chewie, and have Peter to thank for that enduring memory.
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Mayhew. He was our beloved companion in a galaxy far, far, away. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and fans. The force will be with you always, Peter.
San Diego Comic-Con
A private memorial service for friends and family will be held in June, with a memorial service for fans planned for December.
Rest in peace, Peter Mayhew, 1944 - 2019.