Actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the “Star Wars” films, has died.
Mayhew’s family said in a statement Thursday that he died at his home in Texas on Tuesday. He was 74. No cause was given.
The 7-foot-3 Mayhew played the shaggy, towering Chewbacca, sidekick to Han Solo and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.
He went on to appear as the lovable wookiee in 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith” and shared the part in 2015’s “The Force Awakens” with actor Joonas Suotamo, who later took over the role.
Suotamo tweeted about Mayhew’s death Thursday: “He was an absolutely one-of-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class and I will miss him,” the actor wrote.
“He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in Star Wars: the Force Awakens,” his family said in the statement. “He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films … To him the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”
Born and raised in England, Mayhew had appeared in just one film and was working as a hospital orderly in London when George Lucas found him and cast him in 1977’s “Star Wars.”
Mark Hamill, who portrayed Luke Skywalker in the franchise, tweeted a tribute to Mayhew: “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.”
The sad news comes just days before “Star Wars Day,” May 4.
Aside from being an actor, Mayhew also established the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which supports individuals and families in crisis situations by providing food and supplies. Most recently, Mayhew and the foundation were assisting children from Venezuela, the statement read.
He is survived by his wife Angie and three children.
A memorial service for family and friends will be held June 29, but a Los Angeles memorial is also set for early December at EmpireConLA.