Yesterday evening, the family of Peter Mayhew announced via the actor’s Twitter account that the man we’ve come to know as Chewbacca had passed away on April 30 at the age of 74. Mayhew has been a huge part of all of our lives since his turn as the “walking carpet” in George Lucas’s 1977 film Star Wars: A New Hope, playing the Wookiee in four additional films: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith, and The Force Awakens. He also served as a “Chewbacca consultant” on The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
That’s an impressive résumé, and Mayhew was one of the more prolific of the Star Wars actors. His involvement in the franchise, and later in conventions and fan events, has touched so many lives. So naturally, an outpouring of affection came after the announcement of his death. Many members of Mayhew’s Star Wars family have released statements memorializing the actor.
Harrison Ford–who played Chewie’s companion, Han Solo–released this statement to The Hollywood Reporter:
“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. Chewbacca was an important part of the success of the films we made together. 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.”
Other original Twitter cast members took to Twitter to share their memories of Mayhew. Mark Hamill called him, “A big man with a big heart.”
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 #RIPPeterMayhew #Heartbroken @TheWookieeRoars pic.twitter.com/8xbq9HEWF2
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) May 2, 2019
Billy Dee Williams got emotional in his post, saying his “heart hurts” at the news of his friend’s passing.
— Billy Dee Williams (@realbdw) May 3, 2019
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy shared her thoughts on the actor on the official Star Wars website.
“We are deeply saddened today by the news of Peter Mayhew’s passing. Since 1976, 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.”
And the man who originally cast Mayhew in his iconic role, George Lucas, also weighed in. Like Ford, he released his statement via THR.
“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.”
The next generation cast also took to social media to share their condolences. John Boyega shared this touching post on his Instagram account.
And Joonas Suotamo, who has since taken on the role of Chewbacca in the new films, called Mayhew, “A one-of-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class.”
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
Sequel trilogy Star Wars directors J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson also shared their thoughts about Mayhew on Twitter.
— JJ Abrams (@jjabrams) May 3, 2019
RIP Peter Mayhew. To create a beloved character with warmth and humor is a testament to any actor’s spirit. To do it under a half ton of yak hair takes a true legend. ❤️❤️
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) May 3, 2019
And touchingly, Billie Lourd, the daughter of actress Carrie Fisher, shared her own tribute on Instagram, including pictures of her late mother with Mayhew. Lourd also acted alongside Mayhew in The Force Awakens.
View this post on Instagram
The world will never forget Peter Mayhew, and Chewbacca will live on forever in our hearts and onscreen.
You are one with the Force, and the Force is with you.
Images: Disney, Lucasfilm