Peter Mayhew, who became known to fans worldwide as the lovable Wookiee Chewbacca in the Star Wars galaxy of films, has died. He was 74.
The actor died on Tuesday in his North Texas home with his family by his side. His official Twitter account shared the news on Thursday, reports hollywoodreporter.com.
Mayhew had undergone spinal surgery in July in an effort to improve his mobility.
The London native played Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Revenge of the Sith (2005) and The Force Awakens (2015).
Mayhew had done some minor acting — he played a minotaur in the Ray Harryhausen fantasy Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger(1977) — and was working as a hospital orderly when he tried out for the part of Chewbacca. He got the role based on his physique, as writer-director George Lucas was in desperate need of someone who would be able to play taller than Darth Vader.
Lucas mourned the death of the actor, saying: “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 veteran Mark Hamill tweeted: “He was the gentlest of giants. A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile and a loyal friend who I loved dearly. I’m grateful for the memories we shared and I’m a better man for just having known him.”
Harrison Ford, who played the Han Solo to Mayhew’s Chewbacca, also expressed his condolences.
“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. Rest easy, my dear friend,” Ford said.
Mayhew is survived by his wife Angie, and three children.