Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill have paid tribute to their friend and beloved Star Wars co-star Peter Mayhew, who died this week aged 74.

In a statement, the actor’s family said the man – who played Wookie warrior Chewbacca – passed away on April 30. 

In a heartfelt statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Ford described Mayhew as “a kind and gentle man” of “great dignity and noble character.” 

At 2.18m tall, Mayhew first appeared as Chewy in the 1977 film Star Wars: A New Hope, alongside Ford’s Han Solo. 

Ford continued:

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….

Hamill, who starred as Luke Skywalker in the franchise, remembered Mayhew as “a big man with an even bigger heart.” 

“I’m grateful for the memories we shared and I’m a better man for just having known him,” he wrote.

Mayhew went on to star in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, 1983’s Return of the Jedi, and 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For 2017’s The Last Jedi, Mayhew acted as a consultant to Wookie newbie Jason Suotamo. 

On Instagram, Suotamo described his mentor as an “absolutely one-of-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivalled class.” 

“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.”

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

A post shared by Joonas Suotamo (@joonassuotamo) on

Throughout the day, Mayhew’s family have also tweeted treasured fan letters and pictures of the actor on the Star Wars set.

Image: Getty Images / Gerardo Mora