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.
The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away. He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home. pic.twitter.com/YZ5VLyuK0u
— Peter Mayhew Foundation (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 2019
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.
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.
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 (@MarkHamill) May 2, 2019
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.”
Throughout the day, Mayhew’s family have also tweeted treasured fan letters and pictures of the actor on the Star Wars set.
He always looked forward to messages from you and kept them all. @jjabrams pic.twitter.com/NAPLdN55Er
— Peter Mayhew Foundation (@TheWookieeRoars) May 3, 2019
— JJ Abrams (@jjabrams) May 3, 2019
“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.”-Kathleen Kennedy.
More: https://t.co/iGfk9XRzKa pic.twitter.com/5edrPrEuRS
— Star Wars (@starwars) May 3, 2019
May the Force Be with You, #PeterMayhew! As the King of the Cinematic Sidekicks, your performance helped make my childhood fun! Thank you for bringing Chewbacca to life and for always waving the flag for fandom! We may have let the Wookie win, but YOU won our hearts, sir! pic.twitter.com/B6cpKTKyv2
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) May 3, 2019