Los Angeles (PTI) Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew passed away on April 30 leaving his on-screen companion Harrison Ford and “Star Wars” teammates Mark Hamill, George Lucas among other Hollywood celebrities heartbroken.
Mayhew, who the affable Wookie giant Chewbacca, a friend to Ford’s Han Solo, in Lucas’ original “Star Wars” trilogy, was 74.
At the time of his death, he was surrounded by his family and friends at his North Texas home.
In a statement, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Ford said Mayhew dedicated his life to portraying Chewbacca and he will never forget his contribution to the franchise.
“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,” the actor said.
“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 it’s 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,” he added.
Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the franchise, paid tribute to Mayhew in a heartwarming post on Twitter, calling him 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. Thanks Pete #RIPPeterMayhew #Heartbroken,” he wrote.
Creator of the Star Wars universe, Lucas, remembered Mayhew as 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,” Lucas said in a statement.
Billy Dee Williams, another “Star Wars” veteran, also paid his tributes to Mayhew and posted photos with the actor on Twitter.
“Much more than Chewie to me…My heart hurts… I will miss you my dear friend… Thanks for the great memories! #RIPPeterMayhew #StarWars,” he wrote in the caption.
Directors JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson, who helmed “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” respectively, also paid homage to the Chewbacca actor.
“Peter was the loveliest man… Kind and patient, supportive and encouraging. A sweetheart to work and already deeply missed” Abrams, who is currently working on the franchise’s new instalment “The Rise of Skywalker”, said in a brief statement posted on Twitter.
Johnson said, “RIP Peter Mayhew. To create a beloved character with warmth and humoor is a testament to any actor’s spirit. To do it under a half ton of yak hair takes a true legend.”
Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy also posted their tributes on the microblogging site.
“The @WaltDisneyCo mourns the loss of our beloved #chewbacca portrayer, #PeterMayhew. Peter was larger than life in so many ways…a gentle giant playing a gentle giant. Rest in peace,” Iger said.
In a statement, posted on the official Twitter handle of “Star Wars”, Kennedy said she is “deeply saddened” by 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,” she added.
Others who condoled Mayhew’s death included actors Joonas Suotamo, Alan Tudyk, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Suotamo, who took over the role of Chewbacca in “The Last Jedi”, shared an image of him and Mayhew from the sets of the film and said he is feeling devastated.
“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-a-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class, and I will miss him,” he said.
Tudyk, who portrayed droid character K-2SO in the spin-off “Rogue One”, said, “Peter Mayhew created one of the greatest film characters of all time. Chewbacca was funny, courageous, and caring. He did it all without the benefit of speech, just that vocal growly cry that 1 in 100 fans can do real well when they’re drunk. He was always really nice to me.#RIP.”
Sharing a throwback photo of his with the Chewbacca actor, Trudeau said the franchise would not be the same without Mayhew.
“Star Wars wouldn’t have been the same without Peter Mayhew as the loyal and lovable Chewbacca, and he will always be a favourite for generations of kids & kids at heart. Rest easy, Peter,” the Canadian PM wrote on Twitter.