Peter Mayhew, Actor Who Portrayed Chewbacca in Star Wars, Dies at 74

Peter Mayhew, best known for bringing to life one of cinema’s most beloved characters, Chewbacca, has died. He was 74.

The actor’s family released a statement on his official Twitter page on Thursday, writing, “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,” the statement continued.

Mayhew portrayed Chewbacca in George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy, as well as Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.

The actor returned to the role for 2015’s The Force Awakens, with his family saying in the statement, “He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more.”

Mayhew also “consulted” on The Last Jedi, his family said, putting “his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films from his knock-kneed running, firing his bowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth.”

“But to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”

In 2015, Mayhew, who was 7’3”, told PEOPLE he enjoyed returning to his iconic role for The Force Awakens saying, “It’s been really, really fabulous.”

He also opened up about returning to his famous rapport with onscreen buddy Harrison Ford, saying, “We were in our trailers in England and there was a knock on the door. It’s Harrison, [saying], ‘Hey buddy. How are you doing? You’ve got to get back in the old suit again, have you?’”

“And a great big hug and everything was back to normal,” Mayhew said.

Actor Joonas Suotamo served as Mayhew’s Chewbacca double for The Force Awakens and portrayed the character fully in The Last Jedi in 2017.

In 2018, Suotamo told PEOPLE Mayhew was a “great guy” adding, “He gave me a week-long Wookie boot camp where he taught me all the nuances of the character.”

“It was so helpful because some things I knew intuitively, but a lot of things he was able to point out, like walking with a proud chest,” he continued. “Those kind of things were very good to go over with him because we’re the two people in the world who’ve gotten the privilege to play this character. To learn from the original was very helpful.”

Mayhew is survived by his wife Angie, and their three children. A memorial service will be held for him on June 29, as well as a memorial service in early December in Los Angeles for fans.

Rather than gifts and flowers, the actor’s family asks fans to consider donating to the Peter Mayhew Foundation.

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