Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew, 74, died Tuesday surrounded by his family, according to a statement announced on Twitter. Mayhew played Chewbacca in the original Star Wars trilogy.

“He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame,” his family said.

Though the character only spoke in grunts and growls, his loyalty to Han Solo made him one of the most beloved characters of the franchise. His unwavering dependability and trustworthiness made him the ultimate wingman and beloved by his fans and cast mates.

In light of his death, actor Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo issued a tribute to the actor calling him “kind and gentle man” for his “great dignity and noble character.”

“We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him,” said Ford. “He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.”

Mayhew was discovered by Charles H. Schneer while working as a hospital attendant in London and got a role in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. The following year he was cast in Star Wars as the series 200-year-old Wookie.

Mayhew almost missed out on the role, as George Lucas was looking at David Prowse to play Chewbacca. But, Prowse had his sights set on the role of Darth Vader, so Lucas went with Mayhew to play the role of Chewy.

“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,” Lucas said in a statement.


There will be a memorial service for friends and family on June 29, with a memorial for fans in Los Angeles in early December at EmpireCon. He is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children.