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Several Hollywood stars got emotional when they learned of Peter Mayhew’s death on Thursday and took to social media to pay tribute to the late actor. Mayhew, known for playing Chewbacca in Star Wars films over a period spanning decades, died Tuesday in his North Texas home with family by his side. His official Twitter account confirmed the news. The actor was 74.
The London native was best known for his iconic performance as Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Revenge of the Sith (2005) and The Force Awakens (2015).
Prior to starring as the iconic Chewbacca character, Mayhew worked as a hospital orderly. With George Lucas hoping to find someone taller than Darth Vader, Mayhew got the role based on his physique (in his prime, Mayhew stood 7-foot-3).
While Mayhew did not provide the voice of the 200-year-old Wookiee (created by sound designer Ben Burtt), fans credit the actor’s body language and expressive eyes with making Chewbacca a popular character. He reprised his infamous Star Wars role for appearances on Donny & Marie and The Muppet Show and, more recently, Glee.
In a statement, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy remembered Mayhew for his “kind and gentle nature”: “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. When I first met Peter during The Force Awakens, I was immediately impressed by his kind and gentle nature. Peter was brilliantly able to express his personality through his skillful use of gesture, posture, and eyes. We all love Chewie, and have Peter to thank for that enduring memory.”
Harrison Ford also expressed his condolences in a statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter: “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. 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.”
Meanwhile, Lucas said of Mayhew’s passing: “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.”
After news broke of Mayhew’s death, Hollywood stars took to social media to express their condolences for the late actor. Read their reactions below.
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 (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 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.
— Star Wars (@starwars) May 3, 2019
— Billy Dee Williams (@realbdw) May 3, 2019
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 (@HamillHimself) May 2, 2019
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) May 2, 2019
A sad day for millions of fans. https://t.co/qRfFWOd4ck
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) May 2, 2019
— Pegg News (@simonpegg) May 2, 2019
Sad to hear of Peter Mayhew’s passing. So long, Chewie, may the force be with you.
— Elijah Wood (@elijahwood) May 2, 2019
— Joonas Suotamo (@JoonasSuotamo) May 2, 2019
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 2, 2019
So sorry to hear about the loss of Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca. We were together at MANY conventions and often had dinner with the 501st. What a sweet, warm guy. We all owe him a life debt. pic.twitter.com/fCGzCd3cGt
— Kevin J Anderson (@TheKJA) May 2, 2019
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Mayhew. He was our beloved companion in a galaxy far, far, away. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and fans. The force will be with you always, Peter.
— San Diego Comic-Con (@Comic_Con) May 2, 2019
Thank you for bringing Chewbacca to life and giving us years of memories. Rest In Peace, Peter Mayhew. May the Force be with you. pic.twitter.com/lBwy1N3GKS
— New York Comic Con (@NY_Comic_Con) May 2, 2019
A short Chewbacca story: A few years ago, I got to visit Pinewood Studios, where they shoot Star Wars. In the Warbrobe Department, there was a small room where they kept the Chewie costumes. When I saw him, I couldn’t help myself. Something came over me.
— Noah Segan (@kidblue) May 2, 2019
— Ian Doescher (@iandoescher) May 2, 2019
Lovely statement. Mr. Mayhew will be deeply missed, but Chewie is in good hands. https://t.co/wpatWsyfBt
— Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg) May 2, 2019
RIP Peter Mayhew. To create a beloved character with warmth and humor is a testament to any actor’s spirit. To do it under a half ton of yak hair takes a true legend.
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) May 3, 2019
I am so sorry to hear about Peter. We had so many fun and memorable tweets back and forth over the years plus seeing each other at a convention here and there. My deepest condolences to his family. He will be sorely missed! https://t.co/R3lAEvkQJc
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) May 2, 2019
— Greg Grunberg (@greggrunberg) May 2, 2019
— JJ Abrams (@jjabrams) May 3, 2019
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