NORTH TEXAS — Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew has passed away at the age of 74, according to a statement posted by his family on Twitter.
The beloved sci-fi star died on Tuesday evening at his home in North Texas surrounded by his family. "He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films," the family said.
Mayhew became Chewy in 1977's Star Wars, and kept playing the "walking carpet" right up until 2015's The Force Awakens.
Lucasfilm paid tribute to the British-American actor on StarWars.com,
writing "Standing 7 feet 3 inches tall, Mayhew's Chewbacca was an imposing sight, and through body language alone, he could convey anger, curiosity, and delight. Alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo, one of film's most iconic duos was born."
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Ford described Mayhew as a "kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character." The actor said, "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."
Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hammill also paid tribute to Mayhew on Twitter, saying:
"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."
Mayhew was also involved in various charities and non-profit organizations, including Make-a-Wish and the Wounded Warriors.
He also created "The Peter Mayhew Foundation", a non-profit organization that his family says "supports everything from individuals and families in crisis situations to food and supplies for children of Venezuela during their recent road to freedom."
Mayhew is survived by his wife Angie and three children