Chewbacca actor remembers 'my little friend with the giant heart'

By Oliver Gettell
August 15, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Chris Jackson/Getty Images; John Rasimus/Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Peter Mayhew, the towering actor known for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, has penned a heartfelt tribute to his late friend and costar Kenny Baker, who inhabited the diminutive droid R2-D2.

Baker died Saturday at age 81, and Mayhew recalled their enduring friendship in a statement published Monday on his personal website.

“Kenny and I became fast friends the first time we met and formed a lifelong bond after realizing that we had so much in common,” Mayhew said. The two might have seemed an unlikely pair — Mayhew is more than 7 feet tall, while Baker stood 3 feet 8 inches — but their unique perspectives brought them closer together.

“Although people liked to contrast the difference in our heights,” Mayhew said, “we found we shared many of the same struggles, from finding clothes, driving cars, and fitting in airplane seats to health issues and the ever constant stares of strangers; we understood each other on a level that few others can.”

Praising Baker as a consummate showman who always had time for his fans, he added, “For all the joy he brought this world on screen and off I give my thanks, and a final farewell to my little friend with the giant heart who’s gone to soon.”

Mayhew is the latest of several members of the Star Wars family to pay his respects to Baker, who played Artoo in the first six films and served as a droid consultant on last year’s The Force Awakens.

Star Wars creator George Lucas remembered Baker as “a real gentleman” and “truly the heart and soul of R2-D2,” while actor Mark Hamill eulogized him as “a lifelong loyal friend.”

Read Mayhew’s full statement below.