There’s one fewer star in the galaxy now, and colleagues and fans are paying their respects.
On Thursday, the family of Peter Mayhew announced that the British actor, best known for playing the lovable sidekick Chewbacca in numerous Star Wars films, has died at 74. In the wake of the news, former costars such as Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) shared tributes to Mayhew.
Ford, who perhaps worked most closely with Mayhew aboard the Millennium Falcon, shared a statement with EW. “Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character,” he said. “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,” Ford continued. “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.…”
George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars and Chewbecca, said in a statement, “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.”
Hamill shared his remarks on Twitter, writing, “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.”
Hamill also shared photos of himself with Mayhew, both a recent shot and one of the two of them on set together during the filming of the original Star Wars trilogy.
“Much more than Chewie to me,” wrote Williams, who also shared photos from over the years. “My heart hurts…I will miss you my dear friend.” Williams and Mayhew notably shared some screen time in the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit while Han Solo was frozen in carbonite.
Joonas Suotamo, who took over the role of Chewbacca in The Last Jedi, also honored Mayhew on social media, sharing an imaged of him and Mayhew on set together, as well as a lengthier tribute. “Devastated to hear about the passing of a dear friend and mentor, the great Peter Mayhew,” he wrote. “Peter’s warm welcome when I came aboard as his double in The Force Awakens meant so much to me. Studying the character he helped create was always a daunting task, but one that was made easier by his tutelage and kindness as we sought to bring Chewbacca to life for a new generation. He was an absolutely one-of-a-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class, and I will miss him.
“As the entire Star Wars universe grieves over this terrible loss my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Angie and his family and all of the fans whose lives he has impacted,” he continued. “Rest assured his legacy will live on and the spirit that he gave the character when he first donned the suit will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace my friend.”
Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm, also shared remarks on Mayhew as part of a larger piece about the actor’s death on the official Star Wars website. “We are deeply saddened today by the news of Peter Mayhew’s passing,” she said. “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.”
Many other friends and fans paid tribute to Mayhew online, including The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, Disney CEO Bob Iger, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, fellow actor William Shatner, and Ahmed Best, the man behind Jar Jar Binks.
See below for a sampling.