Actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the “Star Wars” films, has died at the age of 74.
Mayhew’s family said in a statement Thursday that he died at his home in Texas on Tuesday. No cause was given.
The 7-foot-3 shaggy was a loyal sidekick to Han Solo and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon.
Not only was Chewbacca larger than life on film, Mayhew himself was a towering figure, standing 7-foot-3.
Mayhew was working as a hospital orderly in London when George Lucas found him and cast him in 1977’s “Star Wars.”
He was quite the character in the original “Star Wars” trilogy who went on to appear in 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith.”
Mayhew shared the part in 2015’s “The Force Awakens” with actor Joonas Suotamo, who later took over the role.
“He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films,” the family statement said. “But, to him, the ‘Star Wars’ family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”
Mayhew developed lifelong friendships with the other “Star Wars” actors and spent three decades traveling the world to meet his fans, the statement says.
“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,” actor Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker opposite Mayhew, wrote on Twitter. “I’m grateful for the memories we shared & I’m a better man for just having known him.”
His family said he was active with various nonprofit groups and established the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which is devoted to alleviating disease, pain, suffering and the financial toll from traumatic events, its website says.
He is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children. A memorial service will be held June 29.