Harrison Ford Pays Tribute to Star Wars’ Chewbacca Actor Peter Mayhew: ‘I Loved Him’

By Li Yen, Epoch Times
May 4, 2019 Updated: May 8, 2019

Are you a die-hard Star Wars fan? For those who are obsessed with this epic space opera, Chewbacca and his iconic Wookiee’s roars are unforgettable.

Just a few days ago, on April 30, many Star Wars fans were saddened by the news of Peter Mayhew’s death. Mayhew was the actor behind the mask of Chewbacca, and the actor who brought Wookiee’s roars to life.

©Getty Images | Frederick M. Brown

In a statement posted on Twitter, Mayhew’s family wrote: “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.”

The British-born, 7-foot-2-inch- (2.18-meter-) tall actor, who was working shifts as a hospital orderly when he was offered the role of Chewbacca in the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope (1977), was 74 years old when he passed away. He played the Wookiee warrior in Star Wars films from 1977 to 2015.

Peter Mayhew arrives at the world premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in Los Angeles. Mayhew, who played the rugged, beloved, and furry Wookiee Chewbacca in the “Star Wars” films, has died. (©AP | Jordan Strauss)

“He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films from his knock-kneed running, firing his bowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth,” his family wrote in the statement posted on Twitter.

“But, to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film,” they further added.

The family revealed Mayhew established the Peter Mayhew Foundation and supported “everything from individuals and families in crisis situations to food and supplies for children of Venezuela.” He also played an important role in Wounded Warriors, Make-A-Wish as well as 501st Legion, and he “traveled all over the world spending time with fans and friends” for over 30 years.

“Peter developed lifelong friendships with the other cast members and his fans while on the convention circuit touching the lives of millions,” the statement further read.

Mayhew acted alongside Harrison Ford, the original character of Han Solo, in four Star Wars films: A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Return of the Jedi (1983), and The Force Awakens (2015).

Hailing from the planet Kashyyyk, the tall and furry Chewbacca has been Han Solo’s lovable yet fearsome sidekick in the Star Wars saga. The giant alien, who had a big heart, showed unflinching loyalty to Han Solo through the years of chaos.

In this Oct. 5, 1978, file photo are the actors featured in the “Star Wars” movie: from left, Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo; Anthony Daniels, who played the robot C3P0; Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia; and Peter Mayhew, who played the Wookie, Chewbacca. (©AP| George Brich)

Not surprisingly, Ford was amongst the first to pay homage to Mayhew.

In an emotional tribute, Ford said: “I loved him.”

“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,” Ford said, in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter.

“We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him,” he further added.

This Dec. 16, 2015, file photo shows Peter Mayhew, left, and Harrison Ford at the European premiere of the film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in London. (©AP | Jonathan Short)

“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 its continued success and he was devoted to them,” Ford continued.

“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…”

Many celebrities also took to social media to mourn the loss of the man behind Chewbacca.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “Star Wars wouldn’t have been the same without Peter Mayhew as the loyal and lovable Chewbacca, and he will always be a favourite for generations of kids & kids at heart. Rest easy, Peter.”

Joonas Suotamo, who took over Mayhew’s role as Chewbacca, posted an eulogy on Twitter.

“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-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class and I will miss him,” Suotamo wrote.

Meanwhile, George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, 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.”

Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, also paid tribute to the legend, 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.”

Rest in peace, Peter Mayhew. May the force be with you. Thank you for bringing joy into our childhood with your portrayal of the Wookiee warrior!