Late last month, Peter Mayhew, the man behind Chewbacca, passed away from a heart attack, leaving behind a massive following in the Star Wars community. The actor, who played the lovable Wookie in the series’ Original Trilogy, and even returned for The Force Awakens, was known for his kindness and generosity, sharing his warmth with fans around the world at various conventions.
Harrison Ford, perhaps the star who worked with Mayhew most as Han Solo, was among the many who issued a statement of condolence following the news. But going on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night, the visibly emotional actor continued to broadcast his appreciation for his longtime friend.
“He was a really sweet man. Nice man. And he had a hard time, physically,” Ford explained to Fallon. “It was really hard for him to do what he did for us, what he did for all of us, and he did it with a real dignity and class. He was a really neat guy. I miss him.”
When Jimmy Fallon, proving why he’s my least favorite of the late night hosts, said that his show is normally more playful (and therefore, less meaningful, in my eyes) and that he appreciated Ford for speaking candidly, the Indiana Jones actor quickly quipped, “get on with it.”
But pushing my distaste for Fallon aside, this interview with the iconic performer demonstrated that he and Mayhew’s decades-long relationship stretched far beyond the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. And we can only imagine then how impactful Han and Chewie’s return to the ship was for both actors.
In light of the physical challenges Mayhew faced, Joonas Suotamo debuted as Chewbacca in The Force Awakens for the more action-heavy scenes, and fully took on the role for The Last Jedi, Solo: A Star Wars Story and the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Though someone else may be playing the Wookie now, the entire Star Wars community is grateful for Mayhew and the joy he gave us.