George Lucas And Kathleen Kennedy Pay Tribute To The Late Peter Mayhew

Chewbacca Last Jedi

Last night, Star Wars fans were saddened by the announcement that original Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew had passed away. The performer was 74 when he died of a heart attack at his home in North Texas on Tuesday. In the hours since the news broke, social media has seen an outpouring of tributes to the man behind the Wookiee costume.

Meanwhile, Star Wars creator George Lucas himself has offered a few kind words about the actor, who portrayed Chewie for all of his live-action appearances up to and including 2015’s The Force Awakens. Lucas first discovered Mayhew when he was working as an orderly in a London hospital. The star caught the director’s eye with his towering physique, which stood at 7 feet and 3 inches at the peak of Mayhew’s height.

In a recent statement, Lucas reflected on the man’s gentle nature, while also referencing one of Chewbacca’s most memorable scenes in A New Hope.

“Peter was a wonderful man,” Lucas said. “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.”

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy also shared a statement, in which she discussed Mayhew’s contributions to the Star Wars franchise, and the way he expressed himself through his suit:

“We are deeply saddened today by the news of Peter Mayhew’s passing. 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.”

Lucas and Kennedy are just two of several Mayhew collaborators to have already shared their thoughts on the actor and his passing. Harrison Ford, for instance, issued a statement in which he described his co-star as “a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character.” Mark Hamill, meanwhile, tweeted that Mayhew was “the gentlest of giants” and a “big man with an even bigger heart.”

Mayhew is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children. A private memorial will take place June 29th, followed by a gathering for Star Wars fans at EmpireConLA in early December.