It's a sad day for “Star Wars” fans, as news just broke that Peter Mayhew has passed away. He was 74.
Mayhew, who was 7 feet 3 inches, played Chewbacca the Wookie in the “Star Wars” series from the first film in 1977 until “Force Awakens” in 2015.
TheBlast.com reports that Mayhew died of a heart attack, but had no known heart issues. A source said his family spent 20 to 30 minutes performing CPR before emergency services arrived.
His family posted the news on Twitter with “deep love and sadness,” confirming Mayhew passed away surrounded by family on April 30 at his home in Texas.
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. pic.twitter.com/YZ5VLyuK0u
Peter's loved ones said in a statement, “He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films.”
A memorial for friends and family will take place in June, and fans will be invited to take part in a tribute to Peter in December at Empire Con in L.A.
Harrison Ford, who played opposite Mayhew as Han Solo in the franchise, said in a statement to Morning Call, “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. 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.”
"Star Wars" creator George Lucas told the paper, "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."
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, paid tribute to Mayhew on Twitter.
Director JJ Abrams shared on Twitter, "Peter was the loveliest man... kind and patient, supportive and encouraging. A sweetheart to work with and already deeply missed."
"Extra" spoke to Joonas Suotamo, who took over the role of Chewbacca, at Stars Wars Celebration in Chicago last month. He told us, “I'm very thankful for the people who came before me, for Peter Mayhew who appreciates that I'm continuing his legacy forward as Chewie who is one of the most beloved characters in the saga. I want to bring Chewie out there for people to have that spark in their eyes like when they saw the first 'Star Wars' and that is what I am there to do and hope to do.”