After the family of Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew announced his passing yesterday, a spokesperson later confirmed his cause of death — that the 74-year-old died after suffering a heart attack.
Mayhew’s family had announced in a statement released on Thursday via the late actor’s Twitter account, saying that he died on Tuesday at his home in North Texas, with his family by his side. It was known that Mayhew had recently undergone spinal surgery.
— Clayton Sandell (@Clayton_Sandell) May 2, 2019
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 Mayhew Foundation (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 2019
The passing of the Chewbacca actor — as fans worldwide prepared to celebrate Star Wars Day on May 4 — came as a shock. Fans, celebrities and colleagues took to social media on Thursday to express their condolences and show support to the family of the late actor.
“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,” Han Solo actor Harrison Ford said in a statement. “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.”
“He was the gentlest of giants,” Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill tweeted. “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.”
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 #RIPPeterMayhew #Heartbroken @TheWookieeRoars pic.twitter.com/8xbq9HEWF2
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) May 2, 2019
RIP Peter Mayhew aka Chewie. May he get his medal now. pic.twitter.com/LvgBmMQUES
— 9GAG (@9GAG) May 3, 2019
RIP to Peter Mayhew. Give Carrie a hug from us, Chewie. ? pic.twitter.com/Faak0553Cr
— Julie Benson (@TheJulieBenson) May 2, 2019
”No one’s ever really gone”
RIP Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher, and Kenny Baker. pic.twitter.com/og5vVsEc7d
— S T E V E N – The Fandom Menace Illustrator™ (@StevenWayneArt) May 3, 2019
— Butch Hartman (@realhartman) May 3, 2019
So Blessed to have spent time with the legendary #PeterMayhew. A right proper Gentleman whose heart and personality matched his stature. You’ve achieved .5 beyond light speed, Chewy. RIP pic.twitter.com/rFGL0EGTvY
— Lou Diamond Phillips (@LouDPhillips) May 3, 2019
— Esther Wagner (@kiranadraws) May 3, 2019
Just heard the news that Peter Mayhew, who played our beloved Chewbacca, has passed away. His career spanned generations and he brought joy to millions of people on and off screen. At some point or other, he has made every single one of us smile. That’s quite an accomplishment ❤️ pic.twitter.com/sgePS1gI8m
— Hazel Hayes (@TheHazelHayes) May 3, 2019
Just found out that the wonderful Peter Mayhew has passed away. He was the gentlest and kindest of souls and a good friend. My love and condolences to his wife, Angie and the rest of his family. #RIPChewie
— Marina Sirtis (@Marina_Sirtis) May 3, 2019
He was a sci fi legend who will be missed ❤️?
— Laurel Carter (@darthcarter115) May 3, 2019
Peter Mayhew, who stood 7 foot, 3 inches, portrayed the 200-year-old Chewbacca — a Wookie from the planet Kashyyyk — in the Star Wars film series. Chewie, as the character is affectionately known, was Han Solo’s co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon.
Mayhew made five appearances as Chewbacca, including in all the three films of the original trilogy — Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and the Return of the Jedi (1983).
He also appeared in Revenge of the Sith (2005) from the prequel trilogy and The Force Awakens (2015) from the sequel trilogy.
In The Force Awakens, he shared the role of Chewie with the Finnish actor Joonas Suotamo. Suotamo then played Chewie alone in The Last Jedi (2017).
Mayhew was born in Barnes, Surrey, England in May 1944. Although it is widely claimed that his great height was due to a form of gigantism, Mayhew once denied it, saying, “I don’t have a big head.”
Film producer Charles H. Schneer noticed Mayhew in a newspaper photograph while he worked as an orderly at a hospital in London. His first film role was in Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) in which he played the role of the bronze Minoton.
Mayhew is survived by his wife Angelique Mayhew, and three children.