Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker writer-director J.J. Abrams on Thursday penned a handwritten letter remembering Chewbacca star Peter Mayhew, who was revealed to have died April 30 at his Texas home.
“Peter was the loveliest man... kind and patient, supportive and encouraging,” Abrams wrote in a note shared to Twitter. “A sweetheart to work with and already deeply missed.”
Abrams steered Mayhew when the actor reprised his role as Chewbacca in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which partnered the seven-foot, two-inch tall actor once more with Han Solo star Harrison Ford.
“Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character,” Ford said in a statement to ComicBook.com.
“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.”
Ford added, “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 it’s continued success and he was devoted to them. 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.”
Former co-star Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker, also paid tribute to Mayhew on social media, remembering the star as “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.”
Billy Dee Williams, who returns to the franchise as Lando Calrissian this December, also memorialized Mayhew with a social media tribute, writing Mayhew was “much more than Chewie to me.”
In a statement published via Disney-owned ABC, Star Wars creator George Lucas said Mayhew was “a wonderful man.”
“He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookie: big heart, gentle nature... and I learned to always let him win,” Lucas’ statement reads. “He was a good friend and I’m saddened by his passing.”
Mayhew retired from the role and passed the torch to Joonas Suotamo, who tweeted he was “devastated to hear about the passing of a dear friend and mentor, the great Peter Mayhew.” Suotamo acted as Mayhew’s double on The Force Awakens before inheriting the role fully in The Last Jedi, returning again in Solo: A Star Wars Story and next Rise of Skywalker.
Abrams utilized unused footage from The Force Awakens to involve late Leia Organa star Carrie Fisher in Rise of Skywalker, billed as the culmination of the Skywalker Saga.
Also starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.
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