Joonas Suotamo, who played Chewbacca in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, has posted a brief statement in response to the death of his predecessor, Peter Mayhew. The pair shared the role on The Force Awakens before Suotamo took it over completely, so the pair have a closer connection than many actors who take the baton from the older generation might. Suotamo had paid tribute to Mayhew in a statement shortly before the release of Solo, in which he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play a character he loved.
"Devastated to hear about the passing of a dear friend and mentor, the great Peter Mayhew," Suotamo wrote today. "Peter's warm welcome when I came aboard as his double in The Force Awakens meant so much to me. Studying the character he helped create was always a daunting task, but one that was made easier by his tutelage and kindness as we sought to bring Chewbacca to life for a new generation. He was an absolutely one-of-a-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivaled class and I will miss him." You can see his full statement in the tweet below.
R.I.P 😔 pic.twitter.com/FWRgaOS0Tf— Joonas Suotamo (@JoonasSuotamo) May 2, 2019
Mayhew, whose poor health led to him stepping out of the role of Chewbacca in the first place, passed away on April 30th in his North Texas home, according to a statement from his family.
"Chewbacca is one of the most iconic characters in the history of film," Suotamo said in his pre-Solo statement. "Peter's development and portrayal of this beloved Wookiee has spread so much joy across the globe. Peter's guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey. I aspire to make Peter proud and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love."
Outside of his Star Wars role, Mayhew also founded the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which seeks to alleviate "disease, pain, suffering, and financial toll" brought on by harrowing events. Mayhew is survived by his wife, Angle, and three children, and Angie will reportedly continue to lead the Peter Mayhew Foundation.
A memorial service for friends and family is set to be held on June 29th, with a memorial for fans expected to be set up in December at EmpireCon LA.
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