Today is a sad occasion for fans of the Star Wars universe, as it was announced original Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew has passed away at the age of 74. Mayhew's official Twitter account confirmed the news on Thursday, revealing that the actor had passed away on April 30th in his North Texas home.
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 (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 2019
Mayhew portrayed the lovable Wookiee throughout the original Star Wars trilogy of films, and came back to reprise his role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
"He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in ever frame of the films from his knock kneed running, firing his bowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth." The statement from his family reads in part. "But to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film. The relationships that began then grew into the friends and family that he would love for decades to come."
Due to Mayhew's limited mobility and recent health problems, Joonas Suotamo has since played Chewbacca in subsequent Star Wars films, with Mayhew serving as a consultant for the role.
"Chewbacca is one of the most iconic characters in the history of film," Suotamo wrote in a 2017 Instagram post. "and 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.