Mayhew portrayed the wookiee — Han Solo's co-pilot and second-in-command — beginning with the very first movie back in 1977. He later reprised the role in the third prequel film and most recently in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in 2015. Mayhew then handed the role over to Joonas Suotamo for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story. While he recently retired from playing the role, he was still Chewie inside and out through spirit.
"He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca," his family wrote. "It showed in every 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. But, to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film."
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
As news of Mayhew's death spread, the Star Wars family, including Suotamo and Mark Hamill, took to Twitter to share their memories of Mayhew.
R.I.P 😔 pic.twitter.com/FWRgaOS0Tf— Joonas Suotamo (@JoonasSuotamo) May 2, 2019
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
The statement from Mayhew's family shares that that actor passed away in his home in North Texas with his family by his side and plans for a memorial service are already in place. One will be held on June 29 for friends and family, and later this year, in December, there will be a larger memorial in Los Angeles at EmpireConLA. It will include some personal effects and parts of his own Star Wars collection.