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Star Wars star Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca, dies aged 74

Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill paid tribute to their friend

Emmy Griffiths

Peter Mayhew, who is best known for his role as the iconic character Chewbacca in the Star Wars franchise, has sadly passed away aged 74. His family released a statement, posted to his Twitter account, which read: "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."

Harrison Ford paid tribute to Peter

They confirmed there would be two memorial services, one for family and friends and the other for fans, and asked for donations to Peter's foundation, the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which helps to support people in times of crisis. He is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children.

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Speaking about his acting career, his family revealed that Peter was wheelchair-bound and "fought" to play Chewie for a final time in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, before acting as a consultant on The Last Jedi to teach his successor the ropes. They said: "He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and 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."

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Peter with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker

Peter's fans and co-stars were quick to pay a loving tribute to the late star, with Mark Hamill writing: "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." In a statement to Variety, Harrison Ford added: "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. 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."