May 2 (UPI) — Peter Mayhew, best known as the actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, died Tuesday at his home in North Texas, the family said Thursday.
Mayhew, 74, played in five of the Star Wars movies as Han Solo’s trusty sidekick and Millennium Falcon co-pilot. The London native starred in the original Star Wars in 1977, The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, Return of the Jedi in 1983, Revenge of the Sith in 2005 and The Force Awakens in 2015.
“He put 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,” his family said in a statement posted on Twitter. “But, to him, the “Star Wars” family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”
He created the Peter Mayhew Foundation to support individuals and families in crisis situations with food and supplies. Most recently the foundation support children in Venezuela. He was also part of the 501st legion, Wounded Warriors, Make-a-Wish and other nonprofit organizations.
“His kindness, generosity and care will live on in the Peter Mayhew Foundation with Angie taking the helm as his voice,” the family said in the statement.
A memorial service for friends and family will take place June 29. A separate memorial for fans is set for December in Los Angeles. For additional information, information on the memorials or to offer condolences email [email protected]
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Peter Mayhew Foundation.
He is survived by his wife Angie and three children.
He played a minotaur, which is a half-man and half-bull figure from Greek mythology, in his first film, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger in 1971. George Lucas then cast him in Star Wars later that year while he was working as an orderly.
The 200-year-old Wookiee co-piloted Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon from the planet Kashyyyk. The voice of the character was created by sound designer Ben Burtt.
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, tweeted his condolences on his official account. The two starred in Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977.