The Star Wars galaxy has come together to mourn the loss of Peter Mayhew, the actor who brought Chewbacca to life.
Tributes began to pour in from Mayhew's Star Wars family after his death was announced, including from the franchise's creator, George Lucas. "Peter was a wonderful man," Lucas said, The Hollywood Reporter reports. "He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature...and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend and I'm saddened by his passing."
Harrison Ford mourned the loss of his trusty co-pilot, saying in a statement per BBC News that "we were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him." On his official Twitter page, Mayhew's family responded with a heartbreaking paraphrase of an iconic Han Solo line: "He knew."
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Mark Hamill celebrated Mayhew as "a big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile and a loyal friend who I loved dearly," while Billy Dee Williams wrote that Mayhew was "much more than Chewie to me" and "I will miss you, my dear friend."
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy also noted that Mayhew's performance as Chewbacca was "absolutely integral to the character's success," adding that she was "impressed by his kind and gentle nature." The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson praised Mayhew as "a true legend," while The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams said that he was "a sweetheart to work with" and is "already deeply missed."
Mayhew retired from the role of Chewbacca after sharing the screen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Joonas Suotamo, who has since taken the character over. Suotamo on Thursday promised fans that Mayhew's "legacy will live on" and that the "spirit that he gave the character when he first donned the suit will never be forgotten."
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