Mayhew’s family made the announcement from the actor’s official Twitter account late Thursday afternoon.
“The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away,” they wrote. “He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home.”
Mayhew wore the iconic “fuzzball” suit as Han Solo’s hairy and unintelligible Wookiee sidekick in the first three Star Wars movies (1977’s A New Hope, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s The Return of the Jedi) as well as the 2005 prequel Revenge of the Sith. He also played Chewie in the notorious 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, which focused on Chewbacca’s family as they prepared to celebrate the Wookiee holiday of Life Day.
A native of Barnes, Surrey, in the U.K., Mayhew returned to the hirsute role for 2015’s The Force Awakens. But because of chronically bad knees (he spent much of his offscreen time in a wheelchair or using his trademark lightsaber-shaped cane), Mayhew had to split the duties with Finnish newcomer Joonas Suotamo, a former basketball player. While he was physically unable to perform again after that film, Mayhew served as a consultant to Suotamo for 2017’s The Last Jedi and last year’s spin-off, Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Many fellow actors took to Twitter to express their loss. Mark Hamill said on his Twitter:
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
Billy Dee Williams wrote on his Twitter: