Peter Mayhew, the actor behind Star Wars' beloved Chewbacca, dies at 74

The Star Wars universe is mourning as news broke today of the death of one of the franchise’s most beloved — and most towering — cast members: Peter Mayhew, the 7-foot-2 actor who played Chewbacca in five movies died Tuesday at the age of 74.

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.

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