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Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew dies aged 74

Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew has been remembered as a ‘kind and gentle man’ and the ‘gentlest of giants’ by his co-stars Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill following his death aged 74.

The British-American actor, who was 7ft 3in, was known for playing Chewbacca in the sci-fi films, the hairy Wookiee character who was a sidekick to Ford’s Han Solo.

Harrison Ford posted on Instagram to say: ‘We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him.’

Mayhew died at his home in Texas earlier this week, his family said in a statement on Twitter.

They said: ‘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.’

Mayhew played Wookiee warrior Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Revenge Of The Sith (2005) and, most recently, The Force Awakens (2015).

Ford – who starred alongside Mayhew in four of the films – said in a statement: ‘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.’

Ford starred as Han, the cynical smuggler and close friend of Chewbacca. Together, the pair piloted the Millennium Falcon.

Luke Skywalker actor Hamill described Mayhew as ‘the gentlest of giants’ in a post on Twitter.

He added: ‘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 and I’m a better man for just having known him. Thanks Pete.’

George Lucas, creator of Star Wars said in a statement that Mayhew ‘was a wonderful man’ and a ‘good friend’.

‘He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature – and I learned to always let him win.’