Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford lead tributes to Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew

Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew has been remembered as a "big man with an even bigger heart" following his death at the age of 74.

British-American actor Mayhew played Wookiee warrior Chewbacca in the revered fantasy series of films, appearing in five movies, most recently 2015's The Force Awakens.

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SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10: Actors Peter Mayhew (L) and Mark Hamill pose backstage at the Lucasfilm panel during Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
Peter Mayhew at the Premiere Of Disney Pictures And Lucasfilm's 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' held at El Capitan Theater on May 10, 2018 in Hollywood, CA, USA (Photo by JC Olivera/Sipa USA)
Ray Park and Peter Mayhew at the Premiere Of Disney Pictures And Lucasfilm's 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' held at El Capitan Theater on May 10, 2018 in Hollywood, CA, USA (Photo by JC Olivera/Sipa USA)
Peter Mayhew attending the premiere of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in Leicester Square, London
Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew arriving to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens European Premiere held in Leicester Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. See PA story SHOWBIZ StarWars. Picture date: Wednesday December 16, 2015. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Peter Mayhew and Harrison Ford attending the Star Wars: The Force Awakens European Premiere held in Leicester Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. See PA story SHOWBIZ StarWars. Picture date: Wednesday December 16, 2015. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Cast members Hayden Christensen (left) and Peter Mayhew (who plays Chewbacca) arrive.
File photo dated 14/07/99 Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca and Kenny Baker who palyed R2D2 arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Star Wars : Episode 1 The Phantom Menace at the Odeon Leicester Square in London, as Mr Baker has died at the age of 81.
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 10: Peter Mayhew attends the premiere of Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Solo: A Star Wars Story" at the El Capitan Theatre on May 10, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 09: Peter Mayhew (L) and Actor Joonas Suotamo at the world premiere of Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Last Jedi at The Shrine Auditorium on December 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 24: Actor Peter Mayhew (L) speaks with an attendee during the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con at the Las Vegas Convention Center on June 24, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 13: Peter Mayhew attends the 40 Years of Star Wars panel during the 2017 Star Wars Celebration at Orange County Convention Center on April 13, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Disney)
ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 13: Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew attend the 40 Years of Star Wars panel during the 2017 Star Wars Celebrationat Orange County Convention Center on April 13, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Disney)
ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 13: Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew and Mark Hamill attend the 40 Years of Star Wars panel during the 2017 Star Wars Celebrationat Orange County Convention Center on April 13, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 10: Actors Peter Mayhew (L) and Diego Luna attend The World Premiere of Lucasfilm's highly anticipated, first-ever, standalone Star Wars adventure, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" at the Pantages Theatre on December 10, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Peter Mayhew attends the European Premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at Leicester Square on December 16, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Cast and crew including Lupita Nyong'o, Warwick Davis, Gwendoline Christie, J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Kathleen Kennedy, Max von Sydow, Peter Mayhew and John Boyega attend the European Premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Leicester Square on December 16, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
British actor Peter Mayhew attends the opening of the European Premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in central London on December 16, 2015. Ever since 1977, when "Star Wars" introduced the world to The Force, Jedi knights, Darth Vader, Wookiees and clever droids R2-D2 and C3PO, the sci-fi saga has built a devoted global fan base that spans the generations. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Peter Mayhew attends the European Premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Leicester Square on December 16, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actor Peter Mayhew (L) and Stormtroopers attend the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the Dolby Theatre on December 14th, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10: (L-R) Actors Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew and John Boyega pose with Stormtroopers backstage at the Lucasfilm panel during Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 16: Cast members (L-R) Peter Mayhew, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Anthony Daniels of the original "Star Wars" film are introduced to fans at the kick-off event of Disney's Star Wars Celebration 2015 at the Anaheim Convention Center April 16, 2015. The Star Wars Celebration runs through April 19. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 16: Actor Peter Mayhew speaks onstage during Star Wars Celebration 2015 on April 16, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12: Actor Peter Mayhew attends Heavy Metal Magazine's 35th Anniversary Party - Comic-Con International 2012 held at The Haunted Hotel on July 12, 2012 in San Diego, California (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JULY 07: Actor Peter Mayhew and Darth Vader participate in The Inaugural "Course Of The Force" Olympic Relay Run with lightsabers to Benefit The Make-A-Wish Foundation hosted by LucasFilm, Nerdist Industries and Octagon held at The Santa Monica Pier on July 7, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 11: Peter Mayhew ,who played "Chewbacca" in the Star Wars films, attends the 2011 Wizard World Comic Con at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on August 11, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Paul Warner/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Actors Peter Mayhew, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams and Ewan McGregor arrive to St. Jude's 30th anniversary screening of 'The Empire Strikes Back' at Arclight Cinema on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 07: Actor Peter Mayhew "Chewbacca" from Star Wars attends the 2009 New York Comic Con at the Jacob Javits Center on February 7, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by George Napolitano/FilmMagic)
Actor Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca from "Star Wars") appears in the "Walk of Fame" at Dragon*Con on September 1, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Frank Mullen/WireImage)
Peter Mayhew during 2006 Big Apple Comic Book, Art, Toy and Horror Expo - Press Reception at Penn Plaza Pavilion in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Robin Platzer/FilmMagic)
Peter Mayhew during "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" London Premiere at Odeon Leicester Square in London, Great Britain. (Photo by Tim Whitby/WireImage)
MTV MOVIE AWARDS (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
Promotional portrait of American actress Carrie Fisher as she sits on the lap of British actor Peter Mayhew, in costume as Chewbacca, on the set of 'Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi' (directed by Robert Guenette), a documentary about the second film in the Star Wars saga that focuses on variety of unusual beings that populate the film's world; the program was originally broadcast on November 21, 1983. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Hulton Archive)
British actors Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, American Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford on the set of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi directed by Welsh Richard Marquand. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
American actors Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, British Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew on the set of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi directed by Welsh Richard Marquand. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
The stars of 'Star Wars: Episode V û The Empire Strikes Back' attend a photocall outside the Savoy Hotel, Peter Mayhew, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker, 19th May 1980. (Photo by Alisdair MacDonald/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
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His family announced his death on Thursday, and said he died at his home in Texas on April 30 surrounded by loved ones.

Shortly after the news broke, Mayhew's fans and former co-stars paid tribute.

Harrison Ford, who played the character of Han Solo, praised him for his "great dignity and noble character".

In a statement to the Press Association, Ford said: "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.

Ford added: "Chewbacca was an important part of the success of the films we made together. He knew how important the fans of the franchise were to its continued success and he was devoted to them.

"I and millions of others will never forget Peter and what he gave us all. My thoughts are with his dear wife Angie and his children. Rest easy, my dear friend."

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, shared a tribute on social media in which he described Mayhew as the "gentlest of giants".

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 & I'm a better man for just having known him. Thanks Pete #RIPPeterMayhew #Heartbroken".

George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, also paid tribute.

In a statement, he said: "Peter was a wonderful man. 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."

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy also commented. She said: "We are deeply saddened today by the news of Peter Mayhew's passing.

"Since 1976, Peter's iconic portrayal of the loyal, lovable Chewbacca has been absolutely integral to the character's success, and to the Star Wars saga itself.

"When I first met Peter during The Force Awakens, I was immediately impressed by his kind and gentle nature. Peter was brilliantly able to express his personality through his skilful use of gesture, posture, and eyes. We all love Chewie, and have Peter to thank for that enduring memory."

Joonas Suotamo took over the role of Chewbacca from Mayhew, first as a body double in Force Awakens and later as the lead in 2017's The Last Jedi and 2018's A Star Wars Story.

Writing on Twitter, he said: "Devastated to hear about the passing of a dear friend and mentor, the great Peter Mayhew.

"Peter's warm welcome when I came aboard as his double in The Force Awakens meant so much to me.

"Studying the character he helped create was always a daunting task, but one that was made easier by his tutelage and kindness as we sought to bring Chewbacca to life for a new generation.

"He was an absolutely one-of-a-kind gentleman and a legend of unrivalled class and I will miss him.

"As the entire Star Wars universe grieves over this terrible loss my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Angie and his family and all of the fans whose lives he has impacted.

"Rest assured his legacy will live on and the spirit that he gave the character when he first donned the suit will never be forgotten."

Robert Iger, chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, wrote on Twitter: "The @WaltDisneyCo mourns the loss of our beloved #chewbacca portrayer, #PeterMayhew. Peter was larger than life in so many ways... a gentle giant playing a gentle giant. Rest in peace."

The actor Elijah Wood tweeted: "Sad to hear of Peter Mayhew's passing. So long, Chewie, may the force be with you."

The San Diego Comic-Con Twitter account also shared a message of tribute.

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Mayhew. He was our beloved companion in a galaxy far, far, away. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and fans. The force will be with you always, Peter.

— San Diego Comic-Con (@Comic_Con) May 2, 2019

"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Mayhew," it said.

"He was our beloved companion in a galaxy far, far, away. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and fans. The force will be with you always, Peter."

Mayhew died surrounded by his family at his home in Texas on April 30. He is survived by his wife, Angie, and his three children.

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