'Big heart and a gentle nature': George Lucas, Harrison Ford lead tributes for Peter Mayhew

Shaggy, loyal, sidekick and co-pilot, the ying to Han Solo's yang, towering actor Peter Mayhew loved Chewie and Star Wars just as much as the fans.

"We couldn't understand him, but we always knew what he meant," Mayhew said once in a red carpet interview. 

Chewbacca is the world's most loved Wookiee.

The British actor was cast by Star Wars creator George Lucas for his height, but it was his huge heart which gave Chewbacca life. 

He starred in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, followed by prequel Revenge of the Sith and returning one last time much to his joy in The Force Awakens.

Chewbacca of course spoke entirely in Wookie; a series of growls, snarls, and the occasional roar, his unwavering loyalty to Han Solo made him one of the most beloved characters in the franchise. 

The tributes to the man behind the myth poured in from across the Star Wars galaxy.  

Lucas called him the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee with a big heart and a gentle nature.

Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill knew the force was strong with Mayhew, saying he was grateful for the memories shared and that he was a better man for just knowing him.

Harrison Ford, who played Solo, spoke of his friend as a man possessed of great dignity, and said that they were partners in film, friends for life and that he loved him.


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