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Peter Mayhew, original 'Star Wars' Chewbacca actor, dies at 74

Sad news for Star Wars fans everywhere.

Actor Peter Mayhew, who was the man behind the mask of Chewbacca in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, has died at the age of 74, his family announced Thursday. 

In a statement posted on Mayhew's official Twitter account, his family said that the actor died Tuesday evening "with his family by his side in his North Texas home." 

"He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films from his knock kneed running, firing his bowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth. But, to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film," his family's statement read.  

Mayhew is survived by his wife, Angie, and their three children.  

"He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in Star Wars: The Force Awakens," his family wrote. He also consulted on "The Last Jedi" to help and teach his successor how to portray the iconic "Star Wars" character he first brought to life. 

Actor Mark Hamill, who played Luke in "Star Wars," paid tribute to Mayhew, who he called "the gentlest of giants" and a "big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile."

"I'm grateful for the memories we shared & I'm a better man for just having known him. Thanks Pete," Hamill tweeted. 

Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that he loved his dear friend. 

"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 said.  

A memorial service for family and friends is planned for June 29. 

The family is planning a memorial service for fans in early December at EmpireConLA

Mayhew's family asks that fans consider donating to the Peter Mayhew Foundation in his memory. 

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Peter Mayhew arrives at the premiere of "Solo: A Star Wars Story" at El Capitan Theatre on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)