Peter Mayhew, original Chewbacca actor, dies at 74

Peter Mayhew, the man behind the mask of Chewbacca in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, episode three of the prequels and the new trilogy has died, his family announced Thursday. He was 74.

Mayhew passed away Tuesday with family by his side at his North Texas home, his family said in a statement posted to the actor's Twitter account.

Mayhew fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to portraying Chewbacca in the 2015 film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," his family said. He also consulted on "The Last Jedi" to teach his successor.

“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,” his family said. “But, to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more than a role in a film.”

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the films, called Mayhew "the gentlest of giants."

"He was the gentlest of giants," Hamill wrote on Twitter. "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."

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

A memorial service will be held June 29 for friends and family, and a memorial for fans will be set up in early December in Los Angeles.

In lieu of gifts and flowers, his family asked fans donate to the Peter Mayhew Foundation so they can continue his efforts to help the community. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.