Peter Mayhew, the man behind the loveable yet fearsome Wookiee Chewbacca in the Star Warsfranchise, has died aged 74.

The 7ft 3inch actor died at his home in Texas with his family by his side on the evening of Tuesday, 30 April - according to a statement from the family.

His Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford was among the first to pay an emotional and heartfelt tribute, telling The Hollywood Reporter:

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.

For those who've never seen Star Wars - yes, believe it or not they do exist - Chewbacca was the sidekick to Ford's character Han Solo. The pair shared and subsequently stole scenes together in the franchise's three original movies - Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Mayhew also shared the role of Chewbacca with two other actors in 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which marked the last appearance in the films for both Ford and Mayhew.

Ford's tribute continues:

He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.

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...

Reacting to Ford's touching tribute, the official Twitter account dedicated to Peter Mayhew responded with two simple yet devastating words:

This is, of course, a reference to the iconic scene in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo is about to be frozen in carbonite. After Princess Leia confesses her love for Han he responds simply with, "I know."

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the films, also paid tribute to his co-star and described him as "the gentlest of giants" and "a big man with an even bigger heart".

"I'm grateful for the memories we shared and I'm a better man for just having known him," added Hamill.

No, we're not lifting our heads to the sky and letting out a long, drawn-out, distressed and emotional Wookie growl, you're lifting your head to the sky and letting out a long, drawn-out, distressed and emotional Wookie growl.

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