By TIME Staff
Updated: May 10, 2019 1:27 PM ET | Originally published: May 3, 2019

The Star Wars family is already missing its beloved Wookiee.

Peter Mayhew, the 7-foot-3 actor who played Han Solo’s loyal sidekick Chewbacca in five Star Wars films, including the original trilogy, died Tuesday at age 74, his family announced on Twitter Thursday.

Not long after, his former costars honored the British-born actor who was plucked from obscurity by George Lucas for the original 1977 film.

Harrison Ford, who memorably played Solo in the original film series, honored his “dear friend” in a heartfelt statement to The Hollywood Reporter Thursday evening:

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original films, also honored Mayhew as “the gentlest of giants” on Twitter. “I’m grateful for the memories we shared & I’m a better man for just having known him.”

Joonas Suotamo, who took over the role of Chewbacca in later films, also paid homage to Mayhew on social media.

“Peter’s warm welcome when I came aboard as his double in ‘The Force Awakes’ 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,” Suotamo wrote. “Rest assured his legacy will live on.”

Billy Dee Williams, who starred as Lando Calrissian in the original films, also honored his longtime friend Thursday evening, adding that Mayhew was “much more than Chewie to me.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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