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English Actor who played R2-D2 in Star Wars Movies, Dead at 83

Kenny Baker was just 3'8" tall, but bighearted and played in 4 Star Wars movies

 

August 14, 2016

Baker was less than 4 feet tall and fit inside the robot R2-D2. He carried on a running feud with Anthony Daniels, the actor who played C3PO

English Actor Kenny Baker, 83 has died. He was most famous for playing R2-D2 in 1977's Star Wars IV: A New Hope. He played the robot in sequels as well, such as The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.

R2-D2 or Artoo-Detoo is a fictional robot character in the Star Wars universe created by George Lucas, who appears in the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and the sequel trilogy. As a charismatic and mischievous astromech droid (referred to in the novel as a 'thermocapsulary dehousing assister'), R2-D2 is a major character appearing with his protocol droid companion, C-3PO, as the only two characters to appear in all seven Star Wars films. Throughout the course of the films, he joins or supports Padmé Amidala, Anakin Skywalker, Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, and Obi-Wan Kenobi in various points in the saga.

His niece Abigail Shield told The Guardian that his death was expected, but "sad nonetheless."

"He had a very long and fulfilled life. He brought lots of happiness to people and we'll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world," Shield said. "We're all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime."

His niece explained that Baker's parents did not expect him to live past puberty. "Being a little person in those times they didn't have a very good life expectancy. He did extremely well in his life," she explained. "He was very ill for the last few years so we had been expecting it."

Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO alongside Baker in the "Star Wars" films, had a well-documented bitter feud with Baker throughout filming.

The creator of "Star Wars," George Lucas, commended Baker's commitment to his role as R2-D2 and his positive personality. "Kenny Baker was a real gentleman as well as an incredible trooper who always worked hard under difficult circumstances," Lucas said in a statement.

"A talented vaudevillian who could always make everybody laugh, Kenny was truly the heart and soul of R2-D2 and will be missed by all his fans and everyone who knew him," he continued.

Fellow actors shared their sadness for the loss of the actor on Twitter. Mark Hamill, who famously played Luke Skywalker in the "Star Wars" films, called Baker a "lifelong friend."

Baker, who stood 3 ft 8 in tall, was born and educated in Birmingham, and at boarding school in Kent. His parents were of average height. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and be an engraver, but had not received sufficient education. He went to live with his father, stepmother and half sister in Hastings, Sussex, and in 1951 was approached on the street by a lady who invited him to join a theatrical troupe of dwarves and midgets.

This was his first taste of show business. Later, he joined a circus for a brief time, learned to ice skate and appeared in many ice shows. He had formed a successful comedy act called the Minitones with entertainer Jack Purvis when George Lucas hired him to be the man inside R2-D2 in Star Wars in 1976.

Baker appears as R2-D2 in six of the episodic theatrical Star Wars films, and played an additional role in 1983's Return of the Jedi as Paploo, the Ewok who steals an Imperial speeder bike. He was originally going to play Wicket, but he fell ill and that role was handed over to Warwick Davis. Baker is featured on Justin Lee Collins's "Bring Back Star Wars". He revealed a feud between him and his co star Anthony Daniels. He claimed Daniels had been rude to him on numerous occasions, and states that Daniels is rude to everyone, including fans.

Baker's other films include The Elephant Man, Time Bandits (also with Jack Purvis), Willow (also with Purvis and Warwick Davis), Flash Gordon, Amadeus and Jim Henson's Labyrinth. On television, he appeared in the British medical drama Casualty.

He also had a part in the BBC production of The Chronicles of Narnia.

 

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