Not unexpected, as Kenny Baker was too ill to make the London premiere of Star Wars Episode VII, but still very sad news today that the British actor that brought R2-D2 to life in the first six Star Wars films has passed away after a long illness. The British actor brought life to the little droid long before he became a completely electronic creation, and also had roles in Flash Gordon, The Elephant Man, and Amadeus (among many others) during his distinguished career. The Hollywood Reporter’s full obituary is below along with a Tweet from co-star Mark Hamill who may have summed it up best: “He was the droid we were looking for.” Kenny Baker was 81.
British actor Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the first six Star Wars films has died at the age of 81, after a long illness according to a report in The Guardian, which quoted a statement from Baker’s niece.
The niece, Abigail Shield, told The Guardian of her uncle’s death, “It was expected, but it’s 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. We’re all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime.”
“When he was a child, he was told that he probably wouldn’t survive through puberty, being a little person in those times, they didn’t have a very good life expectancy,” Shield said of the actor, who grew to 3 feet, 8 inches tall. “He did extremely well in his life. He was very ill for the last few years so we had been expecting it. He had been looked after by one of his nephews, who found him on Saturday morning.”
Shield explained that Baker met his wife Eileen after an appearance on the Michael Parkinson TV show. She wrote in, saying she was also a little person and wanted to meet him. “They got married soon after,” Shield said, adding that Eileen died of epilepsy about 20 years ago.
Baker was also able to attend the London premiere of the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.
Baker first played R2-D2 in the first Star Wars film in 1977. He went on to reprise the role of the droid in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as well as the three Star Wars prequels George Lucas directed from 1999 to 2005. In addition to the Star Wars films, Baker also appeared in Flash Gordon, The Elephant Man,Amadeus, Time Bandits and Labyrinth. He also had a role in The Goonies TV series among other small-screen appearances.
Mark Hamill remembered Baker in the below tweet on Saturday.