Kenny Baker, the British actor played R2-D2 in the first six “Star Wars” films has died at the age of 83, after a long illness according The Guardian. In the story, Baker’s niece Abigail Shield said 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.”
The actor stood 3-feet-8-inches tall and first portrayed R2 in the 1977 film “Star Wars: A New Hope.” Mr. Baker’s other film credits include “The Goonies,” “Flash Gordon, “Time Bandits,” “Willow” and “Labyrinth.”
Born to a music-loving family in the central England city of Birmingham on Aug 24, 1934, Mr. Baker started performing at 16 as part of a troupe called “Burton Lester’s Midgets.” Baker told The Associated Press in 1985 that Burton had asked him “What can you do?’ I said I could roller skate, ride a bike and whistle. I joined them and did all that, and conjuring tricks, played drums and comedy routines as well.”
Goodbye #KennyBaker A lifelong loyal friend-I loved his optimism & determination He WAS the droid I was looking for! pic.twitter.com/rd94OEYaHi— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) August 13, 2016
Baker later worked as a DJ and circus clown, and as half a comedy-musical duo called the Mini-Tones.
Fame came when he was cast as the actor inside R2-D2’s cylindrical robot costume in 1977’s “Star Wars.” “I worked the levers,” he told the AP.
Even though R2-D2’s dialogue amounted only to beeps and whistles, the lovable droid and his lanky friend C-3PO became two of the series’ most beloved characters.
Baker returned for “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” and reprised the role in three prequels released between 1999 and 2005.
Despite their onscreen rapport, Mr. Baker and Anthony Daniels, who played C-390, weren’t close. Baker accused Daniels of being snobbish; Daniels was once quoted by Britain’s Daily Mirror as saying Mr.Baker “might as well be a bucket.”
Mr. Baker’s wife Eileen died in 1993. The couple had two sons.
Contributing: Associated Press
So sad to hear one of my dearest friends passed away. Rest in peace Kenny Baker. Love you. Will miss you! pic.twitter.com/FosdwNysGk— Daniel Logan (@Daniel_Logan) August 13, 2016
#KennyBaker is gone. #RIPR2D2 You will live on in this galaxy for years to come!— Josh Gad (@joshgad) August 13, 2016
Rest in peace, Kenny Baker, the heart and soul of R2-D2. pic.twitter.com/NqOpxotxyK— 20th Century Studios (@20thcentury) August 13, 2016