Kenny Baker has died at age 81.
Baker was best known for playing R2D2 in the original Star Wars; bringing a human aspect to the lovable droid and making him one of the most lovable characters in the Star Wars franchise. He went on to appear in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three prequels.
Baker's films include Time Bandits, Flash Gordon, Mona Lisa, Amadeus, The Elephant Man, and many more.
Mr. Baker was born in Birmingham in the UK on August, 24, 1934. The Shaftesbury Society (a Christian group in London that cares for young people with disabilities) helped him overcome some challenges that came along with his height.
He started performing in 1950 at the age of 16, joining the Burton Lester’s Midgets as a performer. After his short stint with the group, he became a DJ with Mecca Organization before joining Billy Smart’s Circus as a clown and shadow Ringmaster. Later in his career, Mr. Baker toured the country for 9 years, doing pantomime and ice shows, where he actually met the queen. After leaving the ice, he formed a musical comedy act: The Mini Tones.
Later, Mr. Baker and his friend Jack Purvis, became nightclub performers. Jack Purvis would also go on to star in Star Wars.
In 1978, as R2-D2, Baker put his footprints into concrete outside Graumann’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, Hollywood.
He worked with many comedians including Dickie Henderson, Leslie Crowther, Ken Dodd (as a Diddyman), Little and Large, Russ Abbot, Ben Elton, Dick Emery and Dave Allen. He has also been on 3,2,1 and Opportunity Knocks and even met Laurel and Hardy.
When offered the role of R2D2, he initially turned it down. In an interview on his website Baker recalled telling the film's creator George Lucas: "I don't want to be stuck in a robot, what for, for goodness' sake?" When Baker found out that Alec Guinness was in the film, he decided it must be a decent movie because Alec Guinness knew a lot more about film making than himself.
Despite the fame R2-D2 brought him, Baker told the BBC in 2001 that his own favorite screen role was as Fidgit in 1981's Time Bandits.
Kenny Baker was a father of two. His wife Eileen died in 1993.
Mr. Baker was a repeat guest and friend of Dragon Con; he will truly be missed. May the Force be with you!