Kenny Baker, the man who played the iconic role of R2 – D2 in “Star Wars” died at his home in Preston yesterday morning at the age of 81. His agent, Johnny Mans, confirmed that he died of a prolonged illnesses.
The 3-foot-8 inch tall British actor, first played the plucky droid in George Lucas’ 1977 blockbuster, then went on to reprise the role in two sequels, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” and three prequels from 1999 to 2005. He was was also featured in “The Elephant Man,” “Time Bandits” and “Flash Gordon.”
Visiter has quoted his nephew as saying, “I’ve lost my best friend. My Uncle Kenny might only have been 3 ft 8 in but to me he was always 6ft tall.”
A few of the biggest names of show business paid tribute to his talent. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, said: “”Kenny Baker was a real gentleman as well as an incredible trooper who always worked hard under difficult circumstances.”
“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.”
Baker grew up in Birmingham. In childhood days he was told as a child he would probably not live past puberty. He met his wife Eileen as a fan when he made an appearance on the Michael Parkinson TV chat show, after she wrote to him saying that she was a little person and wanted to meet him. They married soon in 1970 but, Sadly Eileen died of epilepsy about 20 years ago.
As news of his death spread, fans, friends and colleagues paid tribute on social media.
Mark Hamill, who played the role of Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” series, tweeted “Goodbye #KennyBaker A lifelong loyal friend — I loved his optimism & determination He WAS the droid I was looking for!”
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) August 13, 2016