- Kenny Baker, the actor that played the droid R2D2, passed away at the age of 81
- He performed the grueling task of controlling the cramped droid, a task George Lucas confesses probably nobody else could have performed
- George Lucas and many others in the industry fondly remember the actor and acknowledge his contribution
Most people didn’t even know that R2D2 was played by an actor!
Inside the cute astromechanic droid was 110cm tall Kenny Baker sweating away at the levers.
Initially Baker didn’t want to play the droid but George Lucas confessed to Baker that he was probably the only one who could perform the role of R2D2. They couldn’t use kids for the grueling task (and the task was grueling) and Kenny Baker was the only one small and strong enough to work the droid from the inside. So Baker agreed. He told George: "I'll help you out. I'll do you a favor.”
The actor recalls playing the droid: "I could work all hours, from 8 in the morning to 8 at night. You couldn't do that with kids. I was a godsend to them really. They'd made the robot in rough form and I was the only one around at the time that was just right for it. I got into it and they put the lid on me like a boiled egg."
The last couple of years had been hard for Kenny Baker. He was suffering from breathing difficulties and sadly couldn’t attend the premiere of the latest Star Wars movie.
George Lucas said in a statement: "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."
Ewan McGregor, the actor that played the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Ben Kenobi in the prequel trilogy, tweeted: "So sorry to hear about this. It was lovely working with Kenny."
Comedy director, writer and actor Kevin Smith wrote on his twitter page: "Rest in Peace @starwars legend #KennyBaker - whose name I learned at age 7 because he brought #R2D2 to life. Feels like losing family..."
The actor was married to Eileen Baker who passed away in 1993. The couple had two children.