Man, 2016 continues to be an absolutely brutal year for celebrity deaths that actually mean something to movie fans like myself. On Saturday, The Guardian broke the upsetting news that veteran actor Kenny Baker, best known for playing lovable Astromech droid R2-D2 in six “Star Wars” films, had passed away. He was 81.
When he was born in 1934, doctors advised Baker’s parents that his life expectancy would not likely cross his childhood years. And yet, he not only lived a ripe old age, his dimunitive 3′ 8″ size did not stop him from being a success in showbiz. He began performing way back in 1950 in various circus gigs around his native UK, before landing the role that launched his career in George Lucas’ 1977 “Star Wars”.
Although the degeneration of his health in recent years prevented him from suiting up as R2 in last year’s “The Force Awakens”, Baker was still credited as an “R2 Consultant”. Baker also starred in films like “Flash Gordon”, “Time Bandits”, “Labyrinth”, and “Willow”.
Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield, spoke to The Guardian about her uncle’s passing, saying: “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.”
Lucas himself came forward with a tribute: “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.”
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy also issued a statement: “We’re all saddened to learn of Kenny’s passing. There is no Star Wars without R2-D2, and Kenny defined who R2-D2 was and is. He will be greatly missed.”
Indeed he will. Rest in peace, Mr. Baker. Thanks for being one the favourite parts of our childhood memories…