Kenny Baker, the British actor who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films, has died aged 81.
Baker, who was just 112 centimetres due to a form of dwarfism, passed away on Saturday after a long illness.
Born in Birmingham, England, the star’s small size saw him cast by Star Wars director George Lucas as R2-D2 in the original 1977 film, with Kenny placed inside the robot and operating it from within.
He reprised the role in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the Star Wars prequel films, playing R2-D2 for the last time in the 2005 instalment Revenge of the Sith.
Baker also starred in a number of other much loved films, including classic children’s adventure comedy The Goonies, Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits and another science-fiction blockbuster, Flash Gordon.
His niece Abigail Shield tells Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, “It (her uncle’s death) 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.”
Shield added her uncle had been invited to the premiere of the latest film in Lucas’ franchise Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Los Angeles last year but was too unwell to travel. The film was the first live-action Star Wars movie to feature R2-D2 without Baker’s involvement.
“He had problems with his lungs and was often in a wheelchair,” she said. “He was very poorly for a long time. He was asked to go out to LA for the new Star Wars premiere but he was told he was too ill to travel.”
However Kenny did attend the film’s London premiere and before his death met Lucas in Manchester, England one final time.
His wife Eileen Baker, who was also born with dwarfism, died in 1993.