Sad news over the weekend, as Kenny Baker, the man who brought R2-D2 to life, passed away on Saturday at age 81 after a years-long illness. Baker played R2-D2 in all six of the original Star Wars movies, and was credited as a consultant on The Force Awakens.
One of the things that distinguishes the original Star Wars trilogy (and The Force Awakens) was the devotion to practical effects. Usually, that means beautifully designed props instead of CGI, but it meant something altogether different for the two most famous droids from the Star Wars universe. Baker, along with Anthony Daniels, actually brought R2-D2 and C-3PO to life from within those droids — it’s a huge reason why they came across as so endearing and memorable. Without their work, it’s difficult to imagine them being as fondly remembered as they are today.
— Star Wars (@starwars) August 13, 2016
Baker, who was 3′8″, did incredible and very difficult work bringing R2-D2 to life. Baker had to be inside the R2-D2 shell during all of his takes, which was unsurprisingly very cramped, hot, and, according to The Guardian‘s obituary, very loud. But, it was Baker’s movements that made R2-D2’s mannerisms seem so endearing and human. He’s one of the unsung heroes of Star Wars — perhaps no other character is as iconic, and it was his work that made it happen.
Baker appeared in several other movies and television series in the ’80s after Star Wars launched his acting career, and stayed at it through Revenge of the Sith in 2005. In recent years, health problems prevented him from being as involved in The Force Awakens, and while he was able to attend the movie’s European premiere, he wasn’t able to make the red carpet debut in Los Angeles.
Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield, told The Guardian, “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.” He was indeed well-loved, and he will be missed.
Via The Guardian