Kenny Baker appears at “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” premier in London Dave J Hogan/ Getty Images
Kenny Baker, the actor who played R2-D2 in 1977’s Star Wars, has died at 81, The Guardian reports. According to his website, Baker began his career in show business in 1950 as a performer in a troupe known as Burton Lester’s Midgets; from there, he joined Billy Smart’s Circus before moving on to ice shows. In the 1960s he toured Great Britain as half of a club act called the Mini-Tones with Jack Purvis. Both men were cast in Star Wars: Purvis played a Jawa while Baker, 3’8” tall, climbed into the costume of R2-D2, the cheerful droid who was paired with Anthony Daniels’ uptight C-3PO. Baker went on to play the role in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the three Star Wars prequels (as well as the Holiday Special and The Muppet Show). He also had a memorable role in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits and appeared in several other films and television shows, from Mona Lisa to Amadeus.
Baker had been ill for a long time and his death was not unexpected. His niece, Abigail Shield, told The Guardian:
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.
Baker’s wife Eileen died in 1993. He is survived by two sons and seven grandchildren.
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