Star Wars fans were hit with sad news this past Saturday when it was reported that Kenny Baker, the actor who played the lovable droid R2-D2 through the first six episodes of the Star Wars saga, had passed away at the age of 83. Many who knew and worked with Baker have been paying tribute to the late actor since the news hit, including George Lucas himself, who has issued a statement on StarWars.com.
“Kenny Baker was a real gentleman as well as an incredible trooper who always worked hard under difficult circumstances,” writes Lucas. “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 of his fans and everyone who knew him.”
Kathleen Kennedy, the current overseer of the Star Wars franchise, paid her respects as well. “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.
Baker passed away at the age of 81, having struggled with illness for quite some time leading up to his death. “He had problems with his lungs and was often in a wheelchair. He was very poorly for a long time,” Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield, told The Guardian. “He was asked to go out to LA for the new Star Wars premiere but he was told he was too ill to travel. Luckily he did manage to meet George Lucas again when he came to Manchester.”
“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.”
Standing 3ft 8 inches tall, Baker’s short stature helped him land the role he would become famous for, despite being told by many doctors growing up that he wouldn’t make it past puberty, let alone the age of 81.
“#RIP #KennyBaker. Sad to say goodbye to a small man with a huge heart & personality. He paved the way for short actors of a generation. x,” tweeted Baker’s Star Wars co-star Warwick Davis.
Baker leaves behind two children with his wife Eileen, who passed away in 1993.