Kenny Baker, who played the “Star Wars” droid R2-D2 — one of the most beloved characters in the space-opera franchise — died Aug. 13 in Preston, England. He was 81.
Mr. Baker’s nephew and caregiver, Drew Myerscough, said he found Baker dead Saturday at his home in Preston, in northwestern England.
Myerscough told Britain’s Sky News that Baker had dealt for years with breathing problems, “which he had borne very bravely.” He said the affection of “Star Wars” fans around the world “kept him going, without any doubt.”
“He was amazed that, even after 30-odd years, the fans still basically adored him,” Myerscough said.
Mr. Baker’s agent, Johnny Mans, confirmed the death.
“Kenny was truly a great friend, one of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet and a fabulous and talented performer,” Mans wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times. “He was a one-off. There will never be another Kenny Baker.”
The British actor, who was 3-foot-8, first played the plucky droid in George Lucas’s 1977 blockbuster “Star Wars,” and he reprised the role in two sequels, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” and three prequels.
Emitting a never-ending stream of beeps and boops, R2-D2 was both a comic foil to his uptight counterpart, C-3PO, played by Anthony Daniels, and a key player in the Rebel alliance’s fight against the Empire, serving as a trusty courier of secret messages.
Mr. Baker, who before “Star Wars” worked as a circus performer and was part of a comedy troupe called the Minitones, endured stifling temperatures to squeeze himself inside the droid costume.
“The problem was we had to get someone inside it,” “Star Wars” art director Leslie Dilley, who helped design R2-D2, said in 2007. “I eventually ended up with Kenny Baker, who was small with upper-body strength. Kenny didn’t want to do this job. He and his buddy were on a talent show on TV. . . . I had to go around to his house and persuade him.”
Kenneth George Baker was born Aug. 24, 1934, in Birmingham, England.
In addition to the “Star Wars” films, Mr. Baker appeared in the 1980 science-fiction film “Flash Gordon” and director Terry Gilliam’s 1981 fantasy film “Time Bandits,” and more dramatic films such as “Amadeus” and “The Elephant Man.”
But it was the role of R2-D2 for which Mr. Baker remained best-known. Mr. Baker was a consultant on last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and attended the film’s London premiere.
Mr. Baker’s wife, Eileen, died in 1993. The couple had two sons.
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