Sad news this morning as The Guardian reports that actor Kenny Baker, perhaps best known as the man inside R2-D2 in the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies, has passed away at age 83.
“It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless,” niece Abigail Shield told the site. Baker had reportedly suffered from a long illness prior to his death. “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.”
Born at a time when little people were not expected to live past their teen years, Baker began performing in the mid-1950s, eventually forming a comedy troupe with fellow little person — and eventual Time Bandits co-star — Jack Purvis. In addition to R2, Baker also appeared in Return of the Jedi as the Ewok who steals an Imperial speederbike.
I forget exactly when I learned Baker performed as R2-D2, but I may have been no older than five as one of my uncles and a cousin were into the filmmaking aspects of the series. But for me, Baker’s face was burned into my brain via his performance in Time Bandits, which CBS and Showtime used to show with surprising regularity in the 1980s. As part of a troupe of runaway spacetime repairmen looking to use the Supreme Being’s map of time to steal treasure, Baker’s Fidgit was the nice one, even in the face of leader Randall’s abuse.
Besides Time Bandits and the Star Wars films, Baker appeared in such films as Amadeus, The Elephant Man, Labyrinth and Flash Gordon. He published his memoirs, From Tiny Acorns: The Kenny Baker Story, in 2009 and was credited as a consultant on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.