There’s a disturbance in the Force today. Kenny Baker, British actor and musician, died Saturday morning after suffering from a long illness. The 83-year-old was best known for manning the heroic and iconic droid R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise.
The Guardian confirmed the death, issuing a statement from Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield, which read: “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.”
Born Kenneth George Baker in Birmingham, England, Baker originally attended boarding school in Kent and planned to follow his father’s footsteps to become an aengraver. His first shot at show business arrived when he was approached in the street to join a theatrical troupe of little people, an invitation that eventually led to work at a circus and ice shows.
Shortly after, he formed a successful comedy act dubbed the Minitones alongside entertainer Jack Purvis, which caught the eye of George Lucas, who hired him to man the infamous droid R2-D2 in 1977’s Star Wars. He would reprise the character six more times, including last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, before finally handing off the role to Jimmy Vee last November.
In addition to Star Wars, Baker also starred in several other major motion pictures, including Flash Gordon, Amadeus, Willow, The Elephant Man, Time Bandits, and 24 Hour Party People. In the late ’90s, he even tried his hand at stand up comedy and played harmonica in the James Coutts’ Scottish Dance Band.
His wife Eileen Baker passed away in 1993. They are survived by their two children.