Entertainment

Kenny Baker, who played R2D2 in Star Wars, dead at 81

Kenny Baker, the man who brought R2D2 to life in six Star Wars films, has died.

Actor, who was less than four feet tall, rose to fame playing famous robot character in 6 films

Actor Kenny Baker gestures after arriving for the British premiere of the Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith in London May 16, 2005. (Kieran Doherty/Reuters)

Kenny Baker, the man who brought R2D2 to life in six Star Wars films, has died. His official website puts his age at 81.

The British actor, who stood three feet eight inches tall, had been battling a long illness, according to The Guardian, who spoke with Baker's niece, Abigail Shield.

Shield said Baker had "problems with his lungs and was often in a wheelchair."

The actor who played R2-D2 (middle) in six Star Wars films, Kenny Baker, has died. His lovable robot buddy C-3PO is on the right, with BB-8 on the left. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

The former nightclub and circus performer appeared in the 1977 original movie as well as The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the franchise's prequel trilogy.

Some people might be surprised to learn there was a human inside R2-D2, considering his dialogue amounted only to beeps and whistles. 

"I worked the levers," he told the Associated Press in a 1985 interview.

The lovable droid, created by a robotics expert who died earlier this year, and his lanky friend C-3PO became two of the series' most beloved characters.

While he was best known for that role, Baker also starred in several other films during his career, including The Elephant Man, Time Bandits, Willow, Flash Gordon and Jim Henson's Labyrinth.

Fans of his work and those who shared the screen with him expressed condolences.

"Goodbye #KennyBaker A lifelong loyal friend-I loved his optimism & determination He WAS the droid I was looking for!" Mark Hamill, who portrayed Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars flicks, posted on social media Saturday. 

"So sorry to hear about this," Ewan McGregor, who played young Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in the three Star Wars prequels, posted on his Twitter account. "It was lovely working with Kenny."

Runaway Jury and The Time Machine actor Orlando Jones, tweeted: "Beep-bee-bee-boop-bee-doo-weep" - That's droid speak for RIP Kenny Baker #R2D2."

Baker's website, which hasn't been updated with news of his death, recognized the messages of well-wishes he had been receiving from fans during his illness and stated "when the sunshine has allowed, I have enjoyed the peace and tranquility of my garden."

 Baker's wife Eileen died in 1993. They are survived by two sons.

With files from the Associated Press

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