R2-D2 Actor Dead; Kenny Baker Was 81

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Kenny Baker, the actor who portrayed the much-beloved robot R2-D2 in the Star Wars films, has died at 81 after a long illness. Baker appeared in six of the series’ films. As the above tweet from 20th Century Fox – the franchise’s original distributor – notes, Baker was the “heart and soul of R2-D2.”

For many, the popular droid was the heart and soul of the entire series. Baker, who stood at just 3 feet 8 inches, was born in Birmingham, England. He had already appeared in a handful of films when George Lucas tapped him to play R2-D2 in the original Star Wars, which was released in 1977. Baker also appeared in the two sequels, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s Return of the Jedi, as well as its three prequels, 1999’s Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, 2002’s Episode 2: Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. He was a consultant for 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

His other big film credits include 1981’s Time Bandits opposite Sean Connery and John Cleese. Here’s the goosebump-inducing “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi” scene where Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker is talking to Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi. When Obi-Wan examines R2-D2 he discovers an urgent plea from Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia that’s been hidden inside the droid.

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