The Guardian reports that Kenny Baker, the 3′ 8″ actor best known for playing R2-D2 in the first six Star Wars films, has passed away at the age of 81.
Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield, spoke to the outlet about her uncle’s passing, saying: “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.”
Baker originated the role of the blue and white droid in the 1977 film and reprised it across a number of different platforms including The Muppet Show, the Disney ride Star Tours, and even the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. Though he didn’t perform as the droid in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was credited as an “R2 Consultant” for the final film. His film work also included the likes of Flash Gordon, Time Bandits, Labyrinth, and Willow.
Born in Birmingham in the UK in 1934, Baker began performing in 1950 in various circus roles around the United Kingdom before starring in films.
“Kenny Baker was a real gentleman as well as an incredible trooper who always worked hard under difficult circumstances,” said George Lucas. “A talented vaudevillian who could always make everybody laugh, Kenny was truly the heart and soul of R2-D2 and will be missed by all his fans and everyone who knew him.”
“We’re all saddened to learn of Kenny’s passing,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “There is no Star Wars without R2-D2, and Kenny defined who R2-D2 was and is. He will be greatly missed.”