The entire galaxy is in mourning today as one beloved member of the original Star Wars universe has passed away. Kenny Baker, perhaps best known as the man inside R2-D2, succumbed to a lengthy illness. He was 83 years old at the time of his passing. Baker's niece Abigail Shield was the first to report the news, telling this to The Guardian.
"It was expected, but it's sad nonetheless. He had a very long and fulfilled life."
Standing at 3-foot, 8-inches, Kenny Baker was one of the few actors capable of fitting inside the body of droid R2-D2, which needed someone to bring the practical character to life back in 1977. He was fully credited as one of the main cast members in the original movie Star Wars: A New Hope, and would return for the next two installments in the first trilogy, 1980's Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return of the Jedi, the later of which also saw him donning the Ewok costume of Paploo. He even played R2-D2 in the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.
He would later return to the role for 1999's Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and its two sequels 2002's Attack of the Clones and 2005's Revenge of the Sith. Advancements in technology, coupled with his failing health, saw that he wasn't needed to get back in the can for last year's The Force Awakens, though he was still given a screen credit.
Kenny Baker was born on August 24, 1934 in Birmingham, England as Kenneth George Baker. He got his start in the world of acting taking on the role of a Dwarf in the thriller Circus of Horrors, where he went uncredited. While he is most widely remembered for his role as R2-D2, the actor can be seen out of costume as Fidgit in the Terry Gilliam family classic Time Bandits.
He would go onto have roles in several other notable movies, including David Lynch's Elephant Man, the 1980 Flash Gordon, the Academy Award-winning Amadeus and Jim Henson's Labyrinth. He also had an uncredited role in George Lucas and Ron Howard's fantasy epic Willow. He played a Zookeeper as recently as 2002 in 24 Hour Party People. And he recently had a role in the upcoming horror movie When the Devil Rides Out. Abigail Shield had this to say about her beloved uncle.
"He did extremely well in his life. He was very ill for the last few years so we had been expecting it. He had been looked after by one of his nephews who found him on Saturday morning."
Kenny was married to Star Wars co-star Eileen Baker, who played a fellow Ewok. She passed away in 1993. Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels, who plays R2-D2's sidekick C-3PO, are the only two actors to have appeared in all 7 Star Wars live-action movies. Episode VIII only just wrapped earlier this month, and it isn't known if Kenny participated in the production at all. Condolences go out to his friends and family.