Kenny Baker

Active - 1977 - 2015  |   Born - Aug 24, 1934 in Birmingham, England  |   Died - Aug 13, 2016 in Preston, England  |   Genres - Science Fiction, Fantasy, Drama

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Not to be confused with the honey-voiced radio tenor of the same name, British dwarf actor Kenny Baker was a fixture of science-fiction and horror films of the 1970s and 1980s. A nightclub performer who, like America's Michael Dunn, traded in more on his talent than his size, the 3'8" Baker was cast in Star Wars (1977) as the beep-boop-beeping minirobot R2-D2, while his nightclub partner Jack Purvis was given the smaller role of the chief Jawa. Baker gave one of the few all-motorized human performances in film history. Once jammed into his robot costume, he was unable to move about and had to rely on a sophisticated remote controls - and when those didn't work, he had to be pulled around on nylon ropes. Additionally, the noisemaking computer controls on the R2D2 shell were so loud that Baker didn't know if a take was over unless someone banged on the costume with a hammer. Somehow Baker survived both his tight hardware exterior and the sweltering Tunisian heat on location, and appeared in both Star Wars sequels, as well as such other oddball movie projects as The Elephant Man (1980), Time Bandits (1981) and Mona Lisa (1988). And in the Oscar-winning Amadeus (1984), Kenny Baker could be seen without his R2D2 getup as a jester-like performer in one of Mozart's comic operas.

Baker returned to R2 in the second set of Star Wars films, beginning in 1999, but retired from the role once that trilogy ended in 2005. He was a consultant on 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Baker died in 2016, at age 81.

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Factsheet

  • Began his entertainment career as part of a circus troupe in 1950.
  • Formed a performance duo with actor Jack Purvis that lasted until both men were cast in Star Wars (1977).
  • Played droid R2-D2 in the first six of the Star Wars films; was the only actor aside from Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO, to appear in all six films.
  • Was the subject of the book From Tiny Acorns: The Kenny Baker Story (2009).
  • Worked as a consultant on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).