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Kenny Baker (English actor)

Kenneth George Baker (24 August 1934 – 13 August 2016) was an English actor and musician. He is best remembered for portraying the character R2-D2 in the Star Wars science fiction movie franchise.

Kenny Baker
Kenny Baker convention.jpg
Baker in February 2005
Born Kenneth George Baker
(1934-08-24)24 August 1934
Birmingham, England
Died 13 August 2016(2016-08-13) (aged 81)
Preston, Lancashire, England
Cause of death Chronic condition
Occupation Actor, musician
Years active 1960–2015
Spouse(s) Eileen Baker (1970–1993; her death)
Children 2

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Baker was born and educated in Birmingham, Warwickshire, and at a boarding school in Kent. He was the son of Ethel (1906–1990), a pianist and dress maker, and Harold Baker (1908–1985), an artist, musician and draftsman.[1] He went to live with his father, stepmother and half-sister in Hastings, Sussex.

Although his parents were of average height, Baker stood 3 ft 8 in (1.12 m) as an adult.[2]

CareerEdit

BeginningsEdit

In 1951 Baker was approached on the street by a woman who invited him to join a theatrical troupe of dwarves and midgets. This was his first taste of show business. Later, he joined a circus for a brief time, learned to ice skate and appeared in many ice shows. He formed a successful comedy act called the Minitones with entertainer Jack Purvis and played in nightclubs.[3]

Star WarsEdit

While working with Purvis and the Minitones, Baker was selected by George Lucas to operate the robot ("droid") R2-D2 in the science fiction feature film Star Wars, released in 1977.[4] Baker recalled that he initially turned down the role.[3]

Baker appears as R2-D2 in six of the episodic theatrical Star Wars films, and played an additional role in 1983's Return of the Jedi as Paploo, the Ewok who steals an Imperial speeder bike. He was originally going to play Wicket, but he fell ill and that role was handed over to Warwick Davis. He revealed a feud between him and his co-star Anthony Daniels, claiming Daniels had been rude to him on numerous occasions, and stated that Daniels is rude to everyone, including fans.[5]

Baker continued his association with the R2-D2 character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was released on 18 December 2015 in North America. He was going to be a member of the cast, but he served as consultant for the character instead.[6] In November 2015 it was confirmed that Jimmy Vee was cast as R2-D2 in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, replacing Baker.[7][8]

Other workEdit

Baker's other films include The Elephant Man, Time Bandits (also with Jack Purvis), Willow (also with Purvis and Warwick Davis), Flash Gordon, Amadeus and Jim Henson's Labyrinth.

On television, he appeared in the British medical drama Casualty. He also had a part in the BBC production of The Chronicles of Narnia. In the late 1990s, Baker launched a brief comedy career. He played Casanova in the 1993 movie UFO

In November 2009, his biography, From Tiny Acorns: The Kenny Baker Story, was written with Ken Mills and published by Writestuff Autographs.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

Baker resided in Preston, Lancashire. He was married to actress Eileen Baker (who co-starred with him in the 1977 film Wombling Free) from 1970 until she died in 1993.[3] Although Eileen also had dwarfism, this was not inherited by their two children.[10]

Baker was invited to attend the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Los Angeles in December 2015, but was too ill to travel to the US.[11][11] He had been suffering from a lung condition for years.[3] Instead, Baker attended the film's premiere in London.[12]

DeathEdit

Baker died on 13 August 2016, eleven days before his 82nd birthday, following a brief additional illness.[3] Following the death of the actor it was revealed by The Sun that he had fathered a son who had been kept secret from his family and that they had contacted each other on a number of occasions.[13]

FilmographyEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1960 Circus of Horrors Dwarf Uncredited
1962 Man of the World The Croat Episode: "Specialist for the Kill", credited as Ken Baker
1975 Dave Allen at Large Salesman Season 4, Episode 36
1977 Star Wars R2-D2
1977 Wombling Free Bungo
1978 Star Wars Holiday Special R2-D2 TV film, credited as R2-D2
1980 The Muppet Show R2-D2 Episode: "The Stars of Star Wars"
1980 The Empire Strikes Back R2-D2
1980 Flash Gordon Dwarf
1980 The Elephant Man Plumed Dwarf
1981 Time Bandits Fidgit
1981 The Goodies Dwarf Episode: "Snow White 2"
1982 The Hunchback of Notre Dame Pick Pocket TV film
1983 Return of the Jedi R2-D2, Paploo
1984 The Adventure Game HRH The Rangdo of Arg 2 episodes
1984 Amadeus Parody Commendatore
1985 Der Rosenkavalier Baron Och's Retinue TV film
1986 Mona Lisa Brighton Busker
1986 Labyrinth Goblin Corps
1987 Star Tours R2-D2 Short film, uncredited
1987 Sleeping Beauty Elf
1988 Willow Nelwyn Band Member Uncredited
1989 Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader Dufflepud TV special
1990 Ben Elton: The Man from Auntie Invisible Demon Episode 5
1992 Casualty Archie Episode: "Act of Faith"
1993 UFO Casanova
1999 The King and I Captain Orton Voice, credited as Ken Baker
1999 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace R2-D2
1999 Boobs in the Wood Bruce the Convict Direct-to-video
2002 24 Hour Party People Zookeeper Uncredited
2002 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones R2-D2
2002 The Cage Merlin Short film
2003 Swiss Toni Guyler Episode: "Cars Don't Make You Fat"
2005 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith R2-D2
2007 Casualty Charles Isaac Episode: "The Miracle on Harry's Last Shift"
2013 One Night at the Aristo The Bartender Voice, short film
2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens R2-D2 Consultant, final film role.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Henry, David. "Kenny Baker, R2-D2 Actor in 'Star Wars' Films, Dies at 81". Bloomberg L.P. 
  2. ^ "The Man Inside R2D2 Lights Up an Opera". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 5 April 1985. Retrieved 21 September 2016. (Subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ a b c d e Sanchez, Ray (14 August 2016). "Kenny Baker, 'Star Wars' R2-D2 actor, dies". CNN. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  4. ^ Arnold, Alan (1980), Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, New York: Del Rey-Ballantine Books, pp. 124–127 
  5. ^ Williams, Andrew (19 May 2005). "Kenny Baker". Metro. Retrieved 28 January 2009. 
  6. ^ "Star Wars: Episode VII Cast Announced". StarWars.com. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Metro.co.uk, Cameron K. McEwan for (16 November 2015). "Doctor Who actor Jimmy Vee is the new R2-D2 in Star Wars Episode 8". 
  8. ^ "Little actor Jimmy Vee is Artoo-Detoo in Star Wars: Episode VIII?". makingstarwars.net. 16 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "Kenny Baker – 'R2D2' in Star Wars – Signed Biography – 'From Tiny Acorns – The Kenny Baker Story' Autograph". writestuffautographs.com. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  10. ^ "Ciaran Brown meets actor Kenny Baker". ciaranbrown.com. 
  11. ^ a b "Kenny Baker, actor behind R2-D2, dies". The Guardian. 13 August 2016. 
  12. ^ Rottenberg, Josh (13 August 2016). "Kenny Baker, 'Star Wars' actor who brought R2-D2 to life, dies at 81". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  13. ^ Richard Moriarty (28 August 2016). "TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE Heartbreak of Star Wars' R2-D2's 5ft 9in secret love child who never met his 3ft 8in robot-playing dad Kenny Baker". The Sun. Retrieved 8 November 2016. 

External linksEdit