Monday, August 15, 2016

Kenny Baker 1934-2016

Actor Kenny Baker has passed away at the age of 81.

Born in England, the 3 ft. 8 in. tall dwarfish actor got his first taste in show business in 1951 when approached on the street to perform in a theatrical troupe of dwarves and midgets. He later joined the circus, and taught himself to ice skate, and eventually formed a successful comedy act called the Minitones.

His big break into permanent stardom came in 1976, when then unknown-director George Lucas cast Baker as the role of the lovable droid, R2-D2 in the first STAR WARS film. Although the remote-control mechanisms of R2 are what made the droid roll around, it was Baker who would be inside; making the droid wobble, rock, and turn his head…giving that feisty, yet loyal personality that R2 would be known for over the next 40-plus years. Baker would reprise the role for the next five STAR WARS films, including the Prequels. Baker also appeared as Paploo, the Ewok in 1983’s RETURN OF THE JEDI who, in a memorable scene, would steal a speeder-bike. Baker would not reprise the role of R2 for the latest STAR WARS entry, sub-titled THE FORCE AWAKENS in 2015, but would be on-hand as a consultant.

Other notable roles held down by Baker outside of R2-D2 include Terry Gilliam’s TIME BANDITS (1981), FLASH GORDON (1980), THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980), AMADEUS (1984), LABYRINTH (1986), and WILLOW (1988).


Long-time friends of Reel Speak are well aware of the impact STAR WARS has had on this Blogger, from early influences, to career path, to family…right down to this very blog. As a wee-lad, R2 was this Blogger's very first STAR WARS action figure (still have him), and thanks to Baker, he has been a faithful counterpart for many years, and always will.  It was therefore this Blogger’s great pleasure to meet Mr. Kenny Baker in 2002 when Star Wars Celebration II was held in Indianapolis, Indiana…just prior to the release of STAR WARS EPISODE II: THE ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Although the meeting was very short, this Blogger remembers Mr. Baker as being funny and gracious, and he had a beaming smile which could light up a space cruiser. In the wide-universe of STAR WARS, there are many names which are associated with the world-changing franchise; names like Lucas, Ford, Hamill, Fisher, Daniels, Mayhew, Prowse, and Guiness…and Baker’s name belongs right up there near the top. The character of R2-D2 may have been a collection of metal, steel, lights and wires, but it was Baker who gave it a heartbeat, and turned the it into a him. In that regard, Baker was as much an artist as anyone. We have lost our first R2, but his spirit will be with us always.

No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.