This past weekend, news broke that Kenny Baker, the man who played R2-D2 in both the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies, died at the age of 81. Since then, members of the extended Star Wars family, including George Lucas, have shared memories of Baker. In a post on StarWars.com, Lucas indicated how challenging Baker’s job was. “Kenny Baker was a real gentleman as well as an incredible trooper who always worked hard under difficult circumstances,” Lucas said. “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.” As the New York Times noted, Baker once said in an interview he initially turned down the role, not wanting to be “stuck in a robot.” In addition to playing Artoo, he also took on the role of an Ewok named Paploo in Return Of The Jedi.
Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, went for an obvious, yet still sweet, reference in a tweet, declaring that Baker was “the droid [he] was looking for.” Elsewhere, Anthony Daniels—the man who played Artoo’s constant companion, C-3PO—paid his respects, and Baker’s fellow Ewok Warwick Davis acknowledged Baker’s legacy. Baker and Davis also worked together on other projects, including Willow.
Ewan McGregor, Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels, described the experience of working with Baker as “lovely.”