The Watchers

The Watchers

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Kenny Baker (1934-2016)

So 2016 continues its sadistic streak by taking some of the best-loved and respected culture personalities whilst allowing some absolute wastes of perfectly good internal organs to thrive.

Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise, has sadly passed away at the age of 81 after a long illness.

The latest passing is, for many of us, a very sad one and a lot of people of our age (mid-to-late 30s) will feel as if a part of their childhood has gone.

Born in Birmingham, Baker- who stood at 3ft 8ins- was approached at the age of 16 to join a theatrical troupe which specialised in dwarves and midgets. He joined a circus, learned to ice skate, appeared in pantomime and formed a very successful comedy duo with fellow small person Jack Purvis called The Minitones.

When he was approached to appear in Star Wars, Baker initially turned the role down. He did accept after finding out Alec Guinness was going to appear in the film. Star Wars was Baker's first film role and he went on to play R2-D2 in six of the seven movies, acting as a consultant on The Force Awakens (with Jimmy Vee already confirmed as Baker's replacement for Episode VIII). In Return Of The Jedi, Baker also plays Paploo, the Ewok who steals an Imperial speeder bike.

Whilst Baker will forever be known as R2-D2, his own personal favourite screen role was as Fidgit in Terry Gilliam's 1981 comic fantasy romp Time Bandits. He was frequently cast in fantasy films, appearing in Flash Gordon (1980), Labyrinth (1986) and in an uncredited role in Willow (1988).

He also appeared in more serious films such as The Elephant Man (1980), Amadeus (1984) and Mona Lisa (1986).

He was a regular attendee at conventions and comic-cons around the world and was always very warm and enthusiastic when meeting fans.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

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