Kenny Baker, Star Wars R2-D2 actor, dies aged 81

British actor Kenny Baker, who starred as R2-D2 in six Star Wars films, has died aged 81 after a long illness, his niece has confirmed.

Baker became a household name in 1977 when he took on the role of the robot R2-D2 in the first Star Wars film.

He went on to appear with Anthony Daniels’ C-3PO character in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three prequels.

Born in Birmingham, Baker’s other films include Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

Fan conventions

The 3ft 8in (1.12m) actor began performing in 1950 at the age of 16, working as a circus clown and in pantomime.

In later years he has appeared at Star Wars fan conventions across the world.

Despite the fame R2-D2 brought him, Baker told the BBC in 2001 that his own favourite screen role was as Fidgit in 1981’s Time Bandits.

“The director Terry Gilliam’s such a nutcase, he’s so enthusiastic, you can’t help enjoy it. It was just a fun film to make,” he said.

A father of two, Baker lived in Preston. His wife Eileen died in 1993.

He was not involved in the latest movies in the Star War series and the role of R2-D2 will be played by British actor Jimmy Vee in the next film due for release in 2017.

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