Tony Dyson, who built the “Star Wars” droid R2-D2, was found dead in his home on the Maltese island of Gozo, according to multiple media reports. He was 68.
Dyson’s body was discovered after friends alerted police that they had not seen him for several days, the Times of Malta reports. There was no immediate suspicion of foul play and Dyson likely died of natural causes, according to the paper.
R2-D2 made his first appearance in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope.” Dyson built the R2-D2 models — designed by illustrator Ralph McQuarrie with special effects artist John Stears — used in the film, including the one worn by actor Kenny Baker.
According to Dyson’s official website, he was commissioned to build eight different versions of R2-D2. “I can honestly say it was one of the most exciting periods of my life,” he said.
“The love for R2 is universal; no other ‘Star Wars’ character has been loved over the years the way R2-D2 has,” he also wrote on his website. “His merchandising has rocketed over the years and his influence in the world of robotics is truly remarkable.”
Dyson was working at the White Horse Toy Company in the U.K. when he was hired to build R2-D2 units for George Lucas’ “Star Wars” films in the 1970s. He worked in visual effects on several films, including “Superman II,” “Dragon Slayer” and the James Bond movie “Moonraker.” According to his online resume, he also worked with companies such as Sony, Philips and Toshiba.