Kenny Baker, the ‘Star Wars’ Actor Behind R2-D2, Dies at 81

Kenny Baker R2D2
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Kenny Baker, the man who brought the iconic “Star Wars” character R2-D2 to life, has died. He was 81.

The Guardian, which confirmed the death, issued a statement from Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield: “It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless,” she said. “He had a very long and fulfilled life. He brought lots of happiness to people and we’ll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world. We’re all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime.”

The actor, who was 3 feet 8 inches tall, stared in the first six “Star Wars” films, starting in 1977 when he first played the robot in “Episode IV – A New Hope.”

Over his career, which spanned five decades, his credits included “The Elephant Man,” “Time Bandits” and “Flash Gordon.”

The British actor met his wife, Eileen, when she wrote him a letter after seeing him on the U.K. TV chat show hosted by Michael Parkinson. “They got married soon after,” Shield told the Guardian. “Sadly she died of epilepsy about 20 years ago.”

Baker had long suffered an illness and was often in a wheelchair. “He was asked to go out to L.A. for the new Star Wars premiere but he was told he was too ill to travel,” Shield said.

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