The news of Baker’s death originated in The Guardian, which reported that Baker had been ill for a long time. Further details about his illness are not currently available. Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield told the paper that “It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless. 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.”
Long before Baker landed his breakout role in the original Star Wars, Baker was recruited to join a theatrical troupe because of his 3 ft 8 inch height. Baker went on to join the circus and form a comedy group called the Minitones. He made his theatrical debut with a small role in the 1960 film Circus of Horrors. As an actor, Baker went on to a few guest roles on television before he was hired by George Lucas in 1976 to play R2-D2.
R2-D2’s design certainly went a long way towards the droid’s popularity. But it was the personality that Baker gave Artoo that really resonated with fans. Through Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the prequel trilogy, Baker was the man inside the Artoo suit shaking and moving on command, and alongside Anthony Daniels, one of only two actors to be in all of the first six episodes. Baker also portrayed the Ewok named Paploo in Jedi, and he’s easy to spot: he was the Ewok that successfully stole one of the speeder bikes as a distraction for the Rebels’ assault on the Empire’s shield generator.
Outside of the Star Wars franchise, Baker was best known for his role as Fidgit in Time Bandits. He made numerous appearances in other films including Flash Gordon, The Elephant Man, Amadeus, Labyrinth, and 24 Hour Party People. Baker’s most recent live-action credit was a 2007 episode of the British drama Casualty.
Baker was also a popular guest on the convention circuit, where he regularly met fans and signed autographs. However, Baker’s declining health kept him from reprising his role as R2-D2 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and he was given the honorary title as a “consultant” on the droid.
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Image: Avco Embassy Pictures