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Kenny Baker (English actor)
Kenny Baker in February 5, 2005
Kenneth George Baker
(1934-08-24)August 24, 1934
|Died||August 13, 2016(2016-08-13) (aged 81)
Preston, Lancashire, England
|Resting place||Lytham Park Cemetery & Crematorium, Lancashire, England|
|Known for||R2-D2 in Star Wars|
( m. 1970; died 1993)
Kenneth George Baker (August 24, 1934 – August 13, 2016) was an English actor and musician. He portrayed the character R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise and also appeared in The Elephant Man, Time Bandits, Willow, Flash Gordon, Amadeus and Labyrinth.
Baker was born and educated in Birmingham, Warwickshire, and at a boarding school in Kent. He was the son of Ethel (1906–1990), a pianist and dress maker, and Harold Baker (1908–1985), an artist, musician and draftsman. He went to live with his father, stepmother and half-sister in Hastings, Sussex.
Although his parents were of average height, Baker stood 3 ft 8 in (1.12 m) as an adult.
In 1951 Baker was approached on the street by a woman who invited him to join a theatrical troupe of dwarfs and midgets. This was his first taste of show business. Later, he joined a circus for a brief time, learned to ice skate and appeared in many ice shows. He formed a successful comedy act called the Minitones with entertainer Jack Purvis and played in nightclubs.
While working with Purvis and the Minitones, Baker was selected by George Lucas to operate the robot ("droid") R2-D2 in the fantasy feature film Star Wars, released in 1977. Baker recalled that he initially turned down the role, concerned about breaking up the Minitones partnership when the duo had reached the final on the British television talent show Opportunity Knocks.
Baker appears as R2-D2 in six of the episodic theatrical Star Wars films, and played an additional role in 1983's Return of the Jedi as Paploo, the Ewok who steals an Imperial speeder bike. He was originally due to play Wicket, but he fell ill and that role was handed over to Warwick Davis. He revealed a feud between him and his co-star Anthony Daniels, claiming Daniels had been rude to him on numerous occasions, and stated that Daniels is rude to everyone, including fans.
Baker continued his association with the R2-D2 character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was released on 18 December 2015 in North America. He was going to be a member of the cast, but he served as consultant for the character instead. In November 2015 it was confirmed that Jimmy Vee was cast as R2-D2 in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, replacing Baker.
On television, he appeared in the British medical drama Casualty. He also had a part in the BBC production of The Chronicles of Narnia. In the late 1990s, Baker launched a brief comedy career. He played Casanova in the 1993 movie UFO.
In November 2009, his biography, From Tiny Acorns: The Kenny Baker Story, was written with Ken Mills and published by Writestuff Autographs.
Baker resided in Preston, Lancashire. He was married to actress Eileen Baker (who co-starred with him in the 1977 film Wombling Free) from 1970 until she died in 1993. Although Eileen also had dwarfism, this was not inherited by their two children.
Baker was invited to attend the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Los Angeles in December 2015, but was too ill to travel to the US. He had been suffering from a lung condition for years. Instead, Baker attended the film's premiere in London.
Kenny Baker died on August 13, 2016, eleven days before his 82nd birthday, following a brief additional illness. Following the death of the actor it was reported that he had fathered a son who had been kept secret from his family and that they had contacted each other on a number of occasions.
|1960||Circus of Horrors||Dwarf||Uncredited|
|1962||Man of the World||The Croat||Episode: "Specialist for the Kill", credited as Ken Baker|
|1975||Dave Allen at Large||Salesman||Season 4, Episode 36|
|1980||The Muppet Show||R2-D2||Episode: "The Stars of Star Wars"|
|1980||The Empire Strikes Back|
|1980||The Elephant Man||Plumed Dwarf|
|1981||The Goodies||Dwarf||Episode: "Snow White 2"|
|1982||The Hunchback of Notre Dame||Pick Pocket||TV film|
|1983||Return of the Jedi||R2-D2, Paploo|
|1984||The Adventure Game||HRH The Rangdo of Arg||Two episodes|
|1985||Der Rosenkavalier||Baron Och's Retinue||TV film|
|1986||Mona Lisa||Brighton Busker|
|1987||Star Tours||R2-D2||Short film, uncredited|
|1988||Willow||Nelwyn Band Member||Uncredited|
|1989||Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader||Dufflepud||TV special|
|1990||Ben Elton: The Man from Auntie||Invisible Demon||Episode 5|
|1992||Casualty||Archie||Episode: "Act of Faith"|
|1999||The King and I||Captain Orton||Voice, credited as Ken Baker|
|1999||Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace||R2-D2|
|1999||Boobs in the Wood||Bruce the Convict||Direct-to-video|
|2002||24 Hour Party People||Zookeeper||Uncredited|
|2002||Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones||R2-D2|
|2002||The Cage||Merlin||Short film|
|2003||Swiss Toni||Guyler||Episode: "Cars Don't Make You Fat"|
|2005||Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith||R2-D2|
|2007||Casualty||Charles Isaac||Episode: "The Miracle on Harry's Last Shift"|
|2013||One Night at the Aristo||The Bartender||Voice, short film|
|2015||Star Wars: The Force Awakens||R2-D2||Consultant and final film role|
- Henry, David. "Kenny Baker, R2-D2 Actor in 'Star Wars' Films, Dies at 81". Bloomberg L.P.
- "The Man Inside R2D2 Lights Up an Opera". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 5 April 1985. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
- Sanchez, Ray (14 August 2016). "Kenny Baker, 'Star Wars' R2-D2 actor, dies". CNN. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
- Arnold, Alan (1980), Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, New York: Del Rey-Ballantine Books, pp. 124–127
- Christian, Roger (2016). Cinema Alchemist. Titan Books. ISBN 9781785650857. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
- Williams, Andrew (19 May 2005). "Kenny Baker". Metro. Retrieved 28 January 2009.
- "Star Wars: Episode VII Cast Announced". StarWars.com. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
- Cameron K. McEwan (16 November 2015). "Doctor Who actor Jimmy Vee is the new R2-D2 in Star Wars Episode 8". Metro.co.uk.
- "Little actor Jimmy Vee is Artoo-Detoo in Star Wars: Episode VIII?". makingstarwars.net. 16 September 2015.
- "Kenny Baker – 'R2D2' in Star Wars – Signed Biography – 'From Tiny Acorns – The Kenny Baker Story' Autograph". writestuffautographs.com. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
- "Ciaran Brown meets actor Kenny Baker". ciaranbrown.com.
- "Kenny Baker, actor behind R2-D2, dies". The Guardian. 13 August 2016.
- Rottenberg, Josh (13 August 2016). "Kenny Baker, 'Star Wars' actor who brought R2-D2 to life, dies at 81". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- Moriarty, Richard (28 August 2016). "Heartbreak of Star Wars' R2-D2's 5ft 9in secret love child who never met his 3ft 8in robot-playing dad Kenny Baker". The Sun. News UK. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
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