Arts & Entertainment

'Star Wars' actor Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2, has died

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Star Wars character R2-D2 droid brings the wedding rings during the Star Wars-themed wedding of Andrew Porters and Caroline Ritter of Australia in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on December 17, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17: Star Wars character R2-D2 droid brings the wedding rings during the Star Wars-themed wedding of Andrew Porters and Caroline Ritter of Australia in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on December 17, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Star Wars character R2-D2 droid brings the wedding rings during the Star Wars-themed wedding of Andrew Porters and Caroline Ritter of Australia in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on December 17, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kenny Baker, who portrayed the R2-D2 in the first Star Wars movie, signs autographs in 2007, at a Star Wars event marking the anniversary of the release of the first film in the Star Wars saga.
Reed Saxon/AP
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Star Wars character R2-D2 droid brings the wedding rings during the Star Wars-themed wedding of Andrew Porters and Caroline Ritter of Australia in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on December 17, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
British actor Kenny Baker attends the opening of the European Premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in central London on December 16, 2015. Ever since 1977, when "Star Wars" introduced the world to The Force, Jedi knights, Darth Vader, Wookiees and clever droids R2-D2 and C3PO, the sci-fi saga has built a devoted global fan base that spans the generations. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL / AFP / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Star Wars character R2-D2 droid brings the wedding rings during the Star Wars-themed wedding of Andrew Porters and Caroline Ritter of Australia in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on December 17, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: (L-R) BB-8, R2-D2 and C-3PO from 'Star Wars' appear onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Star Wars character R2-D2 droid brings the wedding rings during the Star Wars-themed wedding of Andrew Porters and Caroline Ritter of Australia in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on December 17, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 14: Actor Peter Mayhew (top), who played Chewbaca the Wookey in the first three films poses with Kenny Baker who plays R2D2 in both the older films as well as the new film "Episode 1 The Phantom Menace" as they arrive for the premier at London's Leicester square 14 July 1999. The event was attended by members of the cast and celibrities as well at His Royal Highness. (Photo credit should read MIKE SIMMONDS/AFP/Getty Images)
MIKE SIMMONDS/AFP/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Star Wars character R2-D2 droid brings the wedding rings during the Star Wars-themed wedding of Andrew Porters and Caroline Ritter of Australia in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on December 17, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Star Wars character R2-D2 droid brings the wedding rings during the Star Wars-themed wedding of Andrew Porters and Caroline Ritter of Australia in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on December 17, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 14: R2-D2 attends the screening of "Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey" during the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre on March 14, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for SXSW)
Mike Windle/Getty Images for SXSW


UPDATE: In a statement posted on the Star Wars site, George Lucas said: "Kenny Baker was a real gentleman as well as an incredible trooper who always worked hard under difficult circumstances. A talented vaudevillian who could always make everybody laugh, Kenny was truly the heart and soul of R2-D2 and will be missed by all his fans and everyone who knew him."

Rarely has an actor not seen or heard made such a big impact.

Kenny Baker, the actor who played R2-D2 in six of the Star Wars films, died Saturday, his agent confirms to NPR.

Standing 3 feet 8 inches tall, the British actor also appeared in The Elephant Man, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon, among other films.

"He was just a lovely guy," said agent Johnny Mans, "and I shall miss him terribly."

Baker rose to fame in 1977 as R2-D2 in the first Star Wars, the speechless droid "counterpart" to the chatty C-3PO. Mans says that Baker told people that was his favorite role, though he enjoyed being actually seen in other roles.

Baker suffered from chest problems in his later years and was confined to a wheelchair more recently, but he would still sign autographs, Mans says. Multiple outlets report that he was 81 years old at the time of his death.

Baker was born in Birmingham, England and began performing at age 16 "as a circus clown, nightclub performer and in pantomime," according to the BBC. He was part of a comedy and music duo called the "Mini Tones" with partner Jack Purvis before beginning in the movie business, Mans says.

Mans recalls that Baker didn't always want to be treated differently because of his height.

"A lot of people used to, when they were talking to him, they would bend down and talk to Kenny because he was short," he recalls. "And he used to say to them, 'Listen, I'm short, not deaf.' "

Baker's niece Abigail Shield told The Guardian:

"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."

He was found Saturday morning by his nephew. Baker is survived by two sons, a niece and nephew. His wife Eileen died in 1993, the BBC reported.

In speaking to NPR, Mans called Baker "a great friend" who "will be sadly missed."

Tributes to Baker poured in from fans and colleagues on Twitter:

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