Sad news today for fans of the Star Wars films and Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits: Kenny Baker, the man who brought droid R2-D2 to life, has passed away at the age of 81. According to The Guardian, Baker’s passing comes after a long battle with an unspecified illness.

The Guardian spoke to Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield, who shared her own memories of her uncle and celebrated his wonderful contributions to film history.

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 … When he was a child, he was told that he probably wouldn’t survive through puberty, being a little person in those times, they didn’t have a very good life expectancy. He did extremely well in his life.

Few actors are capable of becoming famous despite rarely showing their faces onscreen, but Baker took a piece of cold metal and steel and turned R2-D2 into one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe. Without the physicality that Baker brought to the role, R2-D2 would never have been quite the same; it is a testament to his dedication and love for the role (and his love for Star Wars fans) that he first played the character in 1977 and last played him in 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III  - Revenge of the Sith.

A big thank you to Baker and everything he did for Star Wars and film fans alike.

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