Before there were Ewoks in the Star Wars Universe there was R2D2. I know to some people that statement can be viewed as a smack in the face. But being a kid in the ’70s and ’80s I love everything about Star Wars but one character was there for me as a kid and it was R2D2. He provided the comic relief for children and was the cutest spokesmen you could have up until Return of the Jedi. . He was there to let you know everything was going to alright in the face of Tuskin Raiders, Wampas, Stormtroopers, and galactic bounty hunters.He spoke to children with his beeps and whistles and his antics still get laughs from my children today.
I had a very heavy heart after I read the news of Kenny Baker’s passing this morning. I had returned from our family vacation and finally sat down and read the news I had missed over the past couple days. It was hard enough to muster the feelings I needed to return to work, but the feelings I had after reading the news of his passing took me back to a place of a four year old sitting in a dark movie theater and being whisked away to a galaxy far, far away. The news was devastating and it feels like a chunk of my childhood is now missing.
When I was younger I only knew of Kenny Baker through his role in the 1981 movie, Time Bandits as Fidgit. Time Bandits isn’t really a kids movie but it was one around my house in the early ’80s. It’s a great fantasy film that bends genres and tropes but above all else it was the first movie to star people of small stature in roles that didn’t exploit their size for the purpose of humor or horror. It was also the first time we were introduced to the actors who brought heart and soul to some of the smaller characters and creatures of the Star Wars Universe and other films. Before Time Bandits R2 was R2 but after, a spotlight was shown on Mr. Baker in Time Bandits and R2D2 now had a living breathing heart inside his metal frame.
Kenneth George Baker was 81 at the time of his passing. For most of his career he was hidden behind metal, latex, or fur. No matter the costumes he wore his heart and soul could never be hidden. In the twilight years of his life he suffered some ailments but they never slowed him down from reaching out the fans. An act that selfless showed that he cared about people and was a fan of the source material, Star Wars. He is survived by his work as R2D2, Fidgit, Paloo, and countless others. Along with Anthony Daniels (C3PO) he has appeared in all of the Star Wars movies and specials. He was married for 23 years before his wife’s death and was father to two children. Before being cast as R2D2, Baker was a professional ice skater that performed all over Europe. Mr. Baker was an actors actor who had to overcome the costumes he wore to show the man he was. He will be missed, but I thank him for all the years of entertainment he gave to me and my family.