Kenny Baker: An Appreciation

Jondee here at the droid factory,

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A sighing noise from R2. News has come in about the passing of actor Kenny Baker at 81 after a long illness. He of course was known as Artoo Detoo whom he last played in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. The design of R2 is perfect as is his sound design by Ben Burtt, but there was something about his personality seen through the movements of Baker in R2. A turn of the head, a shuffling walk, a hobble when he’s excited. This was Kenny Baker. He also played Paploo in Return of the Jedi (1983) who takes off on the speeder bike to pull away the guards from the bunker. I had the fortune to meet Kenny Baker at a convention, he was smiling, a very fun chap, he signed his photo “Beep! Beep! R2-D2.” He had a sense of humor about his character. His niece, Abigail Shield, said to The Guardian, a UK newspaper, “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.”

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Baker also appeared in 1980’s Flash Gordon and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man as well as in Amadeus (1984). In fantasy, he was in Labyrinth (1986), Willow (1988), and played Dufflepud in the BBC series Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1989). I think one of his best roles was as Fidgit in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981). The group led by Randall (David Rappaport) were little people, but it was difficult to see them as little. They were funny, a rough crew, but with kind hearts. This was easily seen in Fidgit with his helmet, crushed by a column, but that doesn’t stop him!  He also sounds the horn to bring in the Roman archers to fight the personification of Evil (David Warner).  It was Kenny Baker unmasked, out of the droid, and it was wonderful. Love his line while they are in the prison cages, “We should have stayed at home making trees.” Artoo was dusty, shut down in Force Awakens (which Baker was a consultant on R2), but revived to assemble the final key to finding Luke Skywalker. Kenny Baker will always be remembered. Beep! Beep!

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