14 Aug 2016

R2-D2 actor dies

8:45 am on 14 August 2016
 Kenny Baker signs autographs during the opening day of "Star Wars Celebration IV" in Los Angeles in 2007.

Kenny Baker signs autographs during the opening day of "Star Wars Celebration IV" in Los Angeles in 2007. Photo: AFP

British actor Kenny Baker, who starred as R2-D2 in six Star Wars films, has died aged 81 after a long illness, his niece has confirmed.

Baker became a household name in 1977 when he took on the role of the robot R2-D2 in the first Star Wars film.

He went on to appear with Anthony Daniels' C-3PO character in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three prequels.

Born in Birmingham, Baker's other films include Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

The 3ft 8in actor began performing in 1950 at the age of 16, working as a circus clown, nightclub performer and in pantomime.

In later years he has appeared at Star Wars fan conventions across the world.

Despite the fame R2-D2 brought him, Baker told the BBC in 2001 that his own favourite screen role was as Fidgit in 1981's Time Bandits.

"The director Terry Gilliam's such a nutcase, he's so enthusiastic, you can't help enjoy it. It was just a fun film to make," he said.

A father of two, Baker lived in Preston. His wife Eileen died in 1993.

- BBC