Tributes to Star Wars actor Kenny Baker 'the heart and soul of R2D2'
Published 13/08/2016 | 18:51
The actor who played R2D2 in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 81 after a long illness.
Kenny Baker, who was 3ft 8in, found fame in 1977 playing the robot in the first Star Wars film, and reprised the role in subsequent movies in the hit franchise.
The actor, who also appeared in Flash Gordon, Time Bandits and Mona Lisa, died at home in Preston.
Baker's nephew and carer Drew Myerscough, 48, said Baker died in bed on Saturday morning, having suffered respiratory problems for about nine years.
He told the Press Association: "For the last five or six years I've looked after him and kept him at home basically. That was his wish. He didn't want to go in a home, he didn't want to go in hospital. He wanted to stay at home where he was comfortable, and mercifully that's what happened."
Mr Myerscough said he will find it difficult to get used to life without Baker, adding: "I'll just miss him. Bless him, he thanked me every day, and we were just close pals. And when he was in good health years ago, we travelled a lot."
He said he had good times with Baker, including seeing the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and said he paid him back by looking after him.
Mr Myerscough said it was the love of the fans that kept Baker going, adding that people were moved to tears then they met their hero who played R2D2.
"I seen grown women cry simply because they'd met him," he said.
Baker's agent Johnny Mans told the Press Association: "He will be sadly missed."
Mr Mans said he knew Baker since the 1960s when they were both club entertainers.
"He was part of a double act called the Mini-Tones, his partner being Jack Purvis, who sadly died after an accident with his car.
"We worked together in summer shows and charity events before I went on to become his agent, and his then wife Eileen and Kenny also became great friends with my own family, with Kenny visiting my home on numerous occasions.
"Kenny also went on as a solo artiste and then eventually moved into films," he said.
Mr Mans said he was with Baker just over a year ago at a charity event at Buckingham Palace where they met the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.
"Kenny was truly a great friend, one of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet and a fabulous and talented performer.
"My wife and family will miss him terribly, and I will never forget the laughs we shared over the years. He was a one-off. There will never be another Kenny Baker," he said.
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film trilogy, paid tribute on Twitter, writing: "Goodbye #KennyBaker A lifelong loyal friend-I loved his optimism & determination He was the droid I was looking for!"
Actor Ewan McGregor, who appeared in three Star Wars movies, tweeted: "So sorry to hear about this. It was lovely working with Kenny."
20th Century Fox posted a photograph of C3PO standing next to Baker's Star Wars character, and wrote: "Rest in peace, Kenny Baker, the heart and soul of R2D2."